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CEE Bulletin on Sexual and Reproductive Rights

No 06 (74) 2009

Table of contents:

burning issue

Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health in Poland. Anand Grover, the Special Rapporteur (SR) on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (the Right to Health) was in Poland from May 4 to May 12. The purpose of his mission was to assess how Poland implements the right to health. The visit was focused on three major issues: sexual and reproductive health rights, HIV and harm reduction, drug dependence treatments and relevant laws, policies and practices, and their impact on the enjoyment of the right to health. To understand all the elements of the problems considered, the SR met representatives of the Ministry of Health and Ministry for Foreign Affairs, health professionals' organizations, representatives of the international organizations, and NGOs. The Federation for Women and Family Planning organized the SR’s meeting with representatives of NGOs dealing with sexual and reproductive health and rights (abortion, in-vitro fertilization, delivery and sexual education), drug users, HIV/AIDS and LGBT. In the press release held after those meetings, Anand Grover listed criminalization of abortion, conscientious objection (impeding legal abortion and even access to contraception and emergency contraception), lack of comprehensive sexuality education, non-State actors’ interference with the access to legal and safe abortions as his main concerns regarding lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services in Poland. Despite the Polish Government's ratification of numerous human rights treaties, access of women to certain reproductive health services, such as contraception, pre-natal testing and abortion, is seriously impeded, he noted. Anand Grover’s full report on this mission will be presented at the 14th session of the Human Rights Council, to be held in June 2010. This report will outline his analysis of the current situation concerning the enjoyment of the right to health in Poland and will make recommendations to the main actors, including the Government of Poland. Regrettably, this is not the first occasion when Poland’s endeavors in the area of sexual and reproductive rights and anti-discrimination policy are criticized by international body as it has just been put under infringement procedure for non-transposition of EU rules prohibiting gender discrimination in access to and supply of goods and services.

The SR’s preliminary conclusions and observations are available here: UNHCHR

regional updates

Commission Refers Poland to European Court of Justice on Gender Equality Legislation.Poland was referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for non-transposition of EU rules prohibiting gender discrimination in access to and supply of goods and services (Directive 2004/113/EC). Equal treatment is a fundamental right in the EU and this Directive is crucial to tackling discrimination on the basis of gender. The deadline to bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with the Directive expired in 21 December 2007. The Commission sent the Polish authorities a Reasoned Opinion – the second stage of infringement proceedings – in June 2008, giving them two months to reply. They informed the Commission that they were in the process of preparing the necessary measures to fully transpose the Directive but have not yet communicated the adoption of these measures. Consequently, the Commission has decided to bring the case to the ECJ.

Further information: European Commission

Source: NEWW

Germany to require three-day wait for abortions.The German parliament has voted to require a three-day waiting period before doctors authorize abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. The measure includes providing for more consultations and support for families with handicapped children who are considering abortion, the news service Deutsche Welle reported. The law will require women to receive counseling from a doctor about the medical and psychological consequences of abortion performed after the 20th week of pregnancy. Patients living with physically or mentally disabled children will be offered other means of support. In a vote of 612 parliamentarians, 326 delegates voted in favor of the measure, 234 voted against and 52 abstained. The law, set to come into effect in January 2010, will levy a fine of €10,000 for doctors who fail to comply. Abortion in Germany is legal in the first trimester of pregnancy, after the woman has received a certificate showing that she has received "counseling." Abortion is also permitted in certain cases after the first trimester.

Source: Angloinfo

Proposal to ban abortion after 24 weeks up for debate in Romanian Parliament.Abortion is currently prohibited in Romania after 14 weeks, with an exception granted where the health of the mother is at risk. The proposal up for debate in Parliament would disallow this exception after 24 weeks. The abortion would be criminally punishable for both the mother and the doctor. A new Criminal Code being prepared in Romania proposes to declare fetuses as persons once they have reached 24 weeks gestation, and to ban abortion after that stage of development. Romanian pro-choice organizations say the proposed changes to the law would be disastrous for the health of women, reports Le Courrier des Balkans. In a letter to members of Parliament on May 5, a group of NGOs wrote: Such a law would cause a significant decline of certain fundamental rights such as those to life, health, like the rights not to be subjected to inhuman or demeaning treatment and the right to non-discrimination on grounds of gender.

Source: AnA Society for Feminist Analyses

More: CRC

Attempts to limit access to abortion in Slovakia.Over the past few years there have been numerous attempts to limit access to abortion in Slovakia, including a constitutional court case brought by conservative MPs which sought to recognize that Slovakia's permissive abortion law is in violation of the right to life and a treaty with the Vatican on conscientious objection would have made access to abortion more difficult. The opposition's latest attempts have been to introduce amendments to the abortion law which while not outrightly banning abortion, create significant barriers for women and adolescents accessing abortion. These anti-choice amendments to the abortion law could have serious repercussions on women’s access to abortion. The Center for Reproductive Rights, Slovakia Pro-Choice, Citizen and Democracy together with other Slovak NGOs prepared letter to Slovak government officials and MPs s asking them not to pass the proposed amendments.

