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CEE Bulletin on Sexual and Reproductive Rights

No 01 (80) 2010

Table of contents:

burning issue

European Parliament (EP) hearings of designated European Commissioners. Between 11th and 19th of January, European Parliament conducted individual hearings for the 26 candidates for the EU Commissioners. These hearings were intended to test the nominees on their knowledge of the dossier they have been assigned. Centre-right politicians dominated the list of new EU commissioners from the 27 member states. The leaders of Parliament's political groups gave their approval to the 25 Commissioners who have been before the Parliament's Committees. The personalities which are most relevant for SRHR advocates are: Andris Piebalgs (Latvia) – Development, Kristalina Georgieva (Bulgaria) - International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, Viviane Reding (Luxembourg) - Justice and Fundamental Rightsand John Dalli (Malta) – Health and Consumer Policy. Here is a brief summary of each commissioner-designate respectively: • Andris Piebalgs, affiliated with the conservative European People Party (EPP), has gained notable experience within the areas of finance and education. Although sexual and reproductive health and rights were not touched upon in his written responses, Piebalgs stressed his commitment to ensuring more funding for development. • John Dalli’s (EPP) portfolio includes family policy, social services, health and equality. In Malta, Dalli is known for trying to build consensus on health issues and has been working on healthcare reform in Malta. His prospective portfolio will encompass pharmaceutical and medical devices policy, and significant changes are to be made to the organization of the Directorate-General for Health and Consumers (DG Sanco). • Viviane Reding (EPP) will be in charge of a portfolio which will cover some of ASTRA main priorities, especially fundamental rights and antidiscriminatory directive. Unfortunately, during the 3 hours questioning, the candidate only mentioned the violence against women as a priority area regarding women’s rights and equal status. • Kristalina Georgieva (Bulgaria), currently employed as vice-president of the World Bank, who has been put forward as a nominee for the next commission following the withdrawal of Rumiana Jeleva from the list of candidates. Her hearing is set for 3 February, to be followed by parliament vote on the new commission on 9 February. If a successful vote is held on the whole Commission by MEPs on 9 February, the new "Barroso II" executive could take office on 10 February so that European Commission is operational for the informal meeting of Heads of State and Government on 11 February.

More: European Parliament

regional updates

Russia's population records increase.Russia's population fell precipitously after the 1991 collapse of Communism, dropping from around 148 million then to some 142 million today due to various factors including economic difficulties and high alcoholism rates. The government has taken a range of measures to fight the population decline including awarding medals of "parental glory" to parents of many children. Currently the Russian state pays mothers 7,000 euros (10,000 US dollars) for every second birth. According to governmental statement, in 2009 Russia bucked a long-term trend of population decline by recording its first annual increase in 15 years. Russian Health Minister Tatyana Golikova said here the population grew in 2009 by between 15,000 and 25,000 to more than 141.9 million. Although much of the growth is due to a falling death rate and increasing migration, the preliminary figures show the rise of the birthrate, with 2.8 per cent more babies born last year than in 2008. President Medvedev announced that the state would focus on reducing infant and mother mortality rates, fighting alcohol and drug abuse and improving support for families and children. Part of the government's effort is to build more maternity hospitals. The government promised back in 2008 to build 23 so called perinatal centers by the end of this year.

Source: Kyiv Post

Portugal legalizes gay marriages. Homosexuality was a crime in Portugal until 1982. In 2001, a law allowed ''civil unions'' between same-sex couples which granted them certain legal, tax and property rights. In January, Portugal's Parliament passed a bill allowing gay marriage in the mostly Roman Catholic country. The Socialist government's bill won the support of all left-of-center parties. Right-of-center parties opposed the change and sought a national referendum on the issue, but their proposal was rejected. The bill removes a reference in the current law to marriage being between two people of different sexes. The proposed law goes to Portugal's conservative President Anibal Cavaco Silva who can ratify or veto. The veto can be overturned by the parliament. If there is no presidential veto, the first gay marriage ceremonies could take place in spring. Its approval would make Portugal the sixth European country, after Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Norway, to allow same-sex marriages.

