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

On 27 July, the newly elected President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) – Maria Chatardová, Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic to the UN – set support for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda as a priority for 2018. “I wish to announce that the key priority of my Presidency will be to develop initiatives towards fostering sustainable, resilient and inclusive societies through participation of all” Chatardová said. Moreover, she informed that ECOSOC’s 2018 theme “From global to local: supporting sustainable and resilient societies in urban and rural communities” will be aligned with the 2018 focus of the High-Level Political Forum: “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies”. She also praised a high interest of the Members States to participate in the National Voluntary Reviews and pointed out that the Council must do more to ensure the participation of civil society and assure clear commitments from private sector in order to reach the SDGs.

The Council also elected three Vice-Presidents: Mahmadamin Mahmadaminov (Tajikistan) from the Asia-Pacific States, Inga Rhonda King (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) from the Latin American and Caribbean States, and Marc Pecsteen De Buytswerve (Belgium) from the Western European and other States.

Finally, the Council adopted its provisional agenda and working arrangements.  The next ECOSOC Special Meeting at the United Nations Headquarters will take place in May 2018 and will explore further collective action on inclusion and participation for sustainable development.

Source: EuroNGOs

Mobilisations throughout Europe around September 28, 2017

In solidarity with all European women, after the exemplary struggle of Spanish women in 2014 and Polish women in 2016, we demand that women’s rights, the right to control their own bodies, the right to abortion and to health are respected in all European countries and recognized as fundamental rights for equality in Europe.

Today, the right to abortion within Europe is within the sphere of competence of each national government. Illegal in Malta, extremely limited in Ireland, in Hungary and Poland. the right to abortion, even when it is legal, can be put into question by the conscience clause for doctors (Italy), the absence of the necessary hospital facilities (Greece, Bavaria), the cuts in staff and the closing of centres practicing abortion during hospital reorganizations (France), and, in all countries, the election of reaction, conservative and backward governments.

We reaffirm that :

  • The access to abortion is a right;
  • Abortion is a personal choice – my body is mine, I choose my life
  • Financial resources must be allocated so that the centres carrying out abortion and family planning centres are accessible everywhere;
  • Information campaigns addressed to all audiences are necessary;
  • Sex education should be given to all so that both women and men can make clear and informed choices;
  • Training in abortion procedures and accompaniment should be an integral part of the basic training of health professionals;
  • The conscience clause for health professionals should be eliminated;
  • The legal time limits for abortion should be brought into line with the mot progressive in Europe and states must decriminalize abortion completely.

We call for the organization of a European mobilization around the 28th of September 2017, international day for the right to safe and legal abortion in which each country will put forward its demands in the perspective of a European harmonization of respect for women’s rights.

SIGN THE PETITON HERE

The UN has come forward with a first ever UN Joint inter-agency statement calling for an end to discrimination in health care.  It calls for, amongst other things, repealing discriminatory laws and practices, including laws that criminalize sex work, drug use and SRH services and information. This statement is part of UNAIDS’ agenda on zero discrimination in health care (link to agenda).

The 2017 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (2017 HLPF) officially began on 10 July at the UN Headquarters in New York. It is the main UN platform for follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda. In the opening speech, Mr. Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, stressed that “Gender inequality continues to persist worldwide, depriving women and girls of their basic rights and opportunities” and pointed out that “To ensure that sustainable development is realized by all people and for all people everywhere, a revitalized and enhanced global partnership that brings together all stakeholders and mobilizes all available resources is needed”. 

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The EU’s accession to the Istanbul Convention will provide a coherent European legal framework to prevent and combat violence against women and gender-based violence.

Women’s rights and Civil liberties MEPs welcome the signing of the EU accession of the Istanbul Convention on 13 June 2017  and make following recommendations: 

  • urge Member States to speed up negotiations on the ratification and implementation of the Istanbul Convention;
  • EP should be fully engaged in the monitoring process of the Istanbul Convention following the EU’s accession;
  • Member States should allocate adequate financial and human resources to prevent and combat violence against women and gender-based violence;
  • victims should be compensated, in particular those living in areas where the protection services to the victims do not exist or they are very limited;
  • appropriate training, procedures and guidelines for all professionals dealing with the victims of all acts of violence should be available;
  • promote a change in attitudes and behaviours;
  • combat sexism and stereotyped gender roles - promoting gender-neutral language and address the key role of media and advertising; 

The denial of sexual and reproductive health and rights services, including safe and legal abortion, is a form of violence against women and girls, says the text. MEPs reiterate that women and girls must have control over their bodies. 

