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CEE Bulletin on Sexual and Reproductive Rights

No 11 (79) 2009

table of contents:

burning issue

“Human Rights and Universal Access” - World AIDS Day. An estimated 33.4 million people are living with HIV, and there are some 2.7 million new infections each year. Globally, AIDS is the leading cause of mortality among women of reproductive age. This year’s World AIDS Day theme “Human Rights and Universal Access” addresses the critical need to protect human rights and ensure universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. The day is also a call to countries to remove laws that discriminate against people living with HIV, women and marginalized groups. On the occasion of the World AIDS Day, WHO released new HIV recommendations to improve health, reduce infections and save lives. WHO now recommends earlier initiation of antiretroviral therapy (ART) for adults and adolescents, the delivery of more patient-friendly antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), and prolonged use of ARVs to reduce the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV. For the first time, WHO recommends that HIV-positive mothers or their infants take ARVs while breastfeeding to prevent HIV transmission.

For the full list of recommendations go to: UNAIDS

2009 AIDS Epidemic Update. Data from the Update released by UNAIDS and WHO show that estimated 33.4 million [31.1 million–35.8 million] people live with HIV worldwide, while the new HIV infections have been reduced by 17% over the past eight years. Data released by UNAIDS and the WHO highlights that beyond the peak and natural course of the epidemic HIV prevention programmes are making a difference.

You can download the Update at: UNAIDS

International AIDS Conference, 18-23 July, 2010, Vienna, Austria. The International AIDS Conference is the premier gathering for those working in the field of HIV, as well as policy makers, persons living with HIV and other individuals committed to ending the pandemic. It is a chance to evaluate recent scientific developments and lessons learnt, and collectively chart a course forward. Given the 2010 deadline for universal access set by world leaders, AIDS 2010 will coincide with a major push for expanded access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.

More: AIDS 2010

regional updates

The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights issued Concluding Observations on the implementation of the Convention in Poland.The Observations address strongly SRHR issues, calling on Polish government to ensure that women enjoy their right to sexual and reproductive health, including by enforcing the legislation on abortion and implementing a mechanism of timely and systematic referral in cases of conscientious objection, and to implement adequate programmes in sexual and reproductive education through the national school curricula. The Committee based the recommendations on the shadow report submitted by the Federation for Women and Family Planning (ASTRA Network’s member), the Campaign against Homophobia and Women's Right Center.

The report can be found at: Federation for Women and Family Planning

The Concluding Observations can be found at: OHCHR

European Court of Human Rights ruled crucifixes that hang in classrooms violate religious and educational freedoms.In European Parliament, a cross party group of Italian Members of European Parliament (MEP) tabled a petition in defense of the compulsory presence of crucifixes in public schools in reaction to the recent ruling of the European Court of Human Rights (ECoHR) stating that crucifixes should be removed from Italian classrooms. MEPs from the Cross Party Platform for Secularism in Politics defending the secular nature of public buildings replied submitting a written declaration on "Freedom of thought, conscience and religion, the right to education and the prohibition of discrimination in relation to religious symbols". The ECoHR’s decision has also provoked reactions on the level of national parliaments. The Polish Parliament officially rejected the verdict of the ECoHR and called the parliaments of the countries belonging to the Council of Europe to reflect on the issue. The lack of respect for a ruling of the Human Rights Court in Strasbourg among the Members of both European Parliament and national parliaments, in the moment when EU is about to sign up to the European Convention of Human Rights, comes as a surprise. If either of the petitions is signed by more than half the European MPs it is considered to be adopted by the European Parliament.

More: Council of Europe

Council of European Union’s conclusions regarding implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action.During their six-monthly meeting within the Council of European Union, Employment Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Ministers reviewed the implementation by the Member States and the EU institutions of the Beijing Platform for Action Beijing +15. The Council calls on the Member States and the Commission to continue the active cooperation with, and promote the involvement of, the social partners, civil society actors and the private sector in the realisation of equality between women and men, and to continue to adopt and to implement specific gender equality policies, including active measures, with a view to accelerating the achievement of de facto gender equality and promoting the full enjoyment of all human rights by women and girls.

