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Latest news from IPPF EN

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IPPF EN cares - 2020 impact

IPPF EN cares for people in all their diversity across Europe and recognises their right to lead safe and dignified reproductive lives, free from harm and discrimination. 
Spain flag
news item

| 19 May 2022

Spain debates plans for paid menstrual leave and wider abortion access

Currently, abortion care is available during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy based on a woman's indication.  Up to 22 weeks, abortion is permitted in cases of serious risk to the life or health of the woman or foetus. Thereafter, abortion care is only accessible in cases of foetal abnormalities incompatible with life or extremely serious and incurable illness. Nonetheless, access to dignified and safe care remains an obstacle course especially for those already marginalized by systemic discrimination. But there is hope. This week, the government discussed a progressive law which gives autonomy to girls aged 16 to 18 to access abortion care without parental consent; regulates denial of care based on personal beliefs; and scraps medically unnecessary 3-day waiting periods delaying access to abortion. If approved, the law would also extend financing for contraceptive care. The draft law also guarantees up to 3 days of menstrual leave for painful periods; eliminates VAT on menstrual products; and asks that schools and prisons offer free menstrual products.  

Spain flag
news_item

| 19 May 2022

Spain debates plans for paid menstrual leave and wider abortion access

Currently, abortion care is available during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy based on a woman's indication.  Up to 22 weeks, abortion is permitted in cases of serious risk to the life or health of the woman or foetus. Thereafter, abortion care is only accessible in cases of foetal abnormalities incompatible with life or extremely serious and incurable illness. Nonetheless, access to dignified and safe care remains an obstacle course especially for those already marginalized by systemic discrimination. But there is hope. This week, the government discussed a progressive law which gives autonomy to girls aged 16 to 18 to access abortion care without parental consent; regulates denial of care based on personal beliefs; and scraps medically unnecessary 3-day waiting periods delaying access to abortion. If approved, the law would also extend financing for contraceptive care. The draft law also guarantees up to 3 days of menstrual leave for painful periods; eliminates VAT on menstrual products; and asks that schools and prisons offer free menstrual products.  

choice
news item

| 12 May 2022

Turkmenistan ramps up policing of women’s bodies

Turkmen people were hoping that their newly appointed president, Serdar Berdymukhamedov, would pursue a more progressive path than his father, but they were sorely mistaken. Since April 2022, the government has taken policing over women’s bodies to a whole new level: imposing a virtual ban on abortion care, enforcing a ban on a range of beauty services, forbidding women from sitting in the front seat of private cars and prohibiting male taxi drivers from offering rides to women. Abortion care access has been restricted from 12 to just five weeks. Overnight, the government made public a law that had originally been passed in 2015, without any public consultation, meaning that it was practically passed and published in secret. This law effectively bans abortion care, as most people don't even know they are pregnant at 5 weeks. The result is agonising for women, forcing some to continue through pregnancies against their will, while others will have no choice but to go through the system and seek permission for care from a medical committee which delays critical healthcare and puts them at greater risk – with no guarantee that care will be provided. The committee can decide to approve care beyond the 5 weeks on social gounds, very linked to the family situation (eg allowed in case the husband dies, in case of divorce, but also in cases of rape). Women who are not able to access abortion in these circumstances might be forced to find a doctor who can provide the procedure illegally, often at huge costs. The terrifying truth is that women and girls living in countries with restrictive abortion laws are more likely to die because pregnancy is a major medical event where having choice over the care you receive is vital. This act of reproductive coercion is in line with the long held anti-rights agenda of the government, but this latest raft of restrictions are particularly brutal.  They stem from the government’s idea of nation-building, which hinges on harmful gender stereotypes that value women only as mothers and symbols of purity, beauty, and modesty. But make no mistake, at the core this is about control. Women are only valued for their capacity to give birth, raise healthy patriots and thus preserve traditional family values. The reproductive bullying of women is supported by state media propaganda encouraging women to have eight children and by the lack of relationship and sexuality education. Furthermore, 50% of women are denied access to contraception, and a recent study found that nearly 60% of women feel unable to make autonomous decisions on issues like healthcare, contraception, and giving consent to sex.   Turkmenistan failing women and girls on multiple fronts with the world watching Turkmenistan has an abysmal human rights track record with women being treated as second class citizens. With bodily autonomy being steadily stripped away, women and girls are subject to sexual and gender-based violence, virginity tests, forced marriages and prohibited from purchasing cigarettes and obtaining a driver’s licenses.  According to UNICEF and TürkmenStat (MICS), 59% of women in Turkmenistan aged 15-49 say that a husband has the right to hit his wife. There is no law against domestic violence in Turkmenistan, nor are there mechanisms and national programmes to prevent domestic violence. All this shows that women cannot expect support from anywhere and it is safer for them to be silent and tolerate the violence. Governmental agencies do not provide any statistics related to women’s health and gender equality. As noted on the UN Women’s website: “As of December 2020, only 20.6% of indicators needed to monitor the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from a gender perspective were available, with gaps in key areas in Turkmenistan.”  Freedom House has consistently ranked the country at or near the bottom of its Freedom in the World rankings since its independence. And in its 2020 Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders ranked Turkmenistan as 179th out of 180 countries surveyed, only ahead of North Korea. Lastly, civic space in Turkmenistan is rated ‘closed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor. The country lacks anything resembling real civil society and the conditions for it to emerge.   Take action We cannot turn our backs on the people of Turkmenistan.The European Union, its Member States as well as other international bodies must not sit idly by in the face of such egregious attacks on women’s rights. The European Union in particular must uphold its values and use all tools and policies it has at its disposal, including the EU Gender Action Plan, to support Turkmen women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. We must take urgent action, raise our voices, and put pressure on the Turkmen state, so that Turkmen women are not forced to suffer in silence.   Credit illustration: Martina Koleva  

