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

Sep 21 2017

European Union Pledges 500 Million Euros Towards Gender Equality Fund

This week the European Union and the United Nations kicked off a new, global, multi-year initiative focused on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls – The Spotlight Initiative.

The Spotlight Initiative was announced at a high-level event at the United Nations, led by the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, and the EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica.

The Initiative aims to place the elimination of violence against women at the center of efforts to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The European Union is committing 500 million EUR in funding to the Spotlight Initiative.

Sep 18 2017

Anti-rights activists in Russia gathered more than 900,000 signatures to petition President Vladimir Putin to pass a law criminalizing all abortions. The activists received support from the powerful head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill. In Moscow, for the eighth year in a row, the campaign “For Life” hosted the “International Festival for Social Techniques to Protect Family Values,” which included anti-abortion groups from Spain, Serbia, Italy and Russia.   

Lastly, Human Rights Watch reports that Russian feminist activists were harassed by the police and Cossacks. Several activists travelling to a feminist gathering in the Black Sea region were intercepted by the police and arbitrarily detained. Several hours later they were released without charges, but asked to sign a document acknowledging that they were carrying out “extremist activity.” According to HRW, “Cossacks, who identify themselves as a separate ethnic group in Russia, are known to maintain militia groups.” They often harass activists from socially progressive organizations.

Source: Ipas 

Sep 12 2017

In support of the September 28 Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion, Sexual Rights Initiative, Center for Reproductive Rights and Ipas have developed a joint statement on abortion rights for delivery at the upcoming 36th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The session runs from Sept. 11-29, and the most suitable Council agenda item for the statement would appear to be the general debate on the implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, scheduled for Monday, Sept. 25.

Being the first such joint statement at the Council, the focus is generally on human rights standards with regard to abortion. Future initiatives could go further, and develop different aspects of abortion rights. A couple of requirements that needed to be fulfilled include connecting the statement with the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, and observing the 2-minute limit for the delivery of the statement.

We invite groups and organisations to sign on to the statement by Sept. 20:

Sep 11 2017

Realizing Rights : Protecting Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in times of Backlash

ASTRA Network Coordinator will have the honor to participate in a side event during the 36th session of the UN Human Rights Council that is being held in Geneva. Download the flyer for the event HERE. 

Despite 20 years of significant advancement on women’s rights, sexual and reproductive rights are currently facing an alarming backlash globally. Women and girls’ rights to life, health, privacy and bodily autonomy being threatened by discriminatory laws and policies targeted at sexual and reproductive health. The full enjoyment of sexual and reproductive health and rights remains a distant goal for millions of women and girls throughout the world. This side event will look at the effects of this recent backlash on the lives of women and girls, present initiatives aimed at mitigating these impacts and explore how the Human Rights Council can help support and sustain these good practices.

September 14th 2017
Palais des Nations, Geneva
13:30 -15:00


  • Keynote Speaker: Ms. Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights
  • Moderator: Ms. Kate Gilmore, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, OHCHR (TBC)
  • H.E Mr. Hans Brattskar, Ambassador to the Permanent Mission of Norway in Geneva
  • Mr. Moses Mulumba, Executive Director, Center for Health, Human Rights and Development (CEHURD), Uganda
  • Ms. Marta Szostak, ASTRA Network Coordinator, Poland
Sep 08 2017

From July 23rd emergency contraception is no longer available over the counter in Poland as a result of a bill proposed by the Polish Minister of Health that had been pushed through the lower house of the Parliament in May.

In May the mission of the EU Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality visited Warsaw in order to observe the situation of women’s rights in Poland; ASTRA and Federation for Women and Family Planning actively participated in the meeting with the MEPs. One of the issues discussed was access to contraception, especially emergency contraception that was made available in Polish pharmacies without prescription from April 2015 as a result of the C(2015)51 ruling from the European Commission, and on recommendation from the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

In July three MEPs, Terry Reintke (Verts/ALE), Malin Björk (GUE/NGL) and Maria Arena (S&D) submitted parliamentary questions to the European Commission on the restrictions in the availability of emergency contraception in Poland:

1. Does the Polish Government’s categorization of the pill uphold the criteria laid down in Articles 70-71 of Directive 2001/83/EC?

2. Does the Polish Government’s bill introduce possible discrepancies in drug approval procedure and categorization, in violation of Directive 2001/83/EC?

On August 28th Commissioner Mr. Andriukaitis provided a reply on behalf of the European Commission stating, that the restrictions imposed by Poland are in fact in accordance with the EU legislation:  

The EU pharmaceutical legislation includes derogatory provisions when it comes to contraceptives and abortifacients, namely Article 4(4) of Directive 2001/83/EC(1). Under those derogations, Member States may prohibit or restrict the use of such products in their territory. In accordance with Article 13(1) of Regulation (EC) 726/2004(2) this derogation can also be invoked for products, which have been authorised by the Commission on the basis of a scientific opinion of the European Medicines Agency.

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