The General Assembly of EWLA held in Brussels, Belgium, on 18 March 2005 adopted unanimously the following Resolution on the Constitutional Treaty of the European Union
The General Assembly of the European Women Lawyers Association (EWLA), held on 17 and 18 March 2005 in Strasbourg, France, has adopted the following
Resolution on Sexual and Reproductive Rights
The European Women Lawyers Association
- Reaffirms every woman’s absolute right to have complete control over decisions in her sexual and reproductive life, irrespective of medical advances in reproductive health;
- Takes note that the protection of sexual and reproductive health is a human right, and that states have a duty under international human rights law to guarantee it;
- Welcomes the resolution of the European Parliament on sexual and reproductive health and rights, adopted in 2002 (P5_TA (2002)0359)1;
- Welcomes the European strategy for the promotion of sexual and reproductive health and rights, adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in 2004 (Resolution 1399 (2004)) ;
- Supports the considerations as stated in the above-mentioned resolutions;
- Calls upon all European institutions and all European states to carry out the recommendations by the European Parliament and the Council of Europe, as made in the resolutions of 2002 and 2004 on sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Strasbourg, March 2005
European Parliament resolution on sexual and reproductive health and rights (2001/2128 (INI)) P5_TA(2002)0359
The European Parliament,
– having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948,
– having regard to the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted in 1966,
– having regard to Article 12 of the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, adopted in 1966,
– having regard to Articles 5 and 152 of the EC Treaty,
– having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,
– having regard to the European Convention on Human Rights,
– having regard to Articles 12(1) and 16(1) of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and to General Recommendations 21 and 24 of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women,
– having regard to Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted in 1989,
– having regard to the Declaration and Action Programme of the United Nations Conference on Population and Development (Cairo, 13 September 1994), and to the Key Actions Document of the ICPD +5 Conference (1999),
– having regard to the Declaration and Action Programme of the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 15 September 1995), and to the Outcome Document of the FWCW +5 Conference (New York, 10 June 2000),
– having regard to its resolutions of 29 September 1994 on the outcome of the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (OJ C 305, 31.10.1994, p. 80) , and 4 July 1996 (OJ C 211, 22.7.1996, p. 31) on the follow-up to that Conference,
– having regard to its resolutions of 15 June 1995 (OJ C 166, 3.7.1995, p. 92) and 21 September 1995 (OJ C 269, 16.10.1995, p. 146) on the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing: "Equality, Development and Peace", and 18 May 2000 on the follow-up to the Beijing Action Platform (OJ C 59, 23.2.2001, p. 258),
– having regard to its resolution of 9 March 1999 (OJ C 175, 21.6.1999, p. 68) on the state of women's health in the European Community,
– having regard to the White Paper of the European Commission "A new impetus for European youth" of 21 November 2001 (COM(2001)681),
– having regard to the document of the World Health Organization "Definitions and Indicators in Family Planning, Maternal & Child Health and Reproductive Health Used in the WHO Regional Office for Europe", March 1999,
– having regard to the STOA final report "Fertility awareness and contraception" (Workplan 1995),
– having regard to Rule 163 of its Rules of Procedure,
– having regard to the report of the Committee on Women's Rights and Equal Opportunities (A5-0223/2002),
A. whereas women and men should have the freedom to make their own informed and responsible choice in regard to their sexual and reproductive health and rights, while not losing sight of the importance of the health of others, and have all the means and possibilities to do so,
B. whereas the EU competence in this field consists in providing guidelines and useful initiatives to encourage cooperation,
C. whereas government policies that disregard men's and women's informed consent on contraceptive use in order to meet demographic goals may give rise to coercive practices,
D. considering disparities in sexual and reproductive health and rights within the EU and within the Member States, in particular the huge inequalities experienced by European women in terms of access to reproductive health services, contraception and abortion, according to their income and/or their country of residence,
E. whereas studies show that there are fewer abortions in some Member States which combine liberal legislation on the termination of pregnancy with effective sexuality education, high quality family planning services and availability of a wide range of contraceptives; whereas, however, some Member States with similar policies still have high rates of both abortion and teenage pregnancies,
F. whereas attention should be devoted not only to terminating unwanted pregnancies but also, and particularly, to preventing unwanted pregnancies,
G. whereas not only women but men too bear responsibility for preventing unwanted pregnancies,
H. whereas in preventing unwanted pregnancies good information is extremely important regarding sexuality, responsibility towards others in relationships, health, the various ways of preventing pregnancy, etc, and parents and educational establishments can play an important part in this,
I. whereas ease of access to all forms of contraception would reduce unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases,
J. whereas unsafe abortions seriously endanger women's physical and mental health,
K. whereas higher abortion rates and lower contraceptive use in the candidate countries in comparison with the Member States, and the lack of information for women in terms of systematic and adequate sexuality education in the candidate countries,
