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

Dec 14 2017

“Women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights are human rights. Regrettably, however, women in Europe still have these rights denied or restricted as a result of laws, policies and practices that ultimately reflect continuing gender stereotypes and inequalities. States must acknowledge and address these violations and resolutely commit to advancing gender equality in this crucial sphere of life”, said the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, while releasing a report on this topic in early December.

The document provides an overview of states’ obligations under international and European human rights standards in the field of women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. It provides examples of shortcomings that European states must address in particular as regards the rights to life, health, privacy, non-discrimination as well as the right to be free from torture and ill-treatment, with a particular focus on comprehensive sexuality education, modern contraception, safe and legal abortion care, and quality maternal health care.

The Commissioner sets forth 54 recommendations aimed at helping European states address the pressing need to:

  • renew political commitment to women’s rights and guard against retrogressive measures that undermine women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights;
  • establish health systems that uphold and advance women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights;
  • ensure the provision of comprehensive sexuality education;
  • guarantee the affordability, availability and accessibility of modern contraception;
  • ensure all women’s access to safe and legal abortion care;
  • ensure that refusals of care by health care workers on grounds of conscience or religion do not endanger women’s timely access to sexual and reproductive health care;
  • respect and protect women’s human rights in childbirth and guarantee all women’s access to quality maternal health care;
  • eliminate coercive practices and safeguard women’s informed consent and decision-making in sexual and reproductive health care contexts;
  • ensure all women’s access to effective remedies for violations of their  sexual and reproductive rights;
  • eliminate discrimination in laws, policies and practices and guarantee equality for all women in the enjoyment of sexual and reproductive health and rights.

“Sexual and reproductive rights protect some of the most significant and intimate aspects of our lives. Ensuring these rights for women is a vital component of efforts to achieve women’s rights and gender equality. Given the resurgent trends seeking to roll back protections in this field, we must ensure that we remain committed to these rights, which were established only after a long struggle. States have the duty to provide all women with accessible, affordable, good quality sexual and reproductive health care and services”, said Commissioner Muižnieks.

Read the Issue Paper on women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights

Read the summary of the Issue Paper

See the special page on women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights

Source: CoE

Dec 05 2017

The Polish Bureau of Research (BAS) has positively evaluated a draft law that would introduce conscience clause for pharmacists and owners of drug stores. According to the law elaborated and delivered by the Federation of Polish Catholic Pharmacists they will have rights  1) to refuse to sell drugs should they be incompatible with their conscience and 2) not to order such drugs. In practice, only procreation-related medicines are in contradiction to conscience clause. Therefore, the law is supposed to restrict the access to contraception, thus breaching women’s reproductive rights.

It is worth mentioning that currently pharmacists do break the law and decline to sell contraception, despite the fact that only doctors, nurses and midwives are entitled to the conscience clause. 

The draft law provides one exception – medicaments must be given out when customer’s life or health is threatened.  Independent experts, however, argue that the draft law is a legal nonsense and that it does not guarantee that this exception will be followed, e.g. when a medicine is not in stock. There are no provisions that specify whom the customer can turn to make up their prescriptions. In small towns/villages or in conservative regions, where invoking the conscience clause is already common, women willing to obtain contraceptive pills or emergency contraception will be helpless, whereas their health and lives endangered. Moreover, this law hits less well-off persons who will face additional obstacles when searching for available pharmacists.

The Bureau of Research has decided to send a desideratum to the Ministry of Health. However, the Minister has already publicly supported introduction of the conscience clause for pharmacists. Respective interventions undertaken by the Commissioner for Human Rights to protect patient’s rights were also unsuccessful, since his arguments for limiting the conscience clause in pharmacies were rejected by the Ministry. It is a matter of time when the proposal of the Federation of Polish Catholic Pharmacists will come into force.

Source: Federation for Women and Family Planning

Dec 04 2017

Article by Leah Hoctor and Adriana Lamačková of the Centre for Reproductive Rights has been published in the Ethical and Legal Issues section of the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics.  The article addresses the recent retrogressive introduction of mandatory waiting periods and biased counseling and information requirements prior to abortion in Central and Eastern Europe.

A number of Central and Eastern European countries have recently enacted retrogressive laws and policies introducing new pre-conditions that women must fulfill before they can obtain legal abortion services. Mandatory waiting periods and biased counseling and information requirements are particularly common examples of these new prerequisites. This article considers these requirements in light of international human rights standards and public health guidelines, and outlines the manner in which, by imposing regressive barriers on women’s access to legal abortion services, these new laws and policies undermine women’s health and well-being, fail to respect women’s human rights, and reinforce harmful gender stereotypes and abortion stigma.

The published article is online in PDF at Wiley Library.
Full text, as submitted is online at SSRN.

Dec 01 2017

The VNRs were held during the High Level Political Forum in mid 2017, several countries of ASTRA participated in the Voluntary National Reviews on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Synthesis Report of the country reviews is available at http://bit.ly/2jAfk6l. Among the countries under review were: Azerbaijan, Belarus, Czech Republic, Slovenia and Tajikistan.

Source: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org

Nov 20 2017

New publication from the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Budapest and Eszter Kovats: The Future of the European Union - Feminist Perspectives from East-Central Europe is an interesting compilation of Central and Eastern European voices on the most pressing issues today in relation to gender, EU, reproductive rights, economy and most at risk groups. The selections of articles include:

  • Aniko Gregor: Who is for sale? Challenging the commodification of gender equality in the European Union
  • Andrea Peto: From women through gender to unconscious bias: changing terminology about gender equality in the EU 
  • Elena Zacharenko: Reproductive rights as a social justice issue in the EU 
  • Edit Szenassy: Finding space for Romani women within the EU
  • György Mészáros: Reconsidering the identity approach of the EU LGBT+ architecture from a feminist perspective
  • Csilla Malomvölgyi: The dream of a common European asylum and migration policy from the perspective of women’s rights in East-Central Europe
  • Emília Barna, Gergely Csányi, Agi Gagyi and Gerőcs Tamás: East-Central European feminist activism in the context of uneven development in the EU, and ways to move forward
  • Zuzana Uhde: Global structural inequalities and responsibility for global justice: a feminist contribution
  • Zofia Łapniewska: The future of the European Union’s economy - Inspirations and challenges 
  • Kata Tutto: Epilogue: Something not even the fence can stop

Access the publication in pdf here

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