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

WHO and the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs have launched a new, open-access database of laws, policies and health standards on abortion in countries worldwide. The database aims to promote greater transparency of abortion laws and policies, as well as to improve countries’ accountability for the protection of women and girls’ health and human rights.

The database is being launched on two platforms:

The database allows comparative analyses of abortion laws and policies across countries, while at the same time viewing information and recommendations from WHO safe abortion guidance. The global picture for abortion laws and policies is complex. Individual countries’ laws and policies can be protective or punitive, specific or non-specific, and limiting or facilitating for access and service provision. The database can help to unpack the complexities and nuances of these laws and policies. The database does not address how laws and policies are applied in practice, and so database users interested in progressive policy reform to protect women and girls’ health and human rights are encouraged to use the information to generate evidence on how laws and policies are implemented.

By sharing abortion laws and policies from across the world, it is hoped that the database will improve transparency and encourage countries to hold themselves to account for protecting girls’ and women’s human rights to health and well-being.

The database includes information on a broad range of policy areas. These include: legal grounds and related gestational limits, authorization and service-delivery requirements, policies about who can provide abortion and where, when and how abortion services are permitted, and criminal penalties for women, girls, health-care providers and others. In addition to data on specific abortion policies, individual country profiles include sexual and reproductive health indicators, links to ratified human rights treaties, and links to UN Treaty Monitoring Body Concluding Observations and Special Procedure Reports, which address abortion.

Source and additional information: WHO

The Observatory on the Universality of Rights (OURs) is a collaborative, multi-organizational initiative that works to monitor, analyze, and share information on initiatives that undermine the universality of human rights. Currently it is being coordinated by AWID.

On May 25, coinciding with the World Congress of Families (the biggest annual global meeting of the far right) OURs released a new report. The report is the first of a series on human rights trends produced by the OURs. This comprehensive research documents and analyzes key trends and developments mapped over 2015 to late 2016 in order to inform and support our collective advocacy.

Read the OURs Trends Report

Relevant read: The World Congress of Families: A prime example of today’s anti-rights lobby

The Hungarian Parliament’s decision to pass a law targeting the funding of independent civil society groups is a serious attack on Hungarian democracy, unprecedented elsewhere in Europe, the Open Society Foundations said today.

“Cosmetic changes to the law in response to the Venice Commission have not altered the law’s true intent; it seeks to suppress democratic voices in Hungary just when the country needs them most. It attacks Hungarians who help fellow citizens challenge corruption and arbitrary power, and who stand up for free and independent media and for open debate,” said Goran Buldioski, director of the Open Society Foundations’ work in Europe.

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Together with partners from the Sexual Rights Initiative we are in Geneva for 35th session of the UN Human Rights Council advocating for recognition, fullfillment and protection of sexual and reproductive rights. Follow the discussion in social media using #HRC35 and click here to see what are the main reports and resolution being discussed in Geneva during this session.

On the 19th of May, the Council of the European Union adopted the revised European Consensus on Development, which identifies a new framework for development cooperation and for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda by the European Union and the 28 member countries. The consensus was endorsed on the 31st of May by the European Parliament and it will be officially launched at the European Development Days in June.

The adoption of the consensus was preceded by the interinstitutional negotiations and public consultations lasting several months, during which EuroNGOs together with IPPF EN submitted recommendations highlighting women’s rights-related issues and SRHR in particular. 

Why is it so important?

The revised European Consensus on Development (the previous one was adopted in 2006) is a crucial document to navigate the EU development policy in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for the next 15 years. It sets out the necessary core elements of cooperation between the EU and its member states and “developing” countries; the strategic approach for accomplishing the Sustainable Development Goals; and details how the funds for development cooperation will be used. 

What does the consensus say about SRHR?

“The EU remains committed to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of all human rights and to the full and effective implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the outcomes of their review conferences and remains committed to sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), in this context. Having that in mind, the EU reaffirms its commitment to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of the right of every individual to have full control over, and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality and sexual and reproductive health, free from discrimination, coercion and violence. The EU further stresses the need for universal access to quality and affordable comprehensive sexual and reproductive health information, education, including comprehensive sexuality education, and health-care services.” 

You can read the full version of the revised European Consensus on Development here

What does civil society say?

Concord: New European Consensus on Development: Double Standards for Sustainable Development

Oxfam: New EU development framework: self-interest trumps solidarity

Platforma: Is ‘less’ really ‘more’ in the new European Consensus on Development?