choice
news_item

| 12 May 2022

Turkmenistan ramps up policing of women’s bodies

Turkmen people were hoping that their newly appointed president, Serdar Berdymukhamedov, would pursue a more progressive path than his father, but they were sorely mistaken. Since April 2022, the government has taken policing over women’s bodies to a whole new level: imposing a virtual ban on abortion care, enforcing a ban on a range of beauty services, forbidding women from sitting in the front seat of private cars and prohibiting male taxi drivers from offering rides to women. Abortion care access has been restricted from 12 to just five weeks. Overnight, the government made public a law that had originally been passed in 2015, without any public consultation, meaning that it was practically passed and published in secret. This law effectively bans abortion care, as most people don't even know they are pregnant at 5 weeks. The result is agonising for women, forcing some to continue through pregnancies against their will, while others will have no choice but to go through the system and seek permission for care from a medical committee which delays critical healthcare and puts them at greater risk – with no guarantee that care will be provided. The committee can decide to approve care beyond the 5 weeks on social gounds, very linked to the family situation (eg allowed in case the husband dies, in case of divorce, but also in cases of rape). Women who are not able to access abortion in these circumstances might be forced to find a doctor who can provide the procedure illegally, often at huge costs. The terrifying truth is that women and girls living in countries with restrictive abortion laws are more likely to die because pregnancy is a major medical event where having choice over the care you receive is vital. This act of reproductive coercion is in line with the long held anti-rights agenda of the government, but this latest raft of restrictions are particularly brutal.  They stem from the government’s idea of nation-building, which hinges on harmful gender stereotypes that value women only as mothers and symbols of purity, beauty, and modesty. But make no mistake, at the core this is about control. Women are only valued for their capacity to give birth, raise healthy patriots and thus preserve traditional family values. The reproductive bullying of women is supported by state media propaganda encouraging women to have eight children and by the lack of relationship and sexuality education. Furthermore, 50% of women are denied access to contraception, and a recent study found that nearly 60% of women feel unable to make autonomous decisions on issues like healthcare, contraception, and giving consent to sex.   Turkmenistan failing women and girls on multiple fronts with the world watching Turkmenistan has an abysmal human rights track record with women being treated as second class citizens. With bodily autonomy being steadily stripped away, women and girls are subject to sexual and gender-based violence, virginity tests, forced marriages and prohibited from purchasing cigarettes and obtaining a driver’s licenses.  According to UNICEF and TürkmenStat (MICS), 59% of women in Turkmenistan aged 15-49 say that a husband has the right to hit his wife. There is no law against domestic violence in Turkmenistan, nor are there mechanisms and national programmes to prevent domestic violence. All this shows that women cannot expect support from anywhere and it is safer for them to be silent and tolerate the violence. Governmental agencies do not provide any statistics related to women’s health and gender equality. As noted on the UN Women’s website: “As of December 2020, only 20.6% of indicators needed to monitor the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from a gender perspective were available, with gaps in key areas in Turkmenistan.”  Freedom House has consistently ranked the country at or near the bottom of its Freedom in the World rankings since its independence. And in its 2020 Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders ranked Turkmenistan as 179th out of 180 countries surveyed, only ahead of North Korea. Lastly, civic space in Turkmenistan is rated ‘closed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor. The country lacks anything resembling real civil society and the conditions for it to emerge.   Take action We cannot turn our backs on the people of Turkmenistan.The European Union, its Member States as well as other international bodies must not sit idly by in the face of such egregious attacks on women’s rights. The European Union in particular must uphold its values and use all tools and policies it has at its disposal, including the EU Gender Action Plan, to support Turkmen women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. We must take urgent action, raise our voices, and put pressure on the Turkmen state, so that Turkmen women are not forced to suffer in silence.   Credit illustration: Martina Koleva  

