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CEE Bulletin on Sexual and Reproductive Rights

No 10 (78) 2009

table of contents:

burning issue

Abortion Worldwide: A Decade of Uneven Progress. According to the Guttmacher Institute’s report, between 1995 and 2003, the number of abortions performed worldwide fell from 45.5 million to 41.6 million. The global rate of abortions fell as well: from 35 abortions for every 1,000 women of reproductive age (15-44) in 1995, to 29 per 1,000 women in 2003. The decline corresponds with a growth in contraceptive use worldwide. On the other hand, the observed 17% decline results largely from a reduction in safe abortions in Eastern Europe, where abortion is legal (except Poland). The report finds that while the incidence of abortion is closely related to that of unintended pregnancy, it does not correlate with abortion’s legal status. Indeed, abortion occurs at roughly equal rates in regions where it is broadly legal and in regions where it is highly restricted. The key difference is safety—illegal, clandestine abortions cause significant harm to women. Guttmacher reports that abortion laws are liberalizing. Since 1997, 19 countries have "significantly reduced restrictions in their abortion laws," while 3 countries have "substantially increased legal restrictions." Despite these trends, the percentage of the world's reproductive-age women who live under highly-restrictive abortion laws has risen to 40.4 percent, up from 38.5 percent in 1999. Numbers can't explain everything but, taken as a whole, they can be revealing nonetheless. According to the publication, unsafe abortion remains a key challenge to women’s health. The report found that the incidence of abortion does not correlate to its legal status. Legal or not, abortions take place at roughly equal rates. Illegal abortions, however, entail significant safety issues. The new report makes three key recommendations: • Expand access to modern contraceptives and improve family planning services. • Expand access to legal abortion and ensure that safe and legal abortion services are available to women in need. • Improve the coverage and quality of postabortion care, which would reduce maternal death and complications from unsafe abortion.

Direct Link to Full 68-Page Guttmacher Institute Report: Guttmacher Report

regional updates

The Commissioner for Human Rights discussed minorities’ rights and discrimination issues during his visit to Lithuania.Commissioner Hammarberg visited Lithuania from 19 to 20 October for high level discussions with the Lithuanian authorities where a number of human rights issues were raised, including minority rights, the need to investigate the alleged existence in Lithuania of a secret detention centre for terrorist suspects, and the deficiencies of the Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effects of Public Information. In his speech during the seminar on discrimination issues organised by the Swedish Embassy, which is holding the EU presidency, the Commissioner underlined that states should do everything in their power to avoid and counter tendencies of a xenophobic and homophobic nature, which have been feeding on the social insecurities resulting from the economic crisis. He appealed to politicians and to the press in Europe to resist such tendencies and to inform people about the importance of respecting human rights. The Commissioner noted that the presidential working group created to analyse the controversial Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effects of Public Information had proposed a list of amendments to this law. This decision shows that the Lithuanian authorities are fully aware of the negative effects of legislation containing vague or unduly broad restrictions on freedom of speech, or with provisions discriminating against people on the basis of their sexual orientation.

Source: Council of Europe

International conference on "Protecting children from sexual exploitation and abuse" (28-29 October 2009, Warsaw).The conference was organized within new joint project between Council of Europe and the European Union. The participants were examining the existing tools on the international level to protect children in line with the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse. Education of children, effective protective measures and regulations concerning the criminalisation and prosecuting of sexual exploitation and abuse of children were the leading issues of the conference. As a result of the conference, a constructive plan of action based on the international experience will be undertaken to implement the Convention in Ukraine.

Source: Council of Europe

EU Presidency Statement - United Nations 3rd Committee: Advancement of Women.On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Swedish EU Presidency Representative, H.E. Mr. Anders Lidén, delivered a statement at the UN General Assembly Third Committee, on behalf of the European Union as a whole. Mr. Lidén stressed the EU’s concern about the lack of improvement in the area of maternal health, and emphasized that “gender equality cannot be achieved without guaranteeing women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights”.

