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CEE Bulletin on Sexual and Reproductive Rights

No 11 (90) 2010

table of contents:

burning issue

ASTRA Network’s letter to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. 25 organizations-members of ASTRA Network supported by Action Canada for Population and Development (Canada), Association for Women's Rights in Development, Catholics for Choice (USA), Center for Reproductive Rights, Family Planning Association (Ireland), French Family Planning Movement (France), International Women’s Health Coalition, IPAS, Sensoa (Belgium), Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (Sweden) expressed deep concern with the result of voting on the resolution “Women’s access to lawful medical care: the problem of unregulated use of conscientious objection” that took place during the 35th sitting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in a letter sent to the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Mr Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu. The rationale behind the draft of the resolution was to regulate the use of conscientious objection by reproductive healthcare providers. The resolution did not pass as proposed and its provisions were severely diluted by a number of harmful anti-abortion amendments. As a result, instead of offering a set of comprehensive guidelines from a regional or international body on how governments must balance a woman's right to reproductive health and autonomy with an individual's right to conscientious objection, the adopted resolution: (1) fails to oblige health care institutions to provide legal health services to the public; (2) enables both doctors and institutions to refuse emergency care without being held liable; (3) is based on the false assumption that the practice of conscientious objection is adequately regulated in the vast majority of Council of Europe member states.

The letter is available here: ASTRA Network

The adopted resolution is available here: CoE

regional updates

Anti-gay Protest During the Gay Pride and Attack on Activists at the Headquarters of Women in Black in Belgrade. The headquarters of the peace group Women in Black were invaded in Belgrade, Serbia. This incident took place just before the Pride Parade in Belgrade, which indicates that homophobia is the motive of the attackers, a statement declared. "A politically motivated attack on the women and men activists of Woman in Black happened because we clearly and unequivocally support the rights of LGBT people and the organization of the Pride Parade, just as political engagement of Woman in Black also includes a clear condemnation of the crimes committed in our name," said the statement issued by Women in Black demanding that the responsible institutions of Serbia find the perpetrators and punish the attackers. The Pride that took place on the day following the attack was the first Gay Pride parade in Serbia since a 2001 when the event was broken up in violent clashes provoked by far-right extremists. This year again, anti-gay protesters have fought running battles with police, throwing petrol bombs and stones at armed police, in an effort to disrupt a Gay Pride march. The office of the ruling Democratic Party was briefly set on fire, and at least one shot was fired. Calm was eventually restored but more than 100 people, mostly police, were injured, with another 100 arrested. The developments are unfortunate given that fact that this year's event was being seen as a test of how far the country has come from the ultra-nationalism and violence of the 1990s and on its path to EU membership.

Source: B92

Russia: European Court Rules Gay Pride Ban Unlawful. Russia Should Allow March and Guarantee Freedom of Assembly.The European Court of Human Rights delivered its decision in a case of Nikolai Alexeyev v. Russia and said that Russia has breached the European Convention on Human Rights by banning 2006, 2007 and 2008 Moscow Prides. The Court stressed that “the mere risk of a demonstration creating a disturbance was not sufficient to justify its ban. If every probability of tension and heated exchanges between opposing groups during a demonstration resulted in a demonstration’s prohibition, society would be deprived of hearing differing views on questions which offended the sensitivity of the majority opinion, and that ran contrary to the Convention principles.”The decision by the European Court of Human Rights is a confirmation of its case-law established on 3 May 2007 in a case of Bączkowski and Others v. Poland. In that case the Polish LGBTI activists successfully challenged the ban of 2005 Warsaw LGBTI Pride event. The Court stated that freedom of assembly, guaranteed by the European Convention of Human Rights, belongs to all, and Poland, by banning LGBTI Pride event, breached the European Convention on Human Rights and acted discriminatory on the grounds of sexual orientation. Moreover, the decision reinforces the duty of the Russian state to provide full and adequate protection to LGBTI public events from any attempts to disturb them or from those who violently oppose these events.