luka-e-jxQtuzImhbE-unsplash.jpg
news item

| 21 April 2022

Slovenia's ruling party guilty of repression and misuse of public funds, according to feminists

The 8 March Institute, Slovenia’s largest feminist organization, has been the target of harassment and intimidation coordinated by Slovenia’s ruling party, SDS, during the pre-election campaign period. The Institute has been doing a ‘Let’s vote’ campaign, to increase voter turnout for the Slovenian parliamentary elections and to collect signatures for a bill they have prepared for consideration by the newly elected parliament. The bill lays out a series of measures to ensure the respect for the rule of law and protect citizens from increasing inequalities. The Institute is now being falsely accused by the government of conducting a ‘political campaign’, even though they are not promoting any specific candidate or party. They could face a large fine and the possible suspension of their activities – essentially censorship. The Institute alleges smear tactics by SDS. The leader of the organisation, Nika Kovač, has faced threats and misogynistic insults from the Prime Minister himself, Janše Janša. SDS MPs have falsely accused Institute volunteers of sending them death threats, a claim which activists say is a deliberate attempt to discredit their work. The Institute has filed two civil lawsuits against SDS as a result. The Institute has also applied for an investigation of the ruling party for alleged misuse of public funds in its electoral campaign. It accuses the ruling party of using state infrastructure for “its own propaganda” during the pre-election campaign period. The Institute submitted an application to the Court of Auditors, which oversees the delivery of free and fair elections, in March. Slovenia has seen a rapid decline in civic freedoms in the past few years. The ruling party, SDS, has been accused of undermining the work of the Slovenian Press Agency and the largest public broadcaster, RTVSLO (through political appointments at the head of the agency), of slashing funds for civil society organisations and media critical of the current government, and restricting the right to protest using the excuse of the Covid-19 pandemic. Slovenia is rated "Narrowed" on the CIVICUS Monitor which means that while the state generally allows individuals and civil society organisations to exercise their rights to peaceful assembly, freedom of speech and freedom of association, violations of these rights also take place. There have been multiple reports of activists, independent journalists and protesters being harassed and intimidated by the state. The State Prosecutors’ office seems to be instrumentalised to bring cases against those protesting the current government and slapping them with fines higher than 40.000 Euros in some cases. This retaliation against civil society organisations, such as the 8 March Institute, are reminiscent of repressive measures taken in Poland and Hungary against human rights defenders. Far-right actors try to score political points through the public vilification of civil society groups, by spreading political homophobia and attacking women human rights defenders. Any type of intimidation and orchestrated oppression targeting activists, independent media and civil society organisations points to the degradation of the rule of law. The European Union must take action to ensure that civic freedoms and the rule of law are protected and that human rights defenders are politically and financially supported.   Photo by Luka E on Unsplash

luka-e-jxQtuzImhbE-unsplash.jpg
news_item

| 21 April 2022

Slovenia's ruling party guilty of repression and misuse of public funds, according to feminists