More:Council of European Union

EU News: President of the European Commission unveils his new Development and Health Commissioners. European Commission President José Manuel Barroso has announced the policy portfolios in the new Commission and has reshaped the College of his second mandate. He has declared a number of new portfolios; most notably the Commissioner for Development (DG DEV & AIDCO - Andris Piebalgs, Latvia, former Energy Commissioner), the Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis (DG ECHO - Rumiana Jeleva, Bulgaria, who is affiliated with EPP, a centre-right wing Party) and the new Commissioner for Health and Consumer policy (DG SANCO - John DALLI, EPP, Malta.). Both DG DEV and DG ECHO will work in close cooperation with the new High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security (Catherine ASHTON), although it remains to be seen which impact these new personalities will make to development and SRHR. Commissioner Viviane Reding (previously, DG Information Society and Media, EPP, Luxembourg) has been chosen as Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights, and Citizenship in the new European Commission that is set to take office in early 2010 (assuming approval by the European Parliament). It remains to be seen how appointing a separate commissioner in charge of fundamental rights (rather than having a single commissioner in charge of both law enforcement and fundamental rights, will affect the human rights protection portfolio. It is also interesting to see how the appointment of the Maltese conservative for the head of DG Sanco will influence our work on progressing SRHR agenda.

For more information, visit:European Commission

Maternal mortality halved in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.Decision-makers and government officials from 20 countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia have pledged to step up the fight against needless deaths and suffering resulting from pregnancy and childbirth during a high-level meeting in Itsambul. The meeting discussed the challenges governments in the region still face as they try to implement the goals set for the world's development, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The participants recognized that investment in the health and rights of women is smart economics, especially during a financial crisis, and that family planning is one of the most cost-effective investments in reducing the maternal deaths that continue to affect the region. According to the data gathered by the UNFPA, in the past ten years, maternal mortality has fallen by half, from 51 per 100,000 live births to 24. However, vulnerable groups still aren't being reached and many women die or suffer from complications while giving birth. In the last 15 years, the number of induced abortions have dropped from 1,049 per 1,000 live births to 493, and contraceptive use by women has increased. Yet the region still has one of the highest abortion rates in the world. In many countries in the region, there is limited access to modern contraception and other reproductive health commodities. While antenatal coverage and skilled birth assistance is widespread, countries face variations depending on whether women live in rural areas, their level of education, their age or socio-economic status.


Polish-Georgian cooperation in the field of SRHR. Deputy Chairman of the Georgian Parliament, Giorgi Tsereteli, President of the Women’s Health Centre, Professor Iatamze Verulashvili as well as President of the Youth organization, Lela Tevzadze participated in study trip to Poland organized by Federation for Women and Family Planning. During their four-day stay in Poland the guests attended the meetings in Polish Sejm and Senate, the Ministry of Health as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. During the meetings the situation concerning the access of Georgian women to reproductive health services as well as the directions of Polish development aid were discussed. What is more, our guests talked to the representatives of Polish NGOs focused on health and development policy issues, inter alia Zagranica Group. The Deputy Chairman of the Georgian Parliament talked also to the Vice-President of the Sejm Foreign Affairs Committee and MP Marek Balicki, former Minister of Health. He also participated in the meeting with MPs, Members of the Polish-Georgian Parliamentary Group attended by the Georgian Ambassador in Poland. Thanks to the visit new contacts were established and the cooperation between Poland and Georgia shall be continued, particularly in the scope of health issues.

Source:Federation for Women and Family Planning


Council of Europe Resolution Will Regulate Right to Conscientious Objection. The Council of Europe is currently debating a new draft resolution ”Women’s access to lawful medical care: the problem of unregulated use of conscientious objection” that would regulate the freedom of doctors and health care providers to refuse to provide abortion, emergency contraception and other medical procedures due to conscientious objections. The main objectives of the new resolution are to promote women’s human right and their access to SRHR services and supplies, and to limit the possibility for individual health care providers and institutions to refuse to provide certain health services based on religious, moral or philosophical objections. Conscientious objection is often abused and used to obstruct women’s access to SRHR services.