L. whereas health systems in many applicant countries possess inadequate medical and hygiene facilities and are insufficiently geared to the needs of the population,
M. considering the increased rate of adolescent pregnancies and the lack of high quality sexuality education and specific sexual and reproductive health counselling and services for adolescents in some Member States,
N. considering the alarming spread of sexually transmitted diseases, the risks of unsafe sexual contact and the persistence of stereotypes which erroneously associate the risk of HIV/AIDS infection with certain means of transmission despite the information provided on preventive measures and means of transmission in the EU, and the importance of promoting a high level of sexual health as a means of preventing sexually transmitted diseases,
O. whereas sexual violence has a devastating impact on the sexuality and the reproductive health of women and teenage girls, and whereas female genital mutilation has a damaging effect on sexual relations, pregnancies and childbirth,
P. considering the incompleteness of readily available statistics on sexual and reproductive health indicators on a European level at present,
Q. whereas too many women, including growing numbers of young girls, are still becoming pregnant unintentionally,
R. whereas the subject of sexual and reproductive health and rights cannot be approached solely from the point of view of access to contraceptives and abortion,
S. whereas contraceptives are mainly used by women,
T. considering the difficulties in comparing sexual and reproductive health policies, both within the EU and between the EU and the candidate countries,
As regards contraception
1. Notes that the legal or regulatory policy concerning reproductive health falls within the Member States' sphere of competence and that subsidiarity applies to these areas; notes however that the EU can play a supportive role through the exchange of best practices;
2. Recommends the governments of the Member States and the candidate countries to develop a high quality national policy on sexual and reproductive health, in cooperation with plural civil society organizations, providing comprehensive information concerning effective and responsible methods of family planning, and ensuring equal access to all forms of high quality contraceptive methods as well as fertility awareness methods;
3. Recommends the governments of the Member States and the candidate countries to ensure that women and men can give their fully informed consent on contraceptive use, as well as on fertility awareness methods;
4. Urges the governments of the Member States and the candidate countries to strive to provide contraceptives and sexual and reproductive health services free of charge, or at low cost, for underserved groups, such as young people, ethnic minorities and the socially excluded;
5. Urges the Member States to ensure that people living in poverty have better access to reproductive and sexual health services and, in particular, to offer them the choice of contraception and the prevention/diagnosis of sexually transmitted diseases;
6. Recommends the governments of the Member States and the candidate countries to facilitate access to affordable emergency contraception (e.g. the morning-after pill);
7. Urges the governments of the Member States and the candidate countries to promote scientific research in the field of male contraception, so as to ensure equality between men and women as regards the effects of using contraceptive methods;
As regards unwanted pregnancies and abortion
8. Underlines that abortion should not be promoted as a family planning method;
9. Recommends the governments of the Member States and the candidate countries to strive to implement a health and social policy which will lead to a lower incidence of abortion, in particular through the provision of family planning counselling and services and the offering of material and financial support for pregnant women in difficulties, and to regard unsafe abortion as an issue of major public health concern;
10. Recommends the governments of the Member States and the candidate countries to ensure the provision of unbiased, scientific and readily understandable information and counselling on sexual and reproductive health, including the prevention of unwanted pregnancies and the risks involved in unsafe abortions carried out under unsuitable conditions;
11. Calls upon the governments of the Member States and the candidate countries to provide specialised sexual and reproductive health services which include high quality and professional advice and counselling adapted to the needs of specific groups (e.g. immigrants), provided by a trained, multidisciplinary staff; underlines that advice and counselling must be confidential and non-judgmental and that in the event of legitimate conscientious objection of the provider, referral to other service providers must take place; where advice on abortion is provided, attention must be drawn to the physical and psychological health risks associated with abortion, and alternative solutions (adoption, availability of support in the event of a decision to keep the child) must be discussed;
12. Recommends that, in order to safeguard women's reproductive health and rights, abortion should be made legal, safe and accessible to all;
13. Calls upon the governments of the Member States and the candidate countries to refrain in any case from prosecuting women who have undergone illegal abortions;
As regards adolescent sexual and reproductive health / sexuality education
14. Underlines that the sexual and reproductive health of adolescents and their needs with regard to sexuality and reproduction differ from those of adults;
15. Points out that active participation of young people (their rights, views and competence) is important in the development, implementation and evaluation of sexuality education programmes in cooperation with other parties, particularly parents; enhancing parenting skills and capacities also has an important part to play in this;
16. Stresses that sexuality education should be provided in a gender-sensitive way, i.e. that account must be taken of the particular sensitivities of boys and girls, starting early in life, continuing to adulthood, with a focused approach at different stages of development, and taking into account different lifestyles, whereby due attention should be paid to sexually transmitted diseases (notably HIV/AIDS);