The 8 March Institute, Slovenia’s largest feminist organization, has been the target of harassment and intimidation coordinated by Slovenia’s ruling party, SDS, during the pre-election campaign period. The Institute has been doing a ‘Let’s vote’ campaign, to increase voter turnout for the Slovenian parliamentary elections and to collect signatures for a bill they have prepared for consideration by the newly elected parliament. The bill lays out a series of measures to ensure the respect for the rule of law and protect citizens from increasing inequalities. The Institute is now being falsely accused by the government of conducting a ‘political campaign’, even though they are not promoting any specific candidate or party. They could face a large fine and the possible suspension of their activities – essentially censorship. The Institute alleges smear tactics by SDS. The leader of the organisation, Nika Kovač, has faced threats and misogynistic insults from the Prime Minister himself, Janše Janša. SDS MPs have falsely accused Institute volunteers of sending them death threats, a claim which activists say is a deliberate attempt to discredit their work. The Institute has filed two civil lawsuits against SDS as a result. The Institute has also applied for an investigation of the ruling party for alleged misuse of public funds in its electoral campaign. It accuses the ruling party of using state infrastructure for “its own propaganda” during the pre-election campaign period. The Institute submitted an application to the Court of Auditors, which oversees the delivery of free and fair elections, in March. Slovenia has seen a rapid decline in civic freedoms in the past few years. The ruling party, SDS, has been accused of undermining the work of the Slovenian Press Agency and the largest public broadcaster, RTVSLO (through political appointments at the head of the agency), of slashing funds for civil society organisations and media critical of the current government, and restricting the right to protest using the excuse of the Covid-19 pandemic. Slovenia is rated "Narrowed" on the CIVICUS Monitor which means that while the state generally allows individuals and civil society organisations to exercise their rights to peaceful assembly, freedom of speech and freedom of association, violations of these rights also take place. There have been multiple reports of activists, independent journalists and protesters being harassed and intimidated by the state. The State Prosecutors’ office seems to be instrumentalised to bring cases against those protesting the current government and slapping them with fines higher than 40.000 Euros in some cases. This retaliation against civil society organisations, such as the 8 March Institute, are reminiscent of repressive measures taken in Poland and Hungary against human rights defenders. Far-right actors try to score political points through the public vilification of civil society groups, by spreading political homophobia and attacking women human rights defenders. Any type of intimidation and orchestrated oppression targeting activists, independent media and civil society organisations points to the degradation of the rule of law. The European Union must take action to ensure that civic freedoms and the rule of law are protected and that human rights defenders are politically and financially supported.   Photo by Luka E on Unsplash

sibility. alexandre-lallemand-Pcs3mOL14Sk-unsplash.jpg
news item

| 23 March 2022

No to EU funds for the governments of Poland and Hungary

Civil society organisations write to the European Commission and the Council asking them to refrain from approving recovery funds to the governments of Poland and Hungary and instead provide direct support to local authorities, civil society and human rights defenders providing for refugees of the war. Neither Poland, nor Hungary, have made meaningful progress to restore the checks and balances necessary to uphold the rule of law and reinstate an independent judiciary.  The war in Ukraine should not be used as a pretext to weaken the rule of law mechanism and let any Member State get away with serious rule of law violations. If anything, this war shows the very real dangers that come with a country dismantling the rule of law and democratic oversight. This is not the time to set aside concerns about the rule of law and respect of fundamental rights in EU Member States. Unblocking funds whereas the concerns in the countries remain as serious as ever, would be detrimental.  

