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Silence equals taboo


Women’s rights in Poland, especially those concerning their own choices about their bodies and health have been very limited for over 20 years. Unfortunately, we observe continuous efforts aiming to completely restrict women’s freedom to choose.

Many countries of the world face the dominant tendency to increase access to contraception and legal abortion, ensure reimbursement of contraceptives as well as enable sexuality education based on scientific and medical knowledge. Meanwhile, in Poland we experience backlash in women’s rights advancement.

Our government begins to pay the Catholic Church back for its strong support during election campaign. According to a statement of Ministry of Education, qualified educators from non-governmental organizations will not be allowed to schools. Ironically, a recent study of the Institute for Educational Research about sexuality education confirmed the lack of basic knowledge among young people. The study also showed also that most parents appreciate presence of sexuality education classes in school.

So far Ministry of Health replaced the subsidised In Vitro Fertilsation programme with
a “procreation” programme, based on natural methods of family planning. It will be developed by team of experts demonstrating anti-choice attitudes. We also expect changes in law regarding access to emergency contraception. Since January 2015, thanks to decision of the European Commission, emergency contraception (EllaOne) has been available over-the-counter in Poland. However, it is accessible only for girls over 15 years of age and it’ s quite expensive. One of the most burning issues is our abortion law. We have one of the most restrictive laws in the world and for some politicians and anti-choice activists it’s still not enough. Every year there are attempts to ban access to abortion completely. Because of the right wing government and rising support for anti-abortion initiatives, this time they might succeed. As we know, anti-choice activists have started collecting signatures under citizens bill introducing further restrictions to abortion.

What can we do?

We should speak up about women’s rights to make their own choices, about young people’s right to comprehensive sexuality education and about access to modern contraception, which is guaranteed by Polish law. We should refer to our Constitution, especially to 47th article, which grants all citizens a right to legal protection of private and family life, honour and good reputation and the right to make decisions about personal life.

What we cannot do is to remain silent. Silence equals taboo and allows for stigmatization of women’s rights defenders, sexuality educators and women who had an abortion or considered it. We will not stop our efforts to educate society and debunk existing myths on sexual and reproductive health.

Written by Krystyna Kacpura, Executive Director of the Federation for Women and Family Planning serving as ASTRA Secretariat

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