The whole statement delivered by the EU Presidency can be found at: EU

European Commission launches online consultations on Global Health.In the context of the preparations for a major EU policy document on Global Health, which is to be finalized by early 2010, DG Development of the European Commission has launched an online consultation process to involve civil society organizations from all over the world. On the EC’s website, an issues paper on the EU’s role in Global Health and the main challenges ahead is accompanied by an online questionnaire with 28 questions on issues such as aid effectiveness, the involvement of civil society and the promotion of equitable access.

The consultations are open until 9 December 2009. More information can be found at:UE

High-level European Union and ACP representatives discuss poverty eradication and sexual and reproductive health and rights. Representatives from ACP governments, EU institutions, civil society, UN agencies and donor governments gathered to discuss the issue of “Poverty Eradication and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights” in Brussels. From 2002-2008, the European Commission had provided € 32 million to 22 ACP States to substitute for the cuts in US spending after the introduction of the global gag rule and to fill in the so-called “decency gap”. The workshop participants discussed the outcomes and lessons learned from the different country programmes to increase the access to and improve the quality of sexual and reproductive health services and commodities, as well as ways forward. Although, as many participants had hoped, no new EC/ACP programme with specific focus on SRHR was announced, the European Commission stands committed to their contributions under their existing development cooperation instruments.

More information can be found here:EU

Domestic Abuse Hotline Launched in Turkmenistan.Turkmenistan ratified the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1996.When Turkmenistan was discussed at the United Nations Human Rights Council last December, the working group express concern at the apparent lack of awareness on violence against women as a problem, and at the failure of Turkmen local legislation to establish mechanisms to prevent domestic violence and assist its victims. The hotline for victims of domestic abuse was launched in mid-September, with the support of the OSCE mission in the capital Ashgabat. No official statistics on domestic violence are available in Turkmenistan, but local observers say the problem is quite widespread. The Turkmen authorities do not discuss the problem openly, apparently because of the dearth of clear information. Many victims are afraid to speak out because of the taboo surrounding domestic abuse in a society where patriarchal traditions are still strong. Women’s rights activists say there is little public awareness of violence in the home, few psychologists or lawyers specialising in this area, and no systems for rehabilitating the victims. Tight restrictions on the non-government sector make it impossible to set up organisations to combat domestic violence, track the scale of the problem, and offer support to victims.


Regional HIV/AIDS conference in Moscow. The number of HIV infections in Russia doubled in the past eights years. The rapid growth of the epidemic in Russia is in contrast to sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia, where prevalence of the virus fell during the same eight-year period, according to UNAIDS. Speakers at the conference commended Russia on its treatment programs and increased investment in HIV/AIDS programs. According to the experts, Russia's epidemic will spread rapidly beyond drug users to the general population of 143 million through sexual activity unless preventative steps are taken. Health experts recommend Russia increases funding for HIV/AIDS education as well as needle exchange programs. It is also advisable that Russia legalizes methadone, a drug that has been shown to reduce the spread of HIV among drug users. Michel Sidibe, executive director of UNAIDS, called methadone provision 'an essential element of universal access to HIV prevention' and called for Eastern European countries to introduce the programmes.


Gender in EU. The Future of the Gender Policies In the European Union. New term of the European Parliament (2009-2014) and the European Commission starts in the year of the fifth anniversary of the EU membership of the countries from Central and Eastern Europe. There have been a new internal dynamic within the European Union as well as conservative trends and backlash together with growing euroskepticism. The conference organized by Heinrich Böll Foundation in Warsaw seeked to discuss the new challenges for the new European Parliament and the new European Commission. Among the speakers there was newly appointed Director of European Gender Institute, Ms. Virginija Langbakk, who presented development and a strategy of the European Institute for Gender Equality. According to the presentation, the Institute’s activities will be limited to collection, analysis and dissemination of data and comparable statistics and the development of methodological tools for integrating gender equality policies (gender mainstreaming).

Source:Heinrich Böll Foundation

Youth SRHR policies in Croatia. On the 27th of October ASTRA Youth participated in "Good Practices and Policies on the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of Young People" conference organized by CESI – Center for Education, Counselling and Research in Zagreb, Croatia. The conference was devoted to examining the status of implementation by the Croatian government programmes on sexual education and developing youth friendly services. According to analysis made by international speakers, programmes and strategies presented since 2004 remained in the declaration phase without plans for action and budget for realization. The situation requires continuation on advocacy work both on national and international level. The participants of the conference stressed that it is essential for NGOs to initiate actions headed towards promotion of SRHR.

