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

Armenia, a small landlocked post-soviet country was on international news headlines recently and the reason, luckily, was not a natural disaster, mass killings or a terrorist attack that usually attracts global media attention in less developed world but the phenomenon of exceptional character of civil disobedience acts bringing to the unprecedented non-violent bottom-up revolution in the post-Soviet territory. Protests and marches took place initially in response to Serzh Sargsyan's third consecutive term as the most powerful figure in the government of the Armenia and later against the Republican Party-controlled government in general. Pashinyan declared it a Velvet Revolution. Read the article by ASTRA’a representative, Anna Arusthyan from Society Without Violence about what really happened in Armenia this year:

The winning recipe of Revolution ‘Love and Solidarity’: Armenian style

In April and May pro-choice billboards with the slogan “Women in Poland demand legal abortion” have appeared in different cities and towns across Poland. This campaign was organised by an informal women’s group, which managed to gather financial means in a crowdfunding campaign. The organizers and supporters wished to protest with these billboards against manipulative messages of the anti-abortion fundamentalists and to make their voice in the public sphere more distinctive. The billboards were meant to support pro-choice people in smaller, conservative towns and to empower them to show that they possess agency and can change the reality. Their action reflects a solid and growing support for the liberalization of the anti-abortion law.

The latest opinion poll conducted by IPSOS in cooperation with OKO.press, the online portal run by investigative journalists, reaffirms some continued trends, but it also surprises with new observations. The most crucial conclusions:

  • 37% of Poles are for liberalization, 44% for the status quo and 11% for a stricter law. Since January the percentage of anti-abortion radicals has dropped by 4%.
  • the poll exposes the dual-thinking of Poles. Opinion about the right to abortion is more liberal – among 20% of respondents – when people are faced not with the abstract law, but with a specific situation of a women in an unwanted pregnancy. 55% of interviewees claim that the law should not ban abortion in case of an acquainted in a difficult situation
  • among voters of the Law and Justice Party there are more supporters of liberalization than opponents
  • number of people appealing for a more restrictive law has fallen since January in almost all electorates
  • youth has become one of the most liberal groups regarding their stance on abortion, for a long time they were one of the most conservative groups.
  • acceptance of abortion is lower among people with higher income and with a higher level of formal education, which is not surprising in the light of the fact that they have resources in terms of money, information and contacts to arrange pregnancy termination beside the official system
  • Men are much more conservative than women

Source: Federation for Women and Family Planning

  • Comprehensive strategy document uncovered, plus information on clandestine meetings
  • Links to anti-abortion initiatives in Poland, Spain and at EU level; as well as anti-gay marriage movements in Croatia, Romania and Slovenia
  • Secret strategy also targets contraception, divorce and IVF

Book researched and written by the European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development (EPF)

A book released today in Stockholm reveals that campaigners from the US and Europe have been strategizing ‘achievable goals’ to roll back human rights in Europe since 2013. Documents have recently emerged showing a detailed, extremist strategy called Restoring the Natural Order: an Agenda for Europe, which seeks to overturn existing laws on basic human rights related to sexuality and reproduction.

The book examines that strategy document and the workings of the Vatican-inspired professional advocacy network, going by the name Agenda Europe, aiming for its implementation.

Agenda Europe is producing concrete results, such as the 2016 Polish bill to ban abortion, bans on equal marriage in several Central European countries and over a dozen comparable acts at national level and in European institutions aiming to limit women’s and LGBTI rights.

While the rise of ultra-conservatism in Europe has been apparent for several years, precisely how these actors are organising, fundraising and attempting to exert influence has not been clear. In shedding light on several of these questions, the book provides a fascinating insight into the clandestine workings and deliberate strategy of Europe’s anti-choice movement.

Commenting on the book, EPF President and Swedish MP Ulrika Karlsson said: “While compassion is a professed cornerstone of Christianity, it is entirely absent in the outlook of Europe’s anti-choice. This movement would force women to carry unwanted pregnancies, restrict access to contraception, decide who can marry and decide who can call themselves a family. Many will be surprised that they also target divorce and access to IVF treatment. In doing so, they are attempting to foist their personal religious beliefs on others via public policy and law.”

Being aware and understanding this ultra-conservative movement is essential for those who want to safeguard a modern, inclusive and tolerant Europe. Intended as a resource for politicians, political parties, civil society and journalists, this book aims to aid that understanding.