The draft resolution is accessible here:Council of Europe.

The 10th International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence – 2009.In the 10 years since the General Assembly designated 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the circle of engagement has widened. More groups and individuals, including men and boys, are getting involved in efforts to prevent and address this heinous violation of women’s human rights. There has also been significant progress at the national level as many countries have adopted laws and comprehensive action plans. However, much work lies ahead. In every country, women and girls continue to be plagued by violence, causing tremendous suffering. Such violence undermines development, generates instability, and makes peace that much harder to achieve. The use of rape as a weapon of war, domestic violence, sex trafficking, so-called “honour” crimes or female genital mutilation are few examples. The “UNiTE to End Violence against Women” campaign launched last year is galvanizing action across the United Nations system. It calls for all countries to put in place, by the year 2015, strong laws, multi-sectoral action plans, preventive measures, data collection, and systematic efforts to address the roots of this violence by eradicating discrimination and changing the mindsets that perpetuate it.


UNFPA Global Population Policy Update 2009. Women bear the disproportionate burden of climate change, but have so far been largely overlooked in the debate about how to address problems of rising seas, droughts, melting glaciers and extreme weather, concludes The State of World Population 2009, released by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. The poor are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and the majority of the 1.5 billion people living on $1 a day or less are women. The poor are more likely to depend on agriculture for a living and therefore risk going hungry or losing their livelihoods when droughts strike, rains become unpredictable and hurricanes move with unprecedented force. The poor tend to live in marginal areas, vulnerable to floods, rising seas and storms. The report draws attention to populations in low-lying coastal areas that are vulnerable to climate change and calls on governments to plan ahead to strengthen risk reduction, preparedness and management of disasters and address the potential displacement of people. Research cited in the report shows that women are more likely than men to die in natural disasters—including those related to extreme weather—with this gap most pronounced where incomes are low and status differences between men and women are high. The State of World Population 2009 argues that the international community’s fight against climate change is more likely to be successful if policies, programmes and treaties take into account the needs, rights and potential of women. Direct Link to Full 104-Page Report: UNFPA.

publications and resources

New trends in European and U.S. HIV/AIDS. The European HIV/AIDS Funders Group (EFG) and Funders Concerned About AIDS (FCAA) launched their annual resource tracking publications.According to the reports, HIV/AIDS-related philanthropy in 2008 totalled €91 million ($134 million) among European-based philanthropies and $618 million among U.S.-based philanthropies. The reports show that total funding for HIV/AIDS by European-based philanthropies was lower in 2008 compared with 2007 by approximately €1.7 million (1%) among same set of funders, and total funding has decreased by approximately €5 million (7%) since 2006. While total HIV/AIDS philanthropy funding among U.S.-based funders increased in 2008 over 2007 by approximately $63 million (11%), this is only due to an increase in funding by the world’s largest private foundation engaged in AIDS work, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Without funding from the Gates Foundation, estimated expenditures by U.S.-based philanthropies remained flat from 2006 to 2007 and decreased slightly (by approximately 3%) from 2007 to 2008. .

Source:HIV/AIDVS Funders

"Religion Revisited - Women’s rights and the political instrumentalisation of religion". The proceedings of the conference "Religion Revisited - Women’s rights and the political instrumentalisation of religion" organized by the Heinrich Böll Foundation, jointly with the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD). Participating scholars and feminist activists discussed the question of how to deal with religions in the fight for women’s rights and gender equality. For the description of the project and country case studies go to:Heinrich Böll Foundation

AIDS Journal. Family Health International (FHI) is pleased to announce publication of a supplement of the journal AIDS that addresses critical gaps in the evidence base on family planning and HIV service integration. This supplement originated from the belief that more evidence was needed to persuade funders, policy-makers, and program planners and implementers to act on the synergies between the two fields and enhance the public health impact of both reproductive health and HIV programs. Taken together, the studies published here expand the evidence base regarding how the family planning and HIV fields are related—and how they can be better integrated in practice.