Source: The Huffington Post

Kazakhstan Seeks Measures for Prevention of Domestic Violence.The President signed the Law "On amendments to some legislative acts of Kazakhstan on the issues of prevention of domestic violence", aimed at improvement of measures on prevention of domestic violence, the presidential press service reports. The law establishes legal and organizational frameworks of the activity of the state bodies, organizations and citizens on prevention of the domestic violence.

More: OSCE

75% of young adults had unprotected sex but most go untested for STIs.Survey on sexual life reveals the link between lack of sexual education and risky sexual behavior. An analysis of sexual behavior of adults aged 18 to 34 carried out by Red C on behalf of the Irish Examiner found men are more casual in their attitude to unprotected sex and more likely to have one-night stands. On average, men admitted to six one-night stands, double that of women. The more casual of both sexes admitted to 11 one-night stands or more; however two thirds lived to regret it, particularly women. Overall, a third of the 500 adults surveyed said they had sex within the first three dates. Unsurprisingly, the poll also found two in five felt the quality of sex and relationship education they had received at school was poor. The findings, described as 'alarming' by the Dublin Aids Alliance, more than a quarter of males surveyed said they had had 11 or more sexual partners, one in five women said they had 11 or more sexual partners. Men were also more likely to say they had sex within the first three dates (46%) compared to 21% of women.

Source:Irish Examiner

Over 97 maternal deaths registered in Kyrgyzstan in 2009. The issue of maternal mortality requires immediate attention in Kyrgyzstan. In 2009, 97 deaths were registered before and during childbirth, or from labour complications. This represents a 25 per cent increase on the previous year. Last year, the World Health Organization reported that global maternal mortality rates barely improved between 1990 and 2007. Commenting on the data from Kyrgyzstan, United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon said the lack of improvement was "an outrage". Figures showing a rise in the number of women dying in childbirth have only confirmed the multiple challenges facing maternity care provision in Kyrgyzstan, which is short of qualified hospital staff, medical supplies and equipment.

More:Relief Web

Spanish Presidency pledges to fight violence against women.The Spanish EU Presidency will present several proposals in the coming months to mainstream gender equality throughout the European Union's future policies, including the EU2020 strategy. Gender-based violence is another of the Spanish EU Presidency's priorities. Madrid intends to create an EU observatory on gender violence that would collect data from all countries of the Union to improve awareness and understanding of this pressing problem. In Spain alone, 49 women died at the hands of their partners or ex-partners in 2009. Furthermore, Spain plans to establish a single free EU-wide emergency number for victims and witnesses of gender-based violence. According to the minister, this plan already has the support of Austria, Sweden, Portugal and Finland.

Source:European Parliament

Public Hearing on "Towards a new EU strategy for gender equality". Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee organized a public hearing on gender equality on the 28th of January .The hearing was related to the own-initiative report recommending actions and initiatives for the new EU gender strategy, based on the assessment of the results of the Roadmap for equality, which is coming to the end of its period this year. The hearing consisted of two discussion panels: one on the objectives and priorities and a second on the tools and instruments for an effective EU gender equality strategy. MEPS generally agreed that there is a lack of comparable, valid and reliable data, and that more research should be done, inter alia on violence against women.

More:European Parliament

Spanish Leader Right about Support for Abortion. Although conservative media report disapproval about the abortion legislation changes in Spain, a recent poll by Catholics for Choice shows that the Spanish public, which is at least three-quarters Catholic, largely rejects the position of the Catholic bishops on abortion. Two-thirds of Spaniards (68%) disagree with the bishops’ opposition to abortion, while fewer than two in ten (19%) say they stand on the side of the bishops. There is strong, widespread support in Spain for abortion to be legal in a range of diverse circumstances women may face. Over eight in ten Spaniards believe abortion should be legal when a pregnancy poses a serious threat to a woman’s life (87%), when it poses a serious threat to a woman’s physical or mental health (86%), or is the result of rape or incest (82%). Another 79% believe abortion should be legal if test results show fetal malformation. Beyond extenuating circumstances, a large majority of Spaniards support a basic right to abortion. Fully six in ten (62%) say that abortion generally should be legal during the first trimester of pregnancy, leaving the decision up to women and their doctors.