Access the book here.

Source: EPF

The 51st UN CPD took place in New York on April 9-13, 2018 under them theme of “Sustainable cities, human mobility and international migration". Dr. Ion Jinga, Romanian Ambassador to the UN, was the Chairperson on behalf of the Eastern-European Group

ASTRA Network Advisory Board member from Romania, Daniela Draghici, represented the ASTRA Network at the 51st CPD thanks to the generous support of the International Women's Health Coalition, as part of the International Sexual and Reproductive Rights Coalition. Daniela had a unique opportunity to have a fruitful working collaboration, also thanks to the relationship she had established with the Romanian UN Mission key personnel in charge of CPD, as well as with the government delegate prior to the session. She supported the national delegation, and the ones from Republic of Moldova, Russia, and Serbia throughout the session and provided feedback on the process to the other activists gathered in New York.

This years’ CPD session did not end with a much expected outcome document as on the last day the Chairperson withdrew the draft resolution, reflecting compromise that was the product of careful negotiations and positive efforts of all national delegations. Unfortunately the United States refused to join the consensus, imposing their regressive view of sexual and reproductive health and rights on the global stage. In addition, the Ugandan delegate, on behalf of the African group, objected to the removal of the sovereignty clause, as well as the watering down of the Global Compact on Migration language.

To make up for this drawback, the representative of Tunisia read a powerful statement on behalf of 35 countries, highlighting the paramount importance of access to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights and Comprehensive Sexuality Education underlining that We, as civil society, were deeply disappointed that after a week of intense debate the member states failed to adopt a resolution at the Commission on Population and Development. Despite this outcome, CPD remains a critical space for countries and advocates to affirm and advance their commitments to advance human rights, including sexual and reproductive rights.

The special theme of next year’s 52nd  session of the Commission on Population and Development will be "Review and appraisal of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and its contribution to the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Additional reading:

Written statement of the Federation for Women and Family Planning on behalf of the ASTRA Network for the 51st CPD

International Women’s Health Coalition, The 2018 Commission on Population and Development and Prospects for the Future

Countdown Europe 2030, A roller-coaster of hope and despair for the international SRHR agenda!

  • All 46 countries researched must do more in providing comprehensive information and reimbursement for contraception
  • Schemes offering reimbursement for long acting and reversible contraception are powerful in increasing access to contraception
  • Unintended pregnancy is an avoidable burden for European States

BRUSSELS, 11 April 2017 Access to contraception should be a key concern of governments in empowering citizens to plan their families and lives. Yet every country analysed by the 2018 Contraception Atlas needs to do more to improve access. The findings show that for many European countries, ensuring that people have choice over their reproductive lives is not a priority. Now in its second edition, the Atlas tracks government policies on access to contraceptive methods, family planning counseling and the provision of online information on contraception in 46 European states.

Read more...

Dunja Mijatović, national of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is the new Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. She has been elected last January by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. She is the first woman to hold this post, succeeding Nils Muižnieks (2012-2018), Thomas Hammarberg (2006-2012) and Alvaro Gil-Robles (1999-2006).

"I intend to keep the legacy of the previous Commissioners’ work and maintain the ability of this institution to react rapidly and effectively to protect people’s human rights. My view is that human rights are indeed universal and that no country is beyond scrutiny. In terms of priorities, my vision is simple. In a word, it is: implementation. Norms, resolutions, treaties are there to guide us. Yes, we do need political will to make sure they are realised. But this is not a matter only for governments. We must engage our societies at large in their implementation and involve everyone in a dialogue on human rights. It is paramount that we achieve a recommitment to and a reaffirmation of human rights for all, and bring back trust in their importance for the well-being of each and every person. I look forward to cooperating with governments, national authorities, international organisations, human rights defenders, journalists, NGOs, and human rights structures.”

Source: CoE

Poland’s Parliament should listen to the voices of women across Poland and reject a regressive legislative proposal that would erode reproductive rights, over 200 human and women’s rights groups from across the globe said in a statement today.

The Parliament is debating a draft bill entitled “Stop Abortion.” If adopted, this legislation will severely limit the already restricted grounds on which women can lawfully access abortion in Poland. It will place women’s health and lives at risk and violate Poland’s international human rights obligations, the groups said.