Source:ASTRA Youth


Combating HIV/AIDS in the European Union and neighbouring countries, 2009-2013. A new European Commission communication was approved on 26 October 2009 which sets out priorities to tackle HIV/AIDS across Europe in the coming years. The Commission strategy aims to contribute to reduce new HIV infections across all European countries by 2013, to improve access to prevention, treatment, care and support, and to improve the quality of life of people living with, affected by or most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS in the European Union and neighbouring countries.

For further reading please have a look at the following link:European Commission.

Integration Of Gender Perspective, With Focus On The Universal Periodic Review.As an annually recurring part of its agenda, the Human Rights Council held a discussion on the integration of gender perspective in the Council’s work, with a specific focus on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The panel of speakers consisted of representatives of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances and national human rights organisations. The potential of the UPR as an instrument in improving women’s rights was discussed. Integration of gender perspective can be achieved in various stages of the UPR procedure. First of all, during the preparation of the documents on which the review is based, there is the opportunity to involve women and women’s rights organisations in the consultative process. Such institutions can also submit their information which will be included in the summary prepared by the OHCHR. Secondly, it was suggested that the state report could or should contain a specific section on gender issues, to ensure constant attention to this issue. Thirdly, during the dialogue, states could raise questions to keep the issue at the forefront of the State under review’s attention, as well as make recommendations on issues concerning women’s rights. Finally, women should also be involved in the follow-up process and implementation of recommendations.

Source:Human Rights Council.

UN Human Rights Council’s resolution on Promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms through a better understanding of traditional values of humankind. The resolution put forth by the Russian Federation was passed with 26 member states in favour, 15 against, and 6 abstentions on October 2, 2009. During the 12th session of the Human Rights Council, the original draft resolution was amended to remove the stipulation that "traditional values" must be subject to human rights standards.The full text of the resolution is available here: OHCHR.

Nomination of Independent Expert on Cultural Rights.Ms. Farida Shaheed to fill the position of Independent Expert on Cultural Rights. The mandate of the Independent Expert on Cultural Rights affirms that cultural diversity cannot be invoked to undermine human rights guaranteed by international law. Farida Shaheed is a sociologist and women's rights activist. She is a founding member of the national women’s lobbying organization Women’s Action Forum and member of the Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) International Solidarity Network. She is a member of the Global Fund for Women's Advisory Council. Dr. Shaheed has authored numerous books including Two Steps Forward, One Step Back? Women of Pakistan; The Other Side of the Discourse: Women's Experiences of Identity, Religion and Activism in Pakistan; Purdah and Poverty in Pakistan; and Identity and the Experience of the Network, Women Living Under Muslim Laws.

AWID’s interview with Farida Shaheed can be accessed here:WLUML

FIGO Congress News: Key Links Between Women’s Rights And Their Health.The participants of the XIX Congress of the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) reflected on the progress and challenges in the fight to extend health equally to all women everywhere. One of the prominent themes of the Congress was addressing unsafe abortion and increasing access to safe abortion care. This was the first time in its 55-year history that FIGO met in Africa, where abortion is a particularly pressing issue for women’s health. During the Congress, the FIGO’s World Report on Women’s Health 2009 was launched. The World Report 2009 represents the continuing commitment of FIGO to advance not only women’s health but also - equally importantly - their human rights. The report reiterates that reproductive and sexual health services are a human right of women around the world and underlines that the poorest and under-served women in low- and middle-income countries have least access to the necessary or basic information and services. Although progress has been made in achieving reproductive and sexual health rights in many countries, many agenda items from the ICPD Programme of Action remain unfinished, and it is critical that they now be addressed.