The Istanbul Convention ensures that culture, custom, religion, tradition or so-called “honour” cannot be a justification of any acts of violence against women. Committee MEPs call on Member States to adopt measures to address new forms of crime, including sex-extortion, grooming, voyeurism and revenge pornography, and protect victims, who experience serious trauma leading sometimes even to suicide. 

Finally, MEPs stress that the EU’s accession will bring better monitoring, interpretation and implementation of EU laws, programmes, funds and better data collection.

Source: European Parliament

YouAct, in partnership with ASTRA Youth, PETRI-Sofia, Y-PEER, and YSAFE launched a project in 2016 aiming to develop a strategy on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), by youth, for youth. Their initiative was supported by Council of Europe’s European Youth Foundation (EYF), UNFPA Eastern Europe and Central Asia Regional Office (UNFPA EECARO) and the International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network (IPPF EN).

The project’s overall aim was to develop a Joint Youth Strategy based on the input, experience, needs and ideas of young people in Council of Europe and Central Asia countries, which will serve as an advocacy and awareness raising tool on SRHR of young people on the national, regional, and international level.

As a product of this, the group is happy to officially launch the “Youth in Power” Strategy which you can find HERE.

Young people expressed their perspectives on the current gaps, challenges, and recommendations regarding the realization of SRHR for young people in the region through an online questionnaire filled out by over 1000 young people from all over Europe and Central Asia. Young representatives from over 15 countries gathered in Kiev, Ukraine in December 2016 to analyze the collected results and to develop a strategy based on the results obtained.

Are you interested in learning more about the strategy and exploring ways you can engage? Attend the webinar on July 24th were we will present the results of the project and discuss how it could be used as an advocacy tool! If you would like to receive more information feel free to contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Stay updated on our future work by following the group on Facebook

Women’s rights are facing an alarming backlash in many parts of the world, and it is critically important to press on with further setting of standards on gender equality, a group of UN independent experts* has warned.

“The world is at a crossroads, with the very concept of gender equality being increasingly contested in some quarters,” said the experts.

“We feel it is time to reiterate the backlash against the progress which has been made in promoting and protecting women’s human rights. The polarization in the battle for rights is being demonstrated increasingly, and regressive positions have become a serious threat to the human rights legal framework.

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The United Nations Human Rights Council held its thirty-fifth regular session from 6 to 23 June 2017 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. During the three-week session, the Council heard the presentation of more than 80 thematic and country reports by more than 30 human rights experts and investigative bodies on a wide range of issues. It also held two panel discussions, its annual full-day discussion on the human rights of women, and its annual half-day thematic discussion on technical cooperation. UN Member States debated and passed resolutions on cross-cutting human rights issues and human rights situations in particular countries.

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On June 23rd the Polish President Andrzej Duda approved legislation that will end prescription-free access to emergency contraception. The new law comes into effect next month and will requite women wishing to obtain a prescription for the morning after pill to visit a doctor, either at a public or private facility.

On May 25th the Polish Government voted in favour of limiting access to emergency contraception as a result of the proposal put forward by the ruling Law and Justice party in February this year. According to the Health Minister, Mr. Konstanty Radziwill, hormonal means of emergency contraception were being abused, especially by teenage girls, and had harmful health effects. By being forced to see a doctor, he said women will now “get advice on whether these substances negatively affect their health”. Despite numerous scientific facts and opinions from the medial professionals he has also suggested the pill induces an early abortion.

The Dutch MEP, Sophie in ’t Veld, said to the Guardian that the legislation was a violation of shared European values. “The current populist national-conservative Polish government is enforcing a sexual counter-revolution, against the health interests and wishes of Polish women and girls,” she said. “Restricting access to the morning-after pill, combined with the right of doctors to refuse treatment based on religious grounds, will have far reaching consequences”.

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. 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.

Additional links: New Europe, MIC, The Guardian, Federation for Women and Family Planning

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

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