The statement calls on Polish lawmakers to cease relentless attempts to roll back the reproductive rights of women in Poland and underlines the danger that will be posed to women and girls in Poland if the regressive law is adopted.

The text of the statement is as follows:

"We are deeply concerned by relentless attempts to roll back the reproductive rights of women in Poland.

This week Poland’s parliament is debating a new draft bill entitled “Stop Abortion.” If adopted, this legislation will further limit the already restricted grounds on which women can lawfully access abortion in Poland. It will place women’s health and lives at risk and violate Poland’s international human rights obligations. 

We call on Members of Poland’s Parliament to listen to the voices of women across Poland and to reject this regressive legislative proposal and protect women’s health and human rights.

Poland already has one of Europe’s most restrictive abortion laws. Abortion is only lawful to safeguard the life or health of women, in situations of severe fetal anomaly or where the pregnancy results from rape or another criminal act such as incest. Even in those situations in which abortion is legal, multiple barriers combine to limit women’s access in practice. The latest “Stop Abortion” proposal seeks to ban abortion in situations where there is a severe fetal anomaly.

If the “Stop Abortion” bill is passed it will mean that abortion care will no longer be available to women in Poland when they receive a diagnosis of a severe or fatal fetal anomaly. Official statistics from 2016 show that in practice 96% of legal abortions in Poland are performed on these grounds. Most women in Poland who decide to end a pregnancy resulting from rape or because their health is at risk are unable to access legal abortion care in Poland and must travel outside the country to do so. This bill would further hinder women, particularly those from low-income and rural communities, from accessing safe abortion care.

Since 2011, Poland’s government has launched repeated attacks on women’s reproductive rights. In 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2016 draft legislative proposals were introduced that contained total or near total bans on abortion. Following massive public protests, such as the Black Protests in 2016, these draft bills were defeated.

Prohibiting women from accessing safe, legal abortion violates a number of human rights enshrined in international law, including the rights to life, health and health care, nondiscrimination and equality, privacy, and freedom from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The European Court of Human Rights has previously ruled that the Polish government, in hindering timely access to abortion, has violated women’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. Numerous international human rights bodies, including the UN Human Rights Committee, the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, the Committee on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the Committee Against Torture, have called on governments to remove barriers to abortion services and ensure access to safe and legal abortion."

 The full statement and list of signatories.

Members of the ASTRA Network Advisory Board, Daniela Draghici, Romania and Medea Khmelidze, Georgia, participated in the 2nd inroads Global Member Gathering in Zagreb, Croatia on March 12-16 that brought together more than 100 activists from around the world.

Inroads, the International Network for the Reduction of Abortion Discrimination and Stigma, is a global network of advocates, scholars, health providers, and donors from around the world, hosted the Inroads Global gathering that created a platform where participants could connect with new and familiar colleagues and be actively involved in many varied and highly interactive activities, providing valuable spaces to learn more about fellow network members.

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The criminalization of sexuality and reproduction around the world is a major barrier to human rights, and denies millions of us our human dignity.

This is why Amnesty International has launched Body Politics: Criminalization of Sexuality and Reproduction, a new series of tools to empower activists worldwide to challenge criminalization and stand up for their rights.

What is criminalization of sexuality and reproduction?

The criminalization of sexuality and reproduction is when consensual sexual and reproductive actions and decisions, or the expression of sexual and gender identities, is restricted or punished.

Sometimes this happens through direct regulation, such as criminal bans on abortion. At other times, a range of laws and policies relating to public order or “morality” are used to indirectly police and punish sexual and reproductive choices or gender expression.

These laws can easily be abused. For example, criminalizing “adultery” violates human rights and can also put women who have been raped at risk of prosecution for sexual activity outside marriage.

Read more...

Spotlight on rural women and girls during the Commission on the Status of Women will focus on critical issues such as ensuring adequate living standards, food and nutrition security, access to land, technology, education, health, and ending all forms of violence and harmful practices.

It is also needed to mention that no global progress can be reached without gender equality and women’s empowerment in rural areas. These are however impossible without universal access to sexual and reproductive health and recognition, fulfillment and protection of sexual and reproductive rights - especially safe abortion- with particular focus on rural women and young people.

The forum will be an opportunity to provide concrete suggestions on how to empower rural women and girls, making the promise of “leaving no one behind” of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development a reality.

See the press release for CSW62 here and official website here

Follow the online debate via #CSW62, #feministvisions and #timeisnow 

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