17. Stresses that sexuality education must be considered in a holistic and positive way that pays attention to psycho-social as well as bio-medical aspects and is based on mutual respect and responsibility;
18. Calls upon the governments of the Member States and the candidate countries to make use of various methods in reaching young people, including formal and informal education, publicity campaigns, social marketing for condom use and projects such as confidential telephone help-lines, and to consider the needs of special groups, and encourage the use of peer educators in sexuality education;
19. Calls upon the governments of the Member States and the candidate countries to improve and extend young people's access to health services (family planning youth centres, in schools, etc.) and to tailor those services to their preferences and requirements;
20. Calls upon the governments of the Member States and the candidate countries to provide support for pregnant adolescents (whether they wish to terminate their pregnancy or to carry it to full term), and to ensure their further education;
21. Calls on the Member States' governments to maintain and increase the level of information made available to the general public (especially to the most peripheral sections of society which have greatest difficulty in securing access to information) on HIV/AIDS infection, the ways in which the disease is transmitted and the sexual practices which facilitate transmission;
As regards EU sexual and reproductive health policy in general
22. Welcomes the research currently supported by the Commission on relevant sexual and reproductive health indicators and harmonized definitions and urges the Commission to ensure the continuity of these initiatives under the new Community Health Action Programme;
23. Calls upon the governments of the Member States and the candidate countries to provide relevant data and information on policies to the Commission in order to compile a Europe- wide database on sexual and reproductive health statistics and to compose a vademecum on best practices and positive experiences in the field of sexual and reproductive health;
24. Calls upon the governments of the Member States and the candidate countries to provide access to sexual and reproductive health services without any discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status;
25. Recommends that a process of mutual learning should be started, based on comparisons of sexual and reproductive health data and on sharing positive experiences and best practices in Member States' and candidate countries' sexual and reproductive health programmes and policies;
26. Calls upon the Commission to take up the opinions of young people on sexual and reproductive health and rights as an important theme in the follow-up to the White Paper on a new impetus for European youth;
27. Urges the Council and the Commission in their pre-accession strategy to provide more technical and financial support to the candidate countries in order to develop and implement health promotion programmes and quality standards in sexual and reproductive health services, and to ensure that existing EU aid to Eastern Europe and Central Asia includes these types of programmes;
28. Calls upon the Commission to take into account the devastating impact of the Mexico City Policy of the Bush Administration, which denies funding to non-governmental organisations which occasionally refer women to abortion clinics as a last resort, especially with regard to programmes for Central and Eastern Europe; calls upon the Commission to fill in the budgetary gap provoked by the Mexico City Policy ;
29. Regrets in this respect the outcome of the UN Special Session On Children of May 2002 which, as a result of a coalition of the Holy See, the United States and several other UN member states, could not agree on a positive reference to expanding the access to reproductive health services, including information and education on reproductive and sexual health, and calls upon the Council and the Commission to coordinate the efforts of the Member States so as to guarantee at future events a better representation of the EU positions on the UN level;
30. Calls upon the Commission to ensure that permanent monitoring and evaluation of the ICPD and FWCW programmes of action are taking place, and to send regularly summary reports to the European Parliament;
31. Welcomes the target set in the Outcome Document of FWCW +5 of achieving universal access to high quality primary health care by 2015, including sexual and reproductive health care; asks the Council, in the framework of the follow-up procedure, within the limits of its competence, to develop indicators and benchmarks on the critical areas of concern, and to send regularly summary reports to the European Parliament;
32. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and Commission, and to the Governments of the Member States and the candidate countries.
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
Resolution 1399 (2004)1
European strategy for the promotion of sexual and reproductive health and rights
1. The right to protection of health is part of the Council of Europe acquis (Articles 11 and 13 of the Revised European Social Charter). Every individual has the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health, which is defined by the World Health Organization as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being.
2. The right to sexual and reproductive health implies that people are able to enjoy a mutually satisfying and safe relationship, free from coercion or violence and without fear of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV/Aids, or unwanted pregnancies. Individuals and couples should be able to regulate their fertility without adverse or dangerous consequences.
3. The International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) (Cairo, 1994) and the 4th World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995) have put sexual and reproductive rights firmly on the human rights agenda. The objectives of the ICPD Programme of Action have shifted the focus to the needs and rights of the individual.
