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

Nov 07 2016

Sarajevo Open Centre (SOC) was established in 2007, registered as an association of citizens on the state level and has grown to become a respected nongovernmental organization in BiH.

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Nov 04 2016

The battle on abortion is far from over in Poland. Today the Polish Parliament adopted new project entitled “For Life” (“Za Życiem”) targeting so called “difficult pregnancies”.

In the project the government offers 4000 PLN (1000 EUR) for carrying to term a pregnancy with a permanently damaged or terminally ill foetus and ensures access to hospices and medical care. It also guarantees psychological counselling and introduces a new role of an “assistant of the family” who will be responsible for coordination of available support.

The new project consists mostly of solutions already existing in the areas of healthcare and social policies. The project is proclaimed as a support programme for “difficult pregnancies” and was first announced after dismissal of the “Stop Abortion” citizen’s bill (which aimed to ban abortion in all cases and criminalize women) on October 6th.

The “For Life” project was proposed by Beata Szydło, Polish Prime Minister, on Monday, October 31st and adopted within a few days without any consultations with the non-governmental sector or experts. Szydło claims that a wider support programme aiming to help families and children with disabilities will be developed by the end of this year.

Giving a price tag on the unbelievable, unimaginable suffering of Polish women and children may be a start of limiting access to abortion in case of foetal damage, one of the three cases by which abortion is currently legal in Poland (the other two are when a woman's life is in danger and when a pregnancy is a result of rape or incest). Catholic Church and many of the Law and Justice ruling party have been supportive of this notion on numerous occasions.

Oct 26 2016

On October 24-25 ASTRA held its annual meeting in Warsaw, Poland. 23 ASTRA representatives discussed the current threats to reproductive rights in Central and Eastern Europe and ways of moving forward and addressing these developments. As Monday 24th was the day of another series of protests as part of the “Polish Women’s Strike” in Warsaw and across the country ASTRA members participated in a demonstration in Warsaw city center.

Oct 25 2016

After months of speculation and different voting rounds, on the 5th of October it was finally decided who will take over the seat of Ban ki Moon as United Nations Secretary General. The UN Security council agreed that former Portuguese Prime Minister and chief of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres will be leading the UN over the coming years.

The decision didn’t come as a huge surprise as he was the clear frontrunner in the race. While he is seen as a capable and talented candidate and is praised for the structural reform process overseen at the UNHCR, his appointment is also viewed as a huge missed opportunity for the United Nations to appoint a first female Secretary General. Campaigns by women’s rights movements and even Ban ki Moon himself arguing it is high time for female leadership couldn’t turn the tide.

A few days after the announcement of Guterres’ selection, the news came out that the UN plans to make the cartoon character Wonder Woman an honorary ambassador for the empowerment of women. After the selection of a male candidate for the world’s top diplomat position, this appointment is perceived as a ‘consolation price’ by a lot of women’s rights activists.

Soon after the news broke out, a lot of criticism was shared from various corners about the selection of what is seen as an overtly sexualized and Western cartoon character. Many questioned why the UN didn’t choose a living feminist and a recognised champion for gender equality. Amongst the numerous articles and blogs, the  Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom raises the lack of intercultural awareness, United Nations representative of the International Federation of Business and Professional Women calls it an insult to women at the UN, and the Campaign to Elect a Women UN Secretary General asked for an urgent public enquiry into the process of the selection. Even UN staff expressed their disappointment with the decision, and some of them protested in the UN chamber at the launch event. A petition has been launched by concerned United Nations staff members to reverse the decision, which in a few days already gathered over 25,000 supporters.

It is clear that a development framework as the SDGs that prioritises gender equality cannot go hand-in-hand with a United Nations that does not put this meaningfully into action. It is still to be seen how the UN will respond to the civil society and UN’s staff outcry about the decision, and if Ban ki Moon can still reconsider the decision in his last months in office. That could be a WONDERful departure from his UN career.

Source: EuroNGOs

Oct 11 2016

Brussels, 11th October 2016 // European Youth advocates welcome the decision by the Polish parliament last week to dismiss the “Stop Abortion” bill , but stress that the European Parliament needs to do more to monitor legislative developments and increasing restrictions to sexual and reproductive rights and services across Europe.

Recent developments in Poland have served to highlight the precarious state of women’s health and rights in Europe with rising political support for increased restrictions to women’s reproductive health; such as access to contraceptive and abortion services.

Driven by their commitment to human rights and concerns over increased restrictions to reproductive health and services; youth advocates from Poland, Spain, Croatia, Romania the Netherlands and the United Kingdom will be meeting with MEPs and policy-makers on Tuesday 11th and Wednesday 12th October to demand a stronger European parliamentary response to increasingly regressive legislation in Europe.

Their action builds on the recent mobilization of thousands of Polish women, men, girls and boys, supported by solidarity movements throughout Europe; who have raised their voices in opposition to Poland’s plans to further restrict the law on abortion. Their actions influenced the Polish Parliament’s decision to dismiss  the “Stop the Abortion” bill; however the threats to fundamental reproductive rights remain with the development of new legislative proposals which seek to further restrict access to essential services. 

Following the anti-abortion campaign in Poland, anti-choice movements in neighbouring countries; Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Croatia have called for increased restrictions on women’s health and rights. Evidence shows that restricting access to safe abortion only forces girls and women to resort to private, illegal or unsafe services, which pose a serious risk to their health and lives.

Belgian Socialist MEP Maria Arena comment: Denying women access to abortion
is denying them access to health, as there could be a risk of death if access to abortion is denied."


Marta Szostak, ASTRA Network Coordinator comments: “For a few years we are now observing various steps, sometimes very small, sometimes very drastic, to limit women’s reproductive rights and influence their reproductive health choices throughout Europe. Already this year we have worked tirelessly to combat further restrictions to abortion access in Poland, mobilising thousands to challenge the Polish Governments regressive stance on sexual reproductive health and rights.

Despite recent success with the “Stop the Abortion” bill being dismissed from Parliament, we count on solidarity and support from our colleagues in Europe, and politicians and representatives within the European Parliament, to do more to uphold fundamental reproductive rights, such as access to contraceptives and abortion throughout the European Union”

During their meetings with Members of the European Parliament on Tuesday 11th and Wednesday 12th October the youth advocates will discuss and share their concerns and suggestions for what the European Parliament could do to safeguard young people’s and women’s rights and will call for;

  • Increased Access to Comprehensive Sexuality Education
  • Fulfilment of access to safe and legal abortion services for all women and girls without stigmatization, discrimination, intimidation or victimisation of women and girls requiring these services;
  • Increased funding for the development of youth-friendly sexual and reproductive services
  • Implement a funding stream for the monitoring of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in European Member States
  • Relevant monitoring of number and conditions of illegal abortions;

Swedish GUE/NGL group MEP Malin Björk comment: "History has shown that we can never take women's rights for granted. When rights are threatened somewhere, they are threatened for all of us. We are in this together."

Marta Szostak, ASTRA Network Coordinator comments; "International support, especially the one coming from European groups working on reproductive rights and youth groups, has proven to be a major source for mobilization and inspiration for Polish women and girls. European Parliamentarians must do their part in upholding fundamental human rights and European values in demanding and upholding universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights throughout Europe".

Coalition of CHOICE for Youth and Sexuality, You Act, ASTRA Youth and ASTRA Network

Press contacts: 

Monty Aal, CHOICE for Youth & Sexuality - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.(Brussels)

Marta Szostak, ASTRA Network - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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