Proposals of anti-democratic law amendments in Lithuania. Lithuanian government has proposed to amend the law on protection of children and if passed, it will criminalize public information of any kind on homosexuality or bisexuality. International Convention on the Rights of Child rules that States shall respect rights of a child without discrimination of any kind. Child shall have the right to freedom of expression, which includes freedom to receive information of all kinds. It is peculiar that this law which is meant to protect children actually will diminish their rights, said Michael Cashman, President of the European Parliament's Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights grouping Members of European Parliament and their support staff working on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equal rights issues.

For further information visit the Intergroup’s website:Intergroup

New Youth Reproductive Health Information Center in Tbilisi.To achieve wider coverage on youth reproductive health and rights EU/UNFPA co-funded project “Reproductive Health Initiative For Youth in the South Caucasus” (RHIYC) opened Youth Reproductive Health Information Center at Ilia Chavhavadze State University and Youth Reproductive Health Medical-Information Center at “Tbilisi Family Medicine Clinic and Training Center” (TFMCTC). The event was dedicated to International Day of Family. Youth Reproductive Health Information center provides youth with quality information and IEC materials on S&RH and rights issues, as well as gives a possibility of free access to internet resources and friendly environment for discussions related to S&R health and rights.


National Parliamentary Forum on Youth Reproductive Health and Rights was held in Baku, Azerbaijan. Parliamentarians, key Government stakeholders and partner NGOs actively participated in the Forum to elaborate follow up plans on the EC/UNFPA funded Reproductive Health Initiative for Youth in the South Caucasus (RHIYC) project in Azerbaijan and to formulate strategies for the sustainable improvement of youth SRHR, including discussions on an ambitious draft law on reproductive health proposed by the Parliamentary group and currently in discussions in Parliament.


Hungarian sex workers organization receives government’s grant for education. The Hungarian government has granted 48 million forints (234,578 U.S. dollars) to help educate sex workers on legal regulations and reduce the dangers of falling victim to human trafficking, local media reported. Agnes Foldi, head of the Interest Protection Organisation of Hungarian Prostitutes, said the money would be spent on educating prostitutes about the dangers of human trafficking and working abroad, as well as on legal regulations that affect their work. There are about 20,000 sex workers in Hungary, who remain unsettled because local governments have failed to designate zones where it is legal to practice prostitution, Foldi said. She said prostitutes can be fined up to 150,000 forints (733 dollars) for soliciting as a result. Many Hungarian sex workers have no choice but choose to work abroad, a move posing new dangers such as getting into the hands of human traffickers, she added. The organisation plans to develop its legal aid services and provide advice to sex workers on interest protection.

Source:Interest Protection Organisation of Hungarian Prostitutes


WHO expands listing of misoprostol as ‘essential medicine’. The World Health Organization (WHO) added misoprostol for incomplete and missed abortion to its Model List of Essential Medicines, based on the drug’s proven effectiveness and safety. Misoprostol, which was originally developed to treat certain gastric ulcers, effectively treats incomplete abortion or miscarriage, as well as other complications of pregnancy, including postpartum hemorrhage. It is also used by itself or with another medicine, mifepristone, for inducing abortion. The drug is especially useful in developing countries where maternal mortality due to postpartum hemorrhage, incomplete abortion and miscarriage is high. It’s inexpensive, doesn’t require refrigeration and offers an alternative to treatment by manual aspiration. The WHO essential medicines list guides the development of national and institutional medicine lists, with the aim of focusing resources on medicines that help prevent and solve the most critical health problems. The list also shapes humanitarian emergency medical preparedness, providing a guide for organizations that supply medicines for developing countries and those in crisis.


Save Lives- Make hospitals safe in emergencies. World Health Day, 28 May.World Health Day 2009 focused on the safety of health facilities and the readiness of health workers who treat those affected by emergencies. Health centers and staff are critical lifelines for vulnerable people in disasters - treating injuries, preventing illnesses and caring for people's health needs. Often, already fragile health systems are unable to keep functioning through a disaster, with immediate and future public health consequences. This year, WHO and international partners underscored the importance of investing in health infrastructure that can withstand hazards and serve people in immediate need. They also urged health facilities to implement systems to respond to internal emergencies, such as fires, and ensure the continuity of care.


Sex education for youngsters goes online. Playinitsafe.co.uk was launched to help young people across Worcestershire 'play it safe' with their sexual health. The website was designed in consultation with local young people and contains everything they need to know about sexual health, relationships, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), contraception, puberty and pregnancy. A handy 'Find a Service' facility enables young people to enter their postcode and find their nearest sexual health services for STI testing, free contraception, emergency contraception and pregnancy advice and testing. Other features on the website include: a request form for a postal chlamydia self-test kit; an 'R U Ready?' interactive quiz which encourages young people to consider whether they are really ready to have sex for the first time or whether they should delay, and an 'Ask a Question' section where young people can get a health professional's answer to any problem which they cannot find information about on the website.