Link to the ECHR press release: ECHR

The Human Rights Committee issued recommendations for the Polish government regarding the implementation the provisions of the International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights.The Committee criticized the Polish Law on equal treatment as it is not exhaustive and does not cover discrimination based on sexual orientation, disability, religion or age in the fields of education, health care, social protection and housing. According the recommendation, the State party should further amend the Law on equal treatment so that discrimination based on all grounds and in all areas is adequately covered. Further, the Committee called on Poland to increase the proportion of women in the public and private sector, and criticized the abolition in 2005 of the Office of the Government Plenipotentiary for the Equality of Men and Women. According to recommendations, the Office of the Government Plenipotentiary for Equality of Men and Women should be reinstituted as an independent national equality body. The big chunk of recommendations is concerned with the effects of restrictive abortion law. The Committee calls on Poland to urgently review the effects of the restrictive anti-abortion law on women. Statistics on the use of illegal abortion should be gathered and regulations to prohibit the improper use and performance of the “conscience clause” by the medical profession should be introduced. Finally, say the concluding observations, the State party should strengthen measures aimed at the prevention of unwanted pregnancies, by inter alia making a comprehensive range of contraceptives widely available at an affordable price and including them on the list of subsidized medicines. The Committee listed the adoption of the Law on Domestic Violence (2005) and setting up the National Programme on Preventing Domestic Violence (2006-2016) and including the definition of trafficking in human beings into the Penal Code (2010) as positive developments during the reporting period under consideration. The next report will be submitted in 2015.


The directive on patients' rights on cross-border healthcare.At present if a European citizen wants to get treatment in another country they do not know if they if will be refunded and how that may happen. One must anticipate the cost without knowing whether they will get a refund. So far there have been difficulties that citizens have brought before the European Court of Justice. Therefore, the European Parliament has said it must legislate to solve this problem. After the European Court of Justice have given its opinion, confirming patients' rights as regards freedom of movement in the EU, the proposed directive on cross-border health care was discussed by the European Parliament's public health committee. The directive is designed to allow patient mobility. We already have mobility of workers and students. It's part of the fundamental rights of European citizens. This does not however encourage medical tourism. We simply want to allow a wider range of public health for patients. It is very important - especially in border regions. If the directive is approved, patients will have a choice about the place where they seek treatment and the possibility of having the best possible care. There will be centres with national contacts to access information relating to health care in other countries. Currently, prepayment, prior authorisation and rare diseases are the most debated issues related to the directive among European Governments. Some EU countries are concerned about the cost - and whether you should pay-up front or be refunded later. After the second-reading draft report was adopted by 47 votes to 2 with 1 abstention by the EP Environment and Public Health Committee, next step will be the 2nd reading during the plenary sitting of the European Parliament in January 2011.


Anti-choice amendment in the EU’s 2011 annual budget. A controversial amendment was introduced into the European Union 2011 annual budget voted during the last European Parliament Plenary Session. This amendment prevents EU financial support to development programs, NGOs or governments working in the field of SRHR. The adopted amendment 495 states as follows: The European Parliament stresses that Community assistance should not be given to any authority, organization or programme which supports or participates in the management of an action which involves such human rights abuses as coercive abortion, involuntary sterilization or infanticide, especially where such actions apply their priorities through psychological, social, economic or legal pressure, thus finally implementing the specific Cairo ICPD prohibition on coercion or compulsion in sexual and reproductive health matters; calls on the Commission to present a report on the implementation of the EU’s external assistance covering this programme. (SECTION III — COMMISSION, Title 21 —Development and relations with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) States).

More generally on the budget:EP

EU Parliament Draft Report identifies same-sex marriage as a fundamental right.The European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs has prepared a Draft report with a resolution “on the situation of fundamental rights in the European Union (2009-2010) – institutional aspects after the Treaty of Lisbon”. Its rapporteur is EPP Hungarian MEP Kinga Gál. Under the heading “The new post-Lisbon fundamental-rights architecture,” item 1 of the proposed resolution draws attention to all EU Parliament’s resolutions and oral questions with debate on specific fundamental right issues during the present legislature. Among the latter, it makes a short reference to last September 7th oral question with debate on “discrimination on same-sex married or in civil-partnership couples.” According to Mrs. Viviane Reding, the 2004 Directive on Freedom of Movement should be interpreted in such a broad way that “if you live in a legally recognized same sex partnership or marriage in a country A, you have the right – and that is a fundamental right – to take this status and the one of your partner to the country B.” According to the Commissioner, a refusal by some Member States to recognize same-sex marriages celebrated in the Netherlands or in Spain in their own national legal and administrative system would be tantamount to “a violation of EU law”, and, according the recent report, a “discrimination against same-sex marriages.