For the full results of the poll go to:Catholics for Choice


Report on ICPD at 15 adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The author of the report is UK MP Christine McCafferty. The voting over the report was first scheduled for last September, but the representative of the Holy See formally protested against the report, and, as a consequence, 60 amendments were proposed by anti-choice Parliamentarians from Italy, Ireland, Malta and San Marino. In January voting, all anti-choice amendments were soundly defeated and the report overall gained a significant majority of 2/3 of votes cast, meaning that it will be sent to the Committee of Ministers for formal consideration and a response. While Parliamentary Assembly Resolutions are non-binding, they do offer crucial benchmarks by which the performance of Council of Europe Member States can be measured.

You can read the full text by following this link:Council of Europe.

World Economic Forum in Davos. Many of the world's most powerful leaders gathered in Davos, for the annual World Economic Forum. For years, the gathering was almost exclusively male and its discussions lacked consideration of the gender angle. Despite the lack of gender issues on past agendas, ironically the forum's annual Global Gender Gap report has become a trusted source of information on progress made--or the lack thereof--by the world's nations towards gender parity. Its premise is that a nation's well-being is correlated to the status of women. The discourse at the forum itself, however, hasn't been focused enough on the undervalued asset, in terms of human capital, represented by women and girls. The next G8 meeting will be hosted by Canada in June. Canada will use its presidency of the Group of Eight leading nations to push for improvements in maternal and child health in poor countries announced Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Canada will lead the fight against high child mortality rates and poor health conditions by making the issue a priority for wealthy countries. Members of the G8 can make a tangible difference in maternal and child health. The cost of clean water, inoculations and better nutrition, as well as the training of health workers to care for women and deliver babies, is within the reach of any country in the G8. Much the same could be said of child mortality. The solutions are similar in nature – better nutrition, immunization – and equally inexpensive in themselves. As its contribution to this G8 initiative, Canada will look to mobilize G8 governments and non-governmental organizations as well as private foundations. Setting a global agenda for improving maternal and child health is an ambitious plan, but working with other nations and aid agencies on the ground where the need is greatest makes it an achievable goal.


EU News: The EU’s High Representative stresses concern over International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The 30th anniversary of CEDAW provided a perfect opportunity to reflect upon the world’s situation of women’s rights for Catherine Ashton, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Policy. Ashton showed her concern over continuing gender-based discrimination in many areas and remarked that “much more still needs to be done”. She added that “the European Union will continue to engage with partner countries and organizations on these critical issues.”.

For a full overview of the EU’s position visit:European Commission.

HIV Travel restrictions lifted in South Korea and the US.¬The United States and the Republic of Korea have lifted travel bans on people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA).The US ban had been in effect for 22 years, and the South Korean ban had been similarly entrenched. The lifting of these travel bans sends coordinate governmental messages to the world. The U.S. and the ROK are turning their backs on travel policies that were based on neither a scientific nor a public health rationale and that instead reflected unfounded misconceptions about the disease. More practically, these policy shifts attempt to articulate and develop policy approaches to the spread of HIV which do not drive those affected by it underground. Until this year, the United States and South Korea had been part of a sub-set of the international community with such HIV-related travel restrictions. 57 countries still have HIV travel bans, including China, Cuba, North Korea, Israel, Singapore, Iraq and Russia. Many of these countries have strategic, historical, political, or commercial relationships with the United States or South Korea. Human rights advocates, public health professionals, and anyone who supports rational policymaking can hope that the American and South Korean policy changes are not simply isolated actions but rather a sign of building momentum.


New research on the new emergency contraceptive pill ellaOne®.New research published in The Lancet shows that ellaOne® (ulipristal acetate) is effective in preventing pregnancies. The advantage of ellaOne is that it can be taken for up to five days after unprotected sex. The five day window may be beneficial to women who can not access emergency contraception promptly, for example women who have unprotected sex whilst on holiday or over the weekend when doctors surgeries and pharmacies might be closed.


