ASTRA Central and Eastern European Women’s Network for Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Health

Apr 24 2015

Statement delivered in response to the “no resolution” conclusion of the 48th Session of the UN Commission on Population and Development on behalf of the International Sexual and Reproductive Rights Caucus, of which ASTRA Network is a member.

At the end of two weeks of thought-provoking and intense discussions, the Commission on Population and Development (CPD) concluded on April 17, 2015 without a resolution. On the final day, the chair produced a well-balanced text reflective of the various positions staked by governments, but to everyone’s surprise, this text was suddenly withdrawn by the chair only two hours after being distributed to delegates, without the chance for governments to engage in the normal fine-tuning that is routine at CPD negotiations. 

The CPD has a long history of producing strong outcomes, and for nearly 20 years has reached solid consensus on advancing and supporting full implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action. This has been possible because of the willingness and good faith of governments to negotiate directly with one another. It is clear that what happened at the conclusion of the CPD’s 48th session was a procedural anomaly that should be prevented from happening in future sessions.  

In April 2011, the General Assembly agreed to extend the ICPD Programme of Action and ensure its follow-up beyond 2014 in order to fully meet its goals and objectives. To fulfill this mandate, it is critical that governments continue to work together at CPD to reach agreement on how best to address gaps and challenges in implementing the Programme of Action. We hope that when the CPD reconvenes in April 2016 to review its methods of work, governments will use this opportunity to strengthen the CPD as a space to build consensus through negotiations, as they have for 20 years.

The undersigned organizations are deeply committed to continuing to work at multiple levels—local, national, regional, and global—to secure the sexual and reproductive health and rights agenda for the health, human rights, and well-being of all, together with governments, agencies, and civil society organizations. 

Endorsed by:

Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights

Advocates for Youth

African Woman and Child Feature Service, Kenya

Amnesty International

Associazione Italiana Donne per lo Sviluppo (AIDOS)

ASTRA Network

ATHENA Network

Apr 20 2014

A new ‘Barometer’ report launched by IPPF EN on 24 March analyses how easily women in 16 EU countries can access modern contraceptives. It reveals that overall the situation in most countries has stagnated or worsened in recent years. IPPF EN calls on decision-makers at all levels to implement a comprehensive approach to contraceptive choice in Europe as a crucial precondition to ensuring the wellbeing of women and adolescent girls.

The Barometer highlights that women’s access to modern contraceptives varies significantly from one EU country to the next. Encouraging developments include some limited examples of improved sexuality education policies, more generous reimbursement schemes for contraceptives in France and improved medical guidelines on contraceptive service delivery in Poland and Sweden. But overall, these are overshadowed by growing obstacles to women getting the contraception they need. Access in countries such as The Netherlands that have a relatively strong track record is under threat from austerity measures and financial constraints. Meanwhile, in several countries where access is already more problematic, political and economic instability and lack of funding have prevented progress.

Access the report HERE

Source: IPPF EN

Apr 17 2015

Statement delivered at the 48th Session of the Commission on Population and Development by Saida Ali of the International Women’s Health Coalition, on behalf of the International Sexual and Reproductive Rights Caucus of which the ASTRA Network is a member.

Sustainable development will only occur when all individuals fully realize their human rights, including sexual rights. Governments agreed more than 20 years ago that human rights include the right to have control over and decide freely on all matters related to one’s sexuality, free from coercion, discrimination, and violence.

Attempts by others to control the sexuality of girls and women violate their human rights on a daily basis. These violations include sexual and gender-based violence, stigma and discrimination, limitations on mobility, and denial of meaningful participation in public life, among others. Furthermore, lesbians, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, sex workers, and people living with HIV and AIDS face these and other profound violations of their human rights, simply because they are seen to transgress prevailing sexual, gender, and other norms.

For young people and adolescents, especially those who belong to the most marginalized, vulnerable and stigmatized populations, many social and economic barriers continue to impede the full realization of their sexual rights. It is during this critical life stage, a time of learning, “firsts”, and – all too often – of violence, abuse and discrimination, that protection and fulfilment of sexual rights are urgently needed. Non-judgmental, and youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services and comprehensive sexuality education are essential to enable young people to challenge harmful gender norms, learn about and claim their rights, and navigate healthy relationships.

It is clear: sexual rights underpin the enjoyment of all other human rights and are a prerequisite for equality, justice and sustainable development, including the rights to health, education, housing, and employment. In many cases, sexual rights violations and discrimination based on sexuality compromise individuals’ economic opportunities and lead to or exacerbate poverty. How can the SDG targets on inequalities, which aim to eliminate discriminatory laws, policies, and practices, be met when sexual rights continue to be violated?