4. A large number of objectives were adopted in Cairo in 1994 as part of the ICPD Programme of Action. A total of 179 countries pledged to reduce maternal mortality and combat HIV/Aids and to improve people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. The ICPD objectives were further reaffirmed in the Millennium Development Goals, which were adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2000.
5. In 2002 parliamentarians from over seventy countries around the world adopted the Ottawa Statement of Commitment, endorsed by the Parliamentary Assembly in September 2003 and in which they pledged to “give high priority to achieving universal access to reproductive health services and commodities in national health and poverty-reduction frameworks, both in terms of budget allocations and in terms of programme activities”.
6. This year, 2004, marks the tenth anniversary of the ICDP Programme of Action. To mark this important benchmark, a review has been initiated by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to assess progress and shortfalls. The Assembly itself has adopted Resolution 1394 (2004) on the involvement of men, especially young men, in reproductive health. This text calls on Council of Europe member and Observer states to involve men and boys in all aspects of sexual and reproductive health, through special awareness-raising and education programmes, and improved access to reproductive health services.
7. Many Council of Europe member states have very high standards of sexual and reproductive health, taking into account indicators such as contraceptive use, HIV/Aids prevalence, abortion rates, maternal and child morbidity and mortality rates. Their experiences can serve as useful examples to other member states in finding solutions to improve the sexual and reproductive health situation in their own countries.
8. However, there is an enormous disparity of standards between member states and even within member states. In many Council of Europe member states there are issues for concern: increase in teenage pregnancies, high rates of STIs including HIV/Aids, rising infertility rates, poor access, availability and affordability of sexual and reproductive health commodities and services and a lack of use thereof, as well as poor relationship and sex education.
9. In many eastern-European countries contraceptive use remains low, leading to unwanted pregnancies; abortion rates in some areas are among the highest in the world as a result of a lack of appropriate sexual and reproductive health information and services. In some member states women are still forced to resort to illegal, backstreet and therefore unsafe abortions.
10. Maternal and child morbidity and mortality and cancers of the reproductive system are issues of great concern in many countries, as is sexual violence and exploitation, including trafficking in human beings.
11. The Assembly calls upon member states to:
i. work together to design a European strategy for the promotion of sexual and reproductive health and rights, and prepare, adopt and implement comprehensive national strategies for sexual and reproductive health which address the following issues:
a. sexual and reproductive health information and education, especially for children and adolescents;
b. increase in teenage pregnancy rates;
c. rise in the rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV/Aids;
e. high abortion rates, including unsafe abortions in the member states where abortion is illegal;
f. lack of affordable, accessible and available sexual and reproductive health commodities and services;
g. cancers of the reproductive system, including breast cancer;
h. sexual violence and exploitation, including trafficking in human beings;
i. maternal and child morbidity and mortality;
ii. take all appropriate measures to ensure equality between men and women in all aspects of life, including in relation to access for all to comprehensive sexual and reproductive healthcare services;
iii. increase STI screening, treatment and voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) for HIV and subsequent treatment for those found to be HIV positive;
iv. facilitate access to a wide range of affordable contraceptives and services;
v. provide age- and gender-appropriate, comprehensive sexual and reproductive information and education;
vi. respond to the specific needs of young people, with specific reference to safeguarding confidentiality and to appropriate youth-oriented services;
vii. respond to the specific needs of vulnerable population groups, including migrants, minorities and the rural population;
viii. take into account the changing sexual and reproductive health needs over a person’s life cycle;
ix. encourage the whole of society, particularly the public sector, and international organisations to adopt, in response to the HIV/Aids issue, humane, constructive and non-discriminatory policies and practices, which protect the rights of individuals who have been infected.
12. In order to attain the above goals, the Assembly encourages member states to:
i. work with and support national and regional non-governmental organisations and the private sector in the formulation and implementation of national strategies for sexual and reproductive health;
ii. engage in dialogue with young people and vulnerable population groups in the formulation of appropriate strategies and programmes, which respond to these groups’ sexual and reproductive health needs;
iii. encourage the creation, in national parliaments, of mechanisms and structures which tackle the sexual and reproductive health situation, in the national context, such as all-party parliamentary groups;
iv. provide appropriate funding in national health budgets to achieve these objectives.
1. Assembly debate on 5 October 2004 (27th Sitting) (see Doc. 10266, report of the Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee, rapporteur: Ms McCafferty; and Doc. 10310, opinion of the Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, rapporteur: Ms Zapfl-Helbling).Text adopted by the Assembly on 5 October 2004 (27th Sitting).