sibility. alexandre-lallemand-Pcs3mOL14Sk-unsplash.jpg
news_item

| 23 March 2022

No to EU funds for the governments of Poland and Hungary

Civil society organisations write to the European Commission and the Council asking them to refrain from approving recovery funds to the governments of Poland and Hungary and instead provide direct support to local authorities, civil society and human rights defenders providing for refugees of the war. Neither Poland, nor Hungary, have made meaningful progress to restore the checks and balances necessary to uphold the rule of law and reinstate an independent judiciary.  The war in Ukraine should not be used as a pretext to weaken the rule of law mechanism and let any Member State get away with serious rule of law violations. If anything, this war shows the very real dangers that come with a country dismantling the rule of law and democratic oversight. This is not the time to set aside concerns about the rule of law and respect of fundamental rights in EU Member States. Unblocking funds whereas the concerns in the countries remain as serious as ever, would be detrimental.  

ehimetalor-akhere-unuabona-PWa6lW6toG4-unsplash.jpg
news item

| 17 March 2022

Call To Action On Ukraine

In a Call to Action, IPPF EN joined more than 90 human rights organizations to urge the European Union, Member State governments, the United Nations, other donor governments, and the broader international community to urgently implement measures protecting the sexual and reproductive health and rights of people fleeing the war in Ukraine.  The Call to Action urges European decisionmakers to include SRHR services, such as maternal health care, emergency contraception, and medication abortion in their measures to meet the needs of people in Ukraine and refugees in five neighboring countries.  In Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia a range of pre-existing legal and policy restrictions on SRHR and cost barriers are severely impeding access to urgent and essential sexual and reproductive health care for those fleeing Ukraine. In particular, these barriers are undermining access to emergency contraception and other contraceptive methods, abortion care including medical abortion, antenatal care, post-exposure prophylaxis, STI treatment and antenatal care.  

ehimetalor-akhere-unuabona-PWa6lW6toG4-unsplash.jpg
news_item

| 17 March 2022

Call To Action On Ukraine

In a Call to Action, IPPF EN joined more than 90 human rights organizations to urge the European Union, Member State governments, the United Nations, other donor governments, and the broader international community to urgently implement measures protecting the sexual and reproductive health and rights of people fleeing the war in Ukraine.  The Call to Action urges European decisionmakers to include SRHR services, such as maternal health care, emergency contraception, and medication abortion in their measures to meet the needs of people in Ukraine and refugees in five neighboring countries.  In Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia a range of pre-existing legal and policy restrictions on SRHR and cost barriers are severely impeding access to urgent and essential sexual and reproductive health care for those fleeing Ukraine. In particular, these barriers are undermining access to emergency contraception and other contraceptive methods, abortion care including medical abortion, antenatal care, post-exposure prophylaxis, STI treatment and antenatal care.  

Africa EU
news item

| 25 February 2022

EU-AU Summit leaves many questions unanswered and crucial topics unaddressed

Joint Civil Society Reaction The African Union - European Union Summit that took place on 17 and 18 February 2022 aimed to deepen cooperation between the EU and the AU “based on shared interests and values” and resulted in a joint-political declaration. It was an opportunity for European leaders to work towards ending not only the COVID-19 pandemic, but also persisting epidemics like HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, and other diseases, by supporting sustainable mechanisms for building health systems worldwide. While we welcome the fact that health was high on the political agenda of the Summit, and Team Europe made wide-ranging commitments in the area of health, it remains unclear how some of these initiatives will be funded, what type of support will be provided (grants, loans, or blended finance), how these initiatives will connect to each other to create a coherent continental approach, or how sustainable they will be in the long run. The call from the AU and civil society to support the waiving of Intellectual Property rights on COVID tools was also not addressed, despite its urgency. We deeply regret the absence of a commitment to the achievement of universal access to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) in the political declaration, despite the calls made by civil society and youth ahead of the Summit about the importance of prioritising SRHR. SRHR are critical to achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC), as well as gender equality and human development. While we welcome the development of a Team Europe Initiative on SRHR in Sub-Saharan Africa, we call on the EU and the AU to implement ambitious policies and allocate adequate funding to the achievement of SRHR for all. Download our full joint statement below.

