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

Sep 10 2013

On September 2nd, the European Parliament committee on Women rights and Gender equality (FEMM) held a debate on the report on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). MEP Edite Estrela (S&D, Portugal) as rapporteur on the report, welcomed the many constructive amendments tabled by all groups but also expressed her strong opposition to some amendments that will run against the individual’s right to SRHR and gender equality. MEP Mariya Gabriel (EPP, Bulgaria) as shadow rapporteur welcomed the initiative to have a dedicated report on SRHR and insisted, on behalf of the EPP group, on young people and their needs for sex education that take into account their emotional development, their exposure to internet and pornography and the role of parents. Mikael Gustafsson (GUE/NGL, Sweden) stressed the importance of this report and of SRHR as a fundamental right of women to decide over their own bodies.

The European Commission representatives from Directorate Generals for Justice, for Development Cooperation as well as for Health and Consumers did not make any comments, as the responsibility of this report within the Commission has not yet been allocated.

The vote on the report in the FEMM Committee will take place on September 18th and the vote in plenary is scheduled for October 22nd.

To listen to the FEMM committee vote please click on:

Source: nEUws

Sep 09 2013

A nation wide anti-choice campaign has been present in the country for some time now and is supported and produced by the Macedonian Government. Two months ago the liberal law on abortion changed into a more restrictive one - depsite opposition from civil soviety, international pro-choice activists and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

See more information here

Sep 03 2013

July / August edition of ASTRA Bulletin is now available ONLINE. Have a great read!

Sep 03 2013

The Global Fund for Women on ASTRA and its Polish member Federation for Women and Family Planning.

"Working in a country with some of Europe’s most restrictive laws on abortion and contraception, The Federation for Women and Family Planning is one of the only organizations dedicated to protecting women’s reproductive rights in Poland."

Read the article "Holding the line in Poland" here and the full context and complete case study here.  

Aug 29 2013

Following the adoption of the law number 57 on “Equal Rights and Equal Opportunities for Men and Women” by the Armenian Parliament in May 2013, a heated debate started around the concept of “gender” and “equality”.

Extremist groups started disseminating misinformation on social networks sites, targeting women’s non-governmental organizations and women’s rights defenders in Armenia. In order to spread hate and fear in society, these groups are manipulating the wording of the law and associating “gender equality” with homosexuality propaganda and pedophilia. Women’s rights defenders are called “traitors of the nation”, “destroyers of families” and a “threat to Armenian values” and promoters of sexual abuse towards children and minors. 

Almost anyone daring to speak about “gender” issues or women’s rights is being mocked and ridiculed online and broadcast media. Their photos are being circulated so people will identify them and attack them. Some of our members who have been targeted are afraid for their lives and security and taking extreme measures to stay safe. 

In the face of this hysteria, Parliament members who adopted almost unanimously the law on gender equality is remaining silent and no concrete steps are taken by the government to protect and support the women’s rights defenders and those working on gender equality. 

Following these violent movements, on several sites, there have been concrete threats and calls to violence towards our organization (WRCA), such as “ blow up the Women’s Resource Center, and Burn the women’s human rights defenders for raising gender issues and challenging gender stereotypes in society”.  Our organization’s chairperson presented complaints to the Republic of Armenia Police and evidences of such threats of terrorism against the Center, but no specific actions have been taken so far. 

Some members of Parliament, like opposition party Prosperous Armenia, Deputy Ms Naira Zohrabyan (European Integration Committee Chair) influenced by the reaction of a group of extremists immediately took a defensive position and suggested changing the law on gender equality. Another member of parliament from the ruling party, Mr Babukhanyan, presented an official complaint against the Women’s Resource Center and its defenders to the RA Prosecutor’s General’s office to investigate the organization’s activities, accusing its members of promoting sexual deviation and homosexuality among under-aged girls. Although all these allegations are not founded, it is creating black PR to the organization, increasing hate towards them in society and threatening their freedom of assembly. This is not the first time that the Women’s Resource Center has been targeted by the Deputy Babukhanyan. On several occasions, during parliamentary hearings, Mr Babukhanyan, stated publicly “that organizations like the Women’s Resource Center are destroying Armenian Families by working on domestic violence issues and they need to be shut down.” In 2012, in one of the online magazines he owns, an article was published stating the same message about the organization. Following which, the Women’s Resource Center took this magazine to court for defamation and won the case. He tried to review the case on different levels but the decision of the court remained the same and now his magazine needs to publish an official apology for spreading misinformation about our work. We believe that these attacks are direct consequence of that court case. His journalists continue harassing us during public actions and circulating misinformation about our work. 

Our concern is that these extremist movements who are very pro-Russian (mainly publishing articles in Russian language and providing evidences from Russian sources) are also part of the present geopolitical situation in Armenia. Our concern is that these actions are part of the struggle between the Association agreement with the EU on one side and the unity with Russia on the other. 

WRCA appeals to you to pressure our government to take concrete steps to defend the rights of women’s rights defenders in Armenia and initiate actions to stop the hate war and persecution of women’s organizations working on gender equality and violence against women. We urge you as well to raise the issue among our governmental officials to ensure the safety of the women’s rights defenders and their rights to freedom of expression and assembly. 

The Women’s Resource Center is a grassroots organization working in Armenia since 2003 on empowering women. Our main mission is to counter gender discrimination in Armenia and provide psychological and legal support to survivors of gender-based violence and sexual abuse. The Center has been also lobbying for amendments to the criminal law regarding sexual violence and more specifically toughening the sexual abuse articles against minors, which is very lenient in the law. 

Source: Women’s Resource Center, AWID

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