In-vitro fertlization debated by the Polish Parliament and street. Polish parliamentarians began debating laws regulating in vitro fertilization. After the conservative government of Donald Tusk took office in 2007 it promised state financing for it but the legislation was bogged down in heated debate and controversy. After the debate in the parliament rejected 3, and sent other 3 to parliamentary committee. The ruling party, conservative Civic Platform, has two competing draft bills — one restricting accessibility to IVF and banning pre-implementational diagnosis and making in vitro funding available only to married couples and the other which would allow IVF for married as well as unmarried couples, and the freezing of surplus embryos without recourse to their destruction. The procedure is currently legal in Poland but not regulated and only accessible to those, who can pay for it. It's an issue that takes on added urgency with a population expected to age in coming decades and a ballooning deficit that will make it harder to support the aged. The issue caused also heated debate within the structures of the Catholic Church. After one of the Church’s officials threatened to excommunicate any lawmakers who voted for state funding for IVF, the catholic bishops sent a letter to the country's prime minister, president and leaders in parliament that backs away from the excommunication threat but still argues strongly against allowing the procedure, calling it the "younger sister of eugenics." Paralelly, the issue is being debated by the Polish street. About 70 Poles have rallied outside a Roman Catholic bishop's residence in Warsaw in opposition to the church's campaign against in vitro fertilization. A liberal politician who organized the rally on Thursday, Janusz Palikot, nailed a copy of Poland's constitution to a wooden cross to emphasize his view that the church is violating the separation of church and state. One protester held a sign that read, "Poland is not Iran" while other demonstrators chanted, "The constitution, and not the Bible.

Source:Federation for Women and Family Planning


The report examining the right to sexuality education was presented by the new Special Rapporteur on the right to education, Kishore Singh, when he addressesed the General Assembly’s Third Committee on October 25th. The presentation was awaited with anticipation because the report was prepared by the previous mandate-holder Vernor Muñoz and it was not clear what will be the position of the new Rapporteur. Although the mandate entrusted to the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education gives prominence to Education for All (EFA) as well as to Millennium Development Goals 2 and 3 relating to the right to education, stakeholders working towards promotion of access to sexuality education expected more devotion to the issue of sexuality education from the new Rapporteur who explicitly distanced himself from the report. The report examines the interaction between this right and others using a gender and diversity perspective. It looks at the legal standing of the right to sexuality education both in the context of international humanitarian law and on a regional basis and argues that the state, the community and the family all have an obligation in this area. The report focuses on the human rights to comprehensive sexual education and underlines that right to education is not only a human right in itself but also essential for the exercise of all other human rights. The report introduces the topic of the right to sexual education, placing it in the context of patriarchy and control of sexuality. It explains the interdependence of sexuality, health and education and the relationship of this right to other rights from a gender and diversity perspective. The Special Rapporteur also introduces the right to sexual education in the context of international human rights law and analyses international and regional standards. He then addresses the situation of the right to sexual education, taking State responsibility into account and analysing regional and national trends, differing perspectives and the key role of the family and the community. The Special Rapporteur concludes his report by reiterating the necessity and the relevance of the right to comprehensive sexual education.

Report is available here:UNESCO

The European Parliament votes for extending materinity leave to 20 weeks on full pay. The vote followed the narrow approval in March by the parliament’s women’s rights committee of a report which called for a European standard of 20 weeks’ fully paid maternity leave. The report, which was drafted by Portuguese Socialist MEP Edite Estrela, also called for fathers to be given two weeks of fully paid paternity leave. The report, which proved bitterly divisive, goes beyond the European Commission’s original proposal to extend minimum maternity leave from 14 to 18 weeks throughout the EU’s 27 member states. Business organisations have lobbied hard for MEPs to reject the 20-week plan, arguing that it would add a huge burden of cost to businesses already struggling due to the economic downturn if it became law. Supporters of the 20-week proposal have cited World Health Organisation controversial recommendations that say more time at home is beneficial for both mother and child. This kind of legislation may lead to the further discrimination of women in the work place. Although at the first glance, it may seem that the new legislation granting long leave allowances, pay and protection from dismissal upon return is favorable for women, the proportion between leave granted for men and women (20 weeks for women versus 2 weeks for men) undermines the EU claims for gender equality at the work place and socio-economic sustainability. The proposal will be now discussed by the Council of European Union.