European Parliament - Clear Legal Basis Needed To Combat Violence Against Women. European Parliament adopted a resolution on an Europe wide legal basis for dealing with violence against women, especially domestic violence, with recommendations including automatic prosecution. Resolution recognizes the main cause of male violence as due to the unequal power relations between men and women, and seeks to do away with all culturally based mitigating factors e.g. in the case of FGM, honor crimes and forced marriages, which is also acknowledged to happen in the EU. According to the resolution, sexual violence should be recognized as a crime by all EU Member States, and offenders should automatically be prosecuted, says Parliament in a resolution adopted on Thursday. Male violence against women, irrespective of men's age, education, income or social status, is an EU-wide structural problem and the number of female victims of gender-based violence is alarming, they add. Further, the resolution calls for a targeted and more coherent EU policy plan to combat all forms of violence against women, as stated in the EU Roadmap for Equality between women and men. A clear legal basis should be established for combating all forms of violence against women, and the relevant national laws and policies should be improved by developing comprehensive national action plans, it adds. The resolution was adopted by a show of hands.

Direct Link to European Parliament Resolution on Violence Against Women:European Parliament.


OSI: Women, Harm Reduction, and HIV. A new report by the Open Society Institute examines women’s access to harm reduction, reproductive health, and HIV and AIDS services in 5 countries: Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Ukraine.

The report is accessible at:OSI

"Reproductive Health: Case Studies with Ethical Commentary" by Bernard M. Dickens, Rebecca J. Cook and Eszter Kismodi, published by UNESCO. This 81-page booklet provides 31 case studies for training health care providers and administrators.

English version is available at:UNESCO

"Development, Sexual Rights and Global Governance" A New Publication of Routledge addresses how sexual practices and identities are imagined and regulated through development discourses and within institutions of global governance.


"10 Reasons Why Criminalization of HIV Exposure or Transmission Harms Women"- A New Publication by Athena Network. Responding to current trends towards criminalizing HIV transmission and exposure, human rights and AIDS activists are raising concerns about the implications of these laws, especially for women. The publication clearly illustrates how criminalizing HIV exposure or transmission - far from providing justice for women - endangers and further oppresses women.

Full text is online:ATHENA

upcoming events

CSW 2010. The fifty-fourth session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) will be held from March 1 – 12, 2010 in New York. The theme for the session will focus on reviewing and appraising the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA). 2010 marks the 15th anniversary of the Beijing World Conference on Women. The fourth in a series of World Conference for women, the Beijing conference defined a clear direction for women’s advancement by adopting the BPfA.


12th AWID International Forum on Women's Rights and Development. Held every three years, the AWID International Forum on Women's Rights and Development is the largest event of its kind. The Forum brings together women's rights leaders, donor agencies, development practitioners, grassroots leaders and activists from around the world to strategize, network, celebrate, and learn. The 12th AWID Forum will be held in Istanbul, Turkey in late 2011.


call for papers

Reproductive Health Matters 18(36) November 2010.Theme: Privatization and commercialization of sexual and reproductive health services. Submission date: 1 March 2010 (negotiable due to late distribution of this call).

RHM author and submission guidelines are at: RHM

call for applications

Margaret McNamara Memorial Fund - Scholarship Fund for Women from Developing Countries.The Margaret McNamara Memorial Fund (MMMF) is offering scholarship funds to women from developing countries currently studying in the United States or Canada. The MMMF awards grants of approximately US$12,000 each; grants are not renewable. Every year, the MMMF also invites the recipients to Washington DC to participate in a three day Awards Program organized in their honor. Deadline for applications: February 18, 2010.

More details: AWID


ATGENDER, The European Association for Gender Research, Education and Documentationis a broad association for academics, practitioners, activists and institutions in the field of Women’s and Gender Studies, Feminist Research, women’s rights, gender equality and diversity. The association constitute a permanent structure for the growing field of knowledge and practice in Europe.

More details: ATGENDER