The Follow up Strategy for the EU's Roadmap for Equality Between Women and Men 2006-2010.The Roadmap sets out the priorities for the period 2006-2010. It combines specific initiatives and the integration of equality between women and men into all EU policies and activities ("gender mainstreaming"). As the period covered by the roadmap is coming to its end, the consultation was opened to elaborate the follow up strategy.

To read ASTRA’s contribution go to:ASTRA

“Universal Access to Female Condoms” (UAFC) International Platform Meeting.On October 6th and 7th, the members of the “Universal Access to Female Condoms” (UAFC) International Platform met in the Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Over 40 participants discussed the ins and outs of Female Condom Programming and Advocacy in depth. Participants came from civil society organizations, national governments, donor agencies and UN organizations, and we even had a Nigerian bishop in our midst. Commitments were made by the participants and the message that female condoms should be accessible for all will be spread in Denmark, Ghana, Rwanda, Zambia, Finland, the Netherlands, India, Brazil, Mozambique, Nigeria, Cameroon, Zimbabwe, France, Belgium and the US. Also the donor agencies, government officials and UN organizations present (UNAIDS and UNFPA) took up very specific and strong commitments.

More information on the meeting, outcomes and materials can also be found on the website.In the coming weeks a joint advocacy statement and a list of commitments will be published on the UAFC website:Condoms4All

“EllaOne”, the new super morning-after pill: everyone should be able to benefit.EllaOne is a new form of emergency contraception that claims a number of promising advances: a five-day window for taking it, instead of Norlévo’s three days; more stable efficacy over these five days, compared to rapidly declining efficacy for the current alternatives. According to the manufacturers, this new form of emergency contraception should also interfere less with the menstrual cycle.

More:Medical News Today

publications and resources

Resource Kit: Climate Connections - Gender and Population. UNFPA and the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) launched new comprehensive on-line resource kit on gender, population and climate change. The toolkit Climate Change Connections presents an overview of gender, population and climate change in the context of policy, finance, adaptation plans, best practices and advocacy tools. It argues for a new convergence in thinking and practice that aligns the efforts of governments, aid organizations and the general public.

Resource kit:UNFPA

Report on Funding for Reproductive Health Supplies (RHS) 2009. Countdown 2015 Europe monitor progress in support for RH and RHS funding and policies in Europe.

The country briefs giving an overview of the main findings in 15 countries are now available on the Countdown 2015 Europe website:Countdown2015Europe

Strategic Considerations for Strengthening the Linkages between Family Planning and HIV/AIDS Policies, Programs, and Services. Family Health International’s publication is designed to help program planners, implementers, and managers—including government officials and other country-level stakeholders—make appropriate decisions about whether to pursue the integration of FP and HIV services.

To download a copy, go to:FHI

upcoming events

Beijing +15 Regional Review Meeting in Geneva.2-3 November, UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) will hold a Beijing +15 Regional Review Meeting in Geneva. The meeting aims to take stock of the progress made in the region on gender equality and women’s empowerment, and Promote partnerships to increase gender equality in the region as well as contribute to the global 15-year review of implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action.


The ICPD +15 Forum, November 12-13, 2009 Istanbul, Turkey.Regional Forum marking the 15th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Cairo in 1994 will take the opportunity to mark accomplishments, to come up with practical recommendations for accelerating progress for the following 5 years. The focus of the event will be on population dynamics, including reproductive health, aimed at identifying sustainable policies to cope with challenges related to the ICPD agenda. The Forum will host ministers, high level government officials, parliamentarians, prominent experts and civil society representatives from 56 countries across the Europe, Russia, Central Asia and the Caucasus. It is co-organized in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development (EPF), and the International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network (IPPF), and will be hosted by the Government of Turkey.



New website to encourage greater collaboration between global pro-choice abortion activists.Leading sexual and reproductive health agency Marie Stopes International (MSI) has launched a new website, to provide a pro-choice knowledge and information exchange resource for anyone working to eradicate unsafe abortion world wide. The website is currently in a prototype form, to provide interested third parties with an opportunity to review the proposed content and structure and feed back to MSI. This consultation process will last until 20 November, 2009. The site will then launch in its final form in December.

The consultation process closes on Friday 20 November, 2009. Visit the site at: Global Safe Abortion