"French" kissing ups risk of oral HPV infection.Dr. Maura L. Gillison from The Ohio State University, Columbus, and colleagues explored whether sexual behaviors were associated with the odds of oral HPV infection in 332 adults and in 210 college-aged men. They found that 4.8 percent of the adults and 2.9 percent of college-aged men had oral HPV infection. Oral sex and open-mouthed "French" kissing increase the risk of acquiring oral infections of human papillomavirus, or HPV, a study shows. Among adults, the odds of oral HPV infection were significantly elevated among current tobacco smokers and among individuals who reported having either more than 10 oral or more than 25 vaginal sex partners during their lifetime. Similar risk factors applied to the college-aged men. For them, having at least six recent oral sex or open-mouthed kissing partners were independently associated with increased odds of developing oral HPV infection. For the 28 percent of college-aged men who reported never having performed oral sex, having at least 10 lifetime or at least five recent open-mouthed kissing partners was associated with a significantly higher risk of developing oral HPV infection.

Source: The Journal of Infectious Diseases

upcoming events

Religion Revisited. International Conference. Religions worldwide still affect state structures and public opinion. Strict separation of religion, on the one hand, and the state, politics and civil society, on the other, exists in only a minority of countries. For women and their right to equality, there is much at stake in how religion and politics intertwine. Religious and political leaders often mobilize religious beliefs in political interventions to constrain women's rights and gender equality. However, religions also play an important role in the lives of many people. They often open up new spaces for women's societal participation, and religiously grounded claims about the fundamental equality of all human beings have provided important inspiration to emancipatory movements for human rights and democracy. The Heinrich Boell Foundation has invited scholars and feminist activists from Germany, India, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, UK, and the U.S. to discuss the question of how to deal with religions in the fight for women's rights and gender equality.

Conference's website':Heinrich Boll Stiftung


European Women’s Lobby 50/50 Campaign for Democracy. Gender audit report . The European Women’s Lobby 50/50 Campaign for Democracy, running since September 2008, published on 20 may 2009 a gender audit report of electoral lists and political programmes, in view of the European elections of 4-7 June 2009. The report concludes that most political parties do not consider equality between women and men as a key priority in light of the European elections 2009, despite the strong competence of the European Union in the area.

Direct Link to Full 30-Page Report:EWL's Audit Report'

More:50/50 Campaign for Democracy

Working Paper on Population and Climate Change. In its newest working paper entitled “How do recent population trends matter to climate change?”, Population Action International (PAI) argues that population dynamics such as fertility, population growth and the distribution of people in rural and urban areas will be crucial in alleviating and adapting to the effects of climate change.

The publication, including analyses and policy recommendations, can be retrieved at:PAI

Guide for Civil Society. The UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Health. The International Federation of Health and Human Rights Organizations (IFHHRO) launched its new guide developed in order to aid civil society actors in becoming more involved in the work of the UN Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. The appointment of the first Special Rapporteur on the right to health in 2002 and the resulting body of work on the right to health has proven to be a valuable catalyst for further action within the health and human rights movement. At the same time there remains much unawareness and misconception concerning the work of the Special Rapporteur and the ways in which civil society actors can be involved. IFHHRO has developed the Guide to fill this information gap. The Guide provides general information on the Special Rapporteur, and presents possibilities for contribution and follow-up to the three main areas of his work. It offers concrete assistance on how the annual reports, country missions, and the individual complaints mechanism of the Special Rapporteur can be used by civil society.

The guide can be retrieved at:The International Federation of Health and Human Rights Organizations (IFHHRO)

call for applications

Blog on health and human rights seeks writers.The journal Health and Human Rights recently launched its newly designed blog, OpenForum, offering action-oriented dialogue about health and human rights. The editors invite occasional short essays or opinion pieces and multimedia submissions from scholars, health practitioners, activists, and others whose work advances health as a fundamental right. Also regular bloggers who are willing to write short news and opinion stories on particular topics are invited to participate. Interested persons may send a resume, a brief statement describing their personal approach to health and human rights including topics they wish to write about, and a 300-word writing sample to the journal team at hhrjournal@hsph.harvard.edu.

Visit the blog: Open Forum

Visiting Fellowships at IDS this July -power, social change, masculinities, heteronormativity, sexuality.The Institute of Development Studies, in University of Sussex UK, is offering six visiting fellowships this summer on themes related to power, social change, masculinities, heteronormativity, sexuality etc. For queries contact Stephen Wood at s.wood@ids.ac.uk or Andrea Cornwal a.cornwall@ids.ac.uk.

The Women’s Human Rights Training Institute (WHRTI), 2009-2011.Deadline for applications: 30 June 2009. The Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation (BGRF), in cooperation with the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) and the Network of East-West Women (NEWW), are announcing their Call for Applications for the Third Round of the Women’s Human Rights Training Institute (WHRTI), 2009-2011.

More details: NEWW