Strategy for Equality of Women & Men 2010-2015. The 5 year Strategy for Equality between Women and Men 2010-2015 was released by the European Commission. The strategy aims in particular to make better use of women's potential, thereby contributing to the EU's overall economic and social goals. It translates the principles set out in the European Commission's Women's Charter into specific measures, ranging from getting more women into company boardrooms to tackling gender-based violence. The gender equality strategy spells out a series of actions based around five priorities: the economy and labour market; equal pay; equality in senior positions; tackling gender violence; and promoting equality beyond the EU. There is no mention of reproductive rights in the whole document:EP

Gender Gap Report.According to the annual gender gap report prepared by the World Economic Forum examining the equality between women and men, Iceland remains the country that has the greatest equality between men and women. It is the second year in succession that Iceland has topped the foundation's Global Gender Gap Report. Nordic nations dominate the top of the list of 134 countries, with Norway in second place and Finland third. The report measures equity in the areas of politics, education, employment and health.


Human Rights Council Reaffirms Commitment to Human Rights Approach to Tackling Maternal Deaths .The United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a second groundbreaking resolution reaffirming that pregnancy-related deaths and injuries are a human rights issue and calling on U.N. member states to redouble their efforts and integrate human rights in their policies and programs to eliminate preventable maternal mortality and morbidity. The Human Rights Council’s move came a little over a week after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that $40 billion had been pledged to invest in maternal health globally in the context of the MDGs Summit.

Source:Women Deliver

publications and resources

Study: Europe is failing to keep up with USA as the world’s largest donor of Population Assistance. The German Foundation for World Population (DSW) and the European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development (EPF) announce the publication of Euromapping 2010. Europe is the largest donor region in the world, responsible for 64.6% of all global Official Development Assistance (ODA); yet Europe only accounts for 35% of global ODA to the health sector. Over the past decade, international donors have shown a willingness to devote greater amounts of their ODA to population issues, but this growth has been highly disproportionate. Contributions towards HIV/AIDS are now eight times greater than they were in 2001, but spending on Reproductive Health and Family Planning have only received modest increases. In Family Planning, Europe is failing to keep up with the United States; in 2008, the USA dedicated over 335 million dollars to Family Planning projects, while the single largest European donor was Germany, who contributed less than 18 million dollars. Euromapping 2010 offers a comparative view of how individual European donors have performed towards each of the four ICPD categories of Population Assistance: HIV/AIDS, Reproductive Health, Family Planning and Basic Research .

The entire publication can be downloaded for free at the following website:ER

State of World Population Report 2010. The release of The State of World Population 2010, published by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, coincides with the 10th anniversary of resolution 1325, the Security Council’s groundbreaking move against the abuse of women in conflict and the marginalization of them in peacebuilding. From conflict and crisis to renewal: generations of change is the theme of his year’s report that focuses on the situation of communities affected by conflict.The full report in Arabic, English, French, Russian and Spanish, along with feature stories, video, photographs and other resources for journalists are online at:UNFPA

The evidence Speaks for Itself. Ten Facts about Abortion. This manual serves as a quick reference guide for pro-choice advocates. The guide offers factual evidence debunking ten widely disseminated abortion myths, and provides supporting background information and resources.

To download go to:IPAS

In Good Conscience: Conscience clauses and reproductive rights in Europe—Who decides? – new advocacy guide by Catholics for Choice. The publication presents a progressive, Catholic perspective on conscience, conscience clauses, and the provision of reproductive healthcare services in Europe and Latin America. Through succinct, regional overviews, Catholics for Choice highlights key themes in the debate over conscience clauses, how such clauses evolved and what Catholic teachings on conscience really are.The publication is available here:CFC

take action

Female Condom at the CSW.The 55th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is fast approaching. The priority theme of CSW this year—which will be held in New York City from 22 February-4 March 2011—is “access and participation of women and girls to education, training, science and technology, including for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work.” We believe that female condoms play a critical role in this theme not only in terms of increasing women and adolescent girls’ access to this life-saving technology, but also in how the protection female condoms afford acts as a gateway to women’s education, employment, and full participation in society. Despite this, female condoms remain underfunded, neglected, and underused, and it is imperative we call upon the UN and member delegations to invest significantly in female condoms and expand global access. The Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) and Universal Access to Female Condoms (UAFC) Joint Programme is circulating the written statement urging governments and donors to dramatically increase political, financial, and technical support for female condoms. Nongovernmental and civil society organizations in consultative status (roster, general, or special) with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) are eligible and encouraged to sign this statement. Please email your endorsement to Kimberly Whipkey at CHANGE (kwhipkey@genderhealth.org) no later than Thursday, November 4, 12:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time or 5:00 PM Central European Time, as the deadline for submission is November 4.