Source: EuroNGOs

CESI and Initiative of pro-choice doctors organized a public debate on 9th of May: “The abortion law for the 21st century” in order to emphasize that abortion should be legal, safe and accessible to all women. The Croatian Constitutional Court reaffirmed in March this year the constitutionality of access to abortion and ruled that by allowing women’s access to abortion on request within the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, the law gives effect to women’s constitutional rights to privacy, liberty, and personality and complied with international human rights law and comparative European law. As the 1978 law predated the current Croatian Constitution, the Court requested that the Croatian Parliament adopts new legislation within two years. It is expected that the current Croatian Government, under the pressure of ultraconservative forces, will attempt to severely limit access to safe abortion through mandatory counseling and waiting periods and promotion of conscientious objection. The conclusions which emphasise that the Croatian authorities must not deviate from universal and regional human rights principles and standards that protect the sexual and reproductive rights of women were sent to decision makers with request to include the civil society and women’s groups recommendation into the new abortion law.

Source: CESI

On the International Day of Action for Women’s Health, #28May, Daniela Draghici, a member of the Society for Feminist Analyses AnA, #Romania, organized a “Yard Sale for Choice” in partnership with the Youth for Youth Foundation, Society for Education in Contraception and Sexuality - SECS, an Astra Youth member, Romanian Anti-AIDS Association – ARAS, Marie Stopes International Romania Foundation and the National Public Health Institute.

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On May 25th the Polish Government voted in favour of limiting access to emergency contraception violating women’s reproductive rights few months after the “Black Protest”.

The draft proposal was put forward by the ruling Law and Justice party and accepted for further works in February this year. Besides issues focusing on patient’s access to medicines it also aimed to make all contraception, including emergency contraception, available only on prescription from doctor.

242 Members of Parliament voted in favour of this ruling, including all representatives from the Law and Justice party who have a majority in the Parliament, 188 against and 9 abstained from voting. 21 did not attend the session.

As result of the C(2015)51 ruling from the European Commission, and upon recommendation from the European Medicines Agency (EMA), in January 2015 emergency contraceptive with ulipristal acetate, registered in Poland under the brand name ellaOne, received the authorization to be sold without prescription across the European Union (EU). The ulipristal acetate emergency contraceptive pill (UPA ECP) – ellaOne - became available in Polish pharmacies without prescription from April 2015 contributing to rising the standard of reproductive health services and supplies for Polish women and girls, and expanding the postcoital contraceptive choices of women.

Mr. Konstanty Radziwił, the Polish Minister of Health announced that he, as a doctor, would never prescrive emergency contacetion to a raped woman. One of the arguments for reinstating the provision of a mandatory doctor’s prescription for emergency contraceptives is the apparent (yet not proven) ‘misuse of the pill’ by teenage girls in Poland and its detrimental effects on women’s health.

The planned restrictions will greatly impede the lives of women and girls and contribute to the sales of this product from unsafe sources. The economical aspect of this decision is crucial to note as only women who can afford to visit a doctor at a private facility (gynecologists at public facilities have an average waiting time adding up to app. 18 days) will be able to do so. This ruling, besides weakening women’s reproductive health and rights, will contribute to a rise in the number of unplanned pregnancies and abortions in a country where access to a safe and legal abortion is already incredibly difficult.

Poland becomes one of the very few European countries where such an obstacle in accesing emergency contraception will excist. Such a requirement is also present in Hungary, Albania and Russian Federation.

MEPs of the EP Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality visited Poland from 22 - 24 May.

MEPs observed the situation of women’s rights in the country with a special focus on the implementation of the Istanbul convention and victims of violence, sexual and reproductive rights and women’s economic empowerment.

The delegation composed of Maria ARENA (S&D, Belgium), Malin BJÖRK (GUE/NGL, Sweden), Terry REINTKE (Greens, Germany) and Daniela AIUTO (EFDD, Italy) met with representatives of the civil socjety, among these was ASTRA Network and the Federation for Women and Family Planning, Polish authorities, Deputies and Senators, academics, human rights professionals and service providers in order to gain an in-depth understanding of the situation on women's rights in Poland.

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The mission of the EU Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality will visit Warsaw in order to observe the situation of women’s rights in Poland. It will focus on the application of the Istanbul convention, the state of victims of violence, sexual and reproductive rights and women’s economic empowerment in Poland. Composed by Ms Maria Arena (S&D, Belgium) (Head of Mission), Ms Malin Björk (GUE/NGL, Sweden), Ms Terry Reintke (Greens/EFA, Germany), Ms Daniela Aiuto (EFDD, Italy) and Ms Jadwiga Wiśniewska (ECR, Poland), the delegation is planning to meet government representatives, civil society, among them ASTRA Network Coordinator and Federation for Women and Family Planning Excecutive Director and other independent equality experts.

The mission will visit Poland from May 22nd to 24th.

Source: FEMM Nesletter

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