Africa EU
news_item

| 24 February 2022

EU-AU Summit leaves many questions unanswered and crucial topics unaddressed

Joint Civil Society Reaction The African Union - European Union Summit that took place on 17 and 18 February 2022 aimed to deepen cooperation between the EU and the AU “based on shared interests and values” and resulted in a joint-political declaration. It was an opportunity for European leaders to work towards ending not only the COVID-19 pandemic, but also persisting epidemics like HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, and other diseases, by supporting sustainable mechanisms for building health systems worldwide. While we welcome the fact that health was high on the political agenda of the Summit, and Team Europe made wide-ranging commitments in the area of health, it remains unclear how some of these initiatives will be funded, what type of support will be provided (grants, loans, or blended finance), how these initiatives will connect to each other to create a coherent continental approach, or how sustainable they will be in the long run. The call from the AU and civil society to support the waiving of Intellectual Property rights on COVID tools was also not addressed, despite its urgency. We deeply regret the absence of a commitment to the achievement of universal access to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) in the political declaration, despite the calls made by civil society and youth ahead of the Summit about the importance of prioritising SRHR. SRHR are critical to achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC), as well as gender equality and human development. While we welcome the development of a Team Europe Initiative on SRHR in Sub-Saharan Africa, we call on the EU and the AU to implement ambitious policies and allocate adequate funding to the achievement of SRHR for all. Download our full joint statement below.

Spain flag
news item

| 19 May 2022

Spain debates plans for paid menstrual leave and wider abortion access

Currently, abortion care is available during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy based on a woman's indication.  Up to 22 weeks, abortion is permitted in cases of serious risk to the life or health of the woman or foetus. Thereafter, abortion care is only accessible in cases of foetal abnormalities incompatible with life or extremely serious and incurable illness. Nonetheless, access to dignified and safe care remains an obstacle course especially for those already marginalized by systemic discrimination. But there is hope. This week, the government discussed a progressive law which gives autonomy to girls aged 16 to 18 to access abortion care without parental consent; regulates denial of care based on personal beliefs; and scraps medically unnecessary 3-day waiting periods delaying access to abortion. If approved, the law would also extend financing for contraceptive care. The draft law also guarantees up to 3 days of menstrual leave for painful periods; eliminates VAT on menstrual products; and asks that schools and prisons offer free menstrual products.  

Spain flag
news_item

| 19 May 2022

Spain debates plans for paid menstrual leave and wider abortion access

Currently, abortion care is available during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy based on a woman's indication.  Up to 22 weeks, abortion is permitted in cases of serious risk to the life or health of the woman or foetus. Thereafter, abortion care is only accessible in cases of foetal abnormalities incompatible with life or extremely serious and incurable illness. Nonetheless, access to dignified and safe care remains an obstacle course especially for those already marginalized by systemic discrimination. But there is hope. This week, the government discussed a progressive law which gives autonomy to girls aged 16 to 18 to access abortion care without parental consent; regulates denial of care based on personal beliefs; and scraps medically unnecessary 3-day waiting periods delaying access to abortion. If approved, the law would also extend financing for contraceptive care. The draft law also guarantees up to 3 days of menstrual leave for painful periods; eliminates VAT on menstrual products; and asks that schools and prisons offer free menstrual products.  