Encouragingly, increasing numbers of governments are recognizing the importance of sexual rights and putting in place laws and policies to protect them at the country level. For example, in the past few years Uruguay legalized abortion upon demand without restriction until the 12th week of pregnancy; Malta adopted a visionary gender identity and expression law, recognizing a universal right to physical integrity; several countries, such as Sweden, Denmark, and Argentina, have undertaken other important legislative changes; and more countries are taking steps necessary to provide comprehensive sexuality education for all adolescents and youth.

At the regional level, sexual rights have been recognized in Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific and in Africa. At the 47th Commission on Population and Development in April 2014, 59 countries voiced support for sexual rights in plenary discussions. In addition, during the Open Working Group, 58 countries signed on to a statement calling for sexual rights to be included in the Sustainable Development Goals.

For all of us, here and across the world, it is critical to have respect and protection of our right to have control over our own bodies and our sexuality, without any form of stigma, discrimination, coercion, or violence. Only with this foundation can we fully contribute to sustainable development, realize gender equality, fully participate in our communities and nations, and universally enjoy all of our other human rights, equality and justice.

It is critical that we build on the gains we have made so far, and build on the momentum that exists. This is the time; right here, right now, at CPD 48 and during this critical moment in the post-2015 process, more than twenty years after Cairo. It is high time that our language and policies adapt to the realities and needs of our people. We decisively call on you to recognize and uphold our sexual rights – for our sake and for the sake of all humankind. The time is now.

Mar 30 2015

Cluj-Napoca, Romania. For a little over a month, the 2015 European Youth Capital has witnessed an emerging discourse of hostility towards women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. The issue at stake is, not surprisingly, abortion. A group of people, led by a Greek Catholic couple, joined the worldwide Christian movement of “40 Days for Life”, an international campaign against abortion taking place from the 18th of February to the 29th of March. The supporters of the campaign gathered daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in front of the Dominic Stanca Gynecology Clinic in the center of the city, where they stood silently and prayed, holding banners containing anti-choice messages such as “Every life is a gift from God”, “Women deserve more than abortions”, “A voice for the voiceless” or “Every human being has a right to life”. Similar messages were displayed on the 22nd of March, when almost 2,000 people participated in the “March for Life” in the center of Cluj-Napoca. Overall, the campaign has proven to be very successful, attracting volunteers mostly with the aid of a website dedicated to the event and social media.

The movement’s clear attempt at limiting women’s sexual and reproductive rights, as well as at shaming them for ending an unwanted pregnancy was met with some opposition from the general public. Although fewer in number and less organized, groups of pro-choice activists reacted by leaving the following messages on the walls of the clinic: “I respect your religion, respect my decision”, “My body, my choice!”, “Wanted children, not children of the Decree”, referring to the 770 Decree of 1966 during Ceaușescu’s totalitarian regime (it banned abortion in almost all cases, as well as contraception, leading to the death of almost 10,000 women between 1966 and 1989, due to complications arising from illegal abortions). These deaths, as well as the several thousand lives lost in childbirth in communist Romania as a direct consequence of the ban on abortion (during the 1980s, Romania had by far the highest rate of maternal death in Europe, almost triple that of the runner-up - source), seem to have left insufficient marks in the collective memory of Romanians, as a significant number of local newspapers have labeled the pro-choice protests as “vandalism”.

While, in part, the success of the “40 Days for Life” campaign can be attributed to an excellent planning on the side of the organizers, it is undeniable that Romania is witnessing a new wave of religious conservatism, a phenomenon which does not appear to be counteracted by the efforts of secular and women’s rights activists and NGOs.

Source: Equality and Human Rights Action Centre – ACTEDO

Mar 25 2015

“Families of Choice in Poland. Family life of non-heterosexual persons” report is the result of research carried out within the project “Families of Choice in Poland” financed by state budget funds for scientific research and implemented by the Institute of Psychology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, (principal investigator Prof. Joanna Mizielińska).

Families of choice are families of non-heterosexuals persons. They do not have social or legal support  in Poland. It is only by their choice that they become and call themselves a family. Gays, lesbians, and bisexuals constitute at least 5% of Poland’s society. Consequently, there are about 2 million such people in Poland. It is estimated that half of them live in relationships, with some also raising children. The Families of Choice project included 3038 people from all over Poland from 18 to 81 years of age. All respondents were in a relationship with a same-sex partner (min. 6 months, max. 42 years). Data concerning 287 children being raised by non-heterosexual persons were collected. Half of the children are below 13 years of age.

Access the report in pdf HERE.

Information concerning the whole project and its further parts is available at:


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