To access the supplement’s table of contents, click here:AIDS Journal

Strategic Options for NGOs (SONGS) published as the outcome the Global Partners in Action: NGO Forum on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Development. The SONGS were developed with inputs from 400 NGO leaders from around the world through a highly participatory process. It invigorates NGOs’ commitment to the principles of ICPD, reaffirming the importance of sexual and reproductive health to development and calls upon all of us to build on our capacities and do more to invest in health, rights and the future. Copies in English, French and Spanish at:Global NGO Forum

Eurobarometer 2009. The results of the third special Eurobarometer survey carried out by the European Commission on attitudes to discrimination in the EU were released on 3 November. Special Eurobarometer reports are based on in-depth thematical studies carried out for various services of the European Commission or other EU Institutions and integrated in Standard Eurobarometer's polling waves:European Commission

Women’s Right Center (Armenia): OP CEDAW toolkit. Women’s Rights Center, Astra Network member in Armenia has published an on-line toolkit on OP CEDAW in Armenian. The toolkit provides the basic information on CEDAW and its Optional Protocol with the primary aim to advance women’s rights and gender equality.You can view the toolkit at:Women's Rights Center

New Amnesty International report "Whose justice? Bosnia and Herzegovina’s women still waiting". During the war in former Yugoslavia, thousands of women and girls were raped, often with extreme brutality; many were held in prison camps, hotels, private houses where they were sexually exploited. The authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina have failed to provide women-survivors with access to adequate healthcare or psychological support, the vast majority of survivors of war crimes of sexual violence are not receiving any psychological assistance. The newest report by Amnesty International is the first systematic attempt to provide data on current situation of women in Bosnia and Hercegovina. For further information and to access the report, please visit:Amnesty International

upcoming events

30 Years of CEDAW.The 8th December 2009 is already the 30th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. But for the these three decades, progress on CEDAW has been disappointingly slow. Less than 20% of parliamentarians worldwide are women. More than 1 billion women in the world suffer because of poverty. This is not the world we want to live in. This is also not the world the UN Member States committed themselves to 30 years ago.

On the occasion of the 30th CEDAW anniversary the UN has launched a special website they invite you to visit: UNIFEM

A new strategy to make the EU a smarter, greener social market.The European Commission issued a public consultation document on giving the EU economy a brighter future through the EU 2020 Strategy. EU 2020 aims to deliver greener and socially inclusive growth, as outlined by President Barroso in his Political Guidelines. The new Strategy will build on the achievements of the Lisbon Strategy, while learning its lessons. The consultation paper sets out a vision for how EU 2020 will focus on entrenching recovery from the crisis, helping to prevent a similar one in future and on three thematic objectives: creating value through knowledge; empowering people in inclusive societies; and creating a competitive, connected and greener economy. The deadline for responses to the consultation is 15 January 2010.

More: European Commission

16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence.This year’s theme for the 16 Days Campaign is Commit ▪ Act ▪ Demand: We CAN End Violence Against Women! CWGL dedicates the 2009 campaign to honoring groups and individuals who have committed to bringing VAW to the forefront of global attention, to encouraging everyone in their various capacities to take action to end VAW, and to demanding accountability for all of the promises made to eliminate VAW.

More: CWGL

The European Development Days, Stockholm, Sweden, on 22-24 October 2009.The European Development Days are a yearly event hosted jointly by the European Commission and the EU Presidency.The European Development Days bring some 4 000 people and 1 500 organisations from the development community together on an equal footing. Delegates from 125 countries are represented, including heads of state and leading world figures, Nobel prizewinners among them.The event aims to make development aid more effective, to build a global coalition against poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Through frank and sometimes controversial debates on pressing issues, such as governance, poverty and environmental sustainability, the European Development Days provide unprecedented opportunities for sharing ideas and launching innovative partnerships.

More: European Development Days

UNECE: Beijing +15 Regional Review Meeting.On 2-3 November, UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) will hold a Beijing +15 Regional Review Meeting in Geneva. To read more about “New challenges and opportunities for gender equality in the ECE region: key issues and policy responses” meeting go to:

More: UN