choice
news item

| 12 May 2022

Turkmenistan ramps up policing of women’s bodies

Turkmen people were hoping that their newly appointed president, Serdar Berdymukhamedov, would pursue a more progressive path than his father, but they were sorely mistaken. Since April 2022, the government has taken policing over women’s bodies to a whole new level: imposing a virtual ban on abortion care, enforcing a ban on a range of beauty services, forbidding women from sitting in the front seat of private cars and prohibiting male taxi drivers from offering rides to women. Abortion care access has been restricted from 12 to just five weeks. Overnight, the government made public a law that had originally been passed in 2015, without any public consultation, meaning that it was practically passed and published in secret. This law effectively bans abortion care, as most people don't even know they are pregnant at 5 weeks. The result is agonising for women, forcing some to continue through pregnancies against their will, while others will have no choice but to go through the system and seek permission for care from a medical committee which delays critical healthcare and puts them at greater risk – with no guarantee that care will be provided. The committee can decide to approve care beyond the 5 weeks on social gounds, very linked to the family situation (eg allowed in case the husband dies, in case of divorce, but also in cases of rape). Women who are not able to access abortion in these circumstances might be forced to find a doctor who can provide the procedure illegally, often at huge costs. The terrifying truth is that women and girls living in countries with restrictive abortion laws are more likely to die because pregnancy is a major medical event where having choice over the care you receive is vital. This act of reproductive coercion is in line with the long held anti-rights agenda of the government, but this latest raft of restrictions are particularly brutal.  They stem from the government’s idea of nation-building, which hinges on harmful gender stereotypes that value women only as mothers and symbols of purity, beauty, and modesty. But make no mistake, at the core this is about control. Women are only valued for their capacity to give birth, raise healthy patriots and thus preserve traditional family values. The reproductive bullying of women is supported by state media propaganda encouraging women to have eight children and by the lack of relationship and sexuality education. Furthermore, 50% of women are denied access to contraception, and a recent study found that nearly 60% of women feel unable to make autonomous decisions on issues like healthcare, contraception, and giving consent to sex.   Turkmenistan failing women and girls on multiple fronts with the world watching Turkmenistan has an abysmal human rights track record with women being treated as second class citizens. With bodily autonomy being steadily stripped away, women and girls are subject to sexual and gender-based violence, virginity tests, forced marriages and prohibited from purchasing cigarettes and obtaining a driver’s licenses.  According to UNICEF and TürkmenStat (MICS), 59% of women in Turkmenistan aged 15-49 say that a husband has the right to hit his wife. There is no law against domestic violence in Turkmenistan, nor are there mechanisms and national programmes to prevent domestic violence. All this shows that women cannot expect support from anywhere and it is safer for them to be silent and tolerate the violence. Governmental agencies do not provide any statistics related to women’s health and gender equality. As noted on the UN Women’s website: “As of December 2020, only 20.6% of indicators needed to monitor the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from a gender perspective were available, with gaps in key areas in Turkmenistan.”  Freedom House has consistently ranked the country at or near the bottom of its Freedom in the World rankings since its independence. And in its 2020 Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders ranked Turkmenistan as 179th out of 180 countries surveyed, only ahead of North Korea. Lastly, civic space in Turkmenistan is rated ‘closed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor. The country lacks anything resembling real civil society and the conditions for it to emerge.   Take action We cannot turn our backs on the people of Turkmenistan.The European Union, its Member States as well as other international bodies must not sit idly by in the face of such egregious attacks on women’s rights. The European Union in particular must uphold its values and use all tools and policies it has at its disposal, including the EU Gender Action Plan, to support Turkmen women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. We must take urgent action, raise our voices, and put pressure on the Turkmen state, so that Turkmen women are not forced to suffer in silence.   Credit illustration: Martina Koleva  

choice
news_item

| 12 May 2022

Turkmenistan ramps up policing of women’s bodies

Turkmen people were hoping that their newly appointed president, Serdar Berdymukhamedov, would pursue a more progressive path than his father, but they were sorely mistaken. Since April 2022, the government has taken policing over women’s bodies to a whole new level: imposing a virtual ban on abortion care, enforcing a ban on a range of beauty services, forbidding women from sitting in the front seat of private cars and prohibiting male taxi drivers from offering rides to women. Abortion care access has been restricted from 12 to just five weeks. Overnight, the government made public a law that had originally been passed in 2015, without any public consultation, meaning that it was practically passed and published in secret. This law effectively bans abortion care, as most people don't even know they are pregnant at 5 weeks. The result is agonising for women, forcing some to continue through pregnancies against their will, while others will have no choice but to go through the system and seek permission for care from a medical committee which delays critical healthcare and puts them at greater risk – with no guarantee that care will be provided. The committee can decide to approve care beyond the 5 weeks on social gounds, very linked to the family situation (eg allowed in case the husband dies, in case of divorce, but also in cases of rape). Women who are not able to access abortion in these circumstances might be forced to find a doctor who can provide the procedure illegally, often at huge costs. The terrifying truth is that women and girls living in countries with restrictive abortion laws are more likely to die because pregnancy is a major medical event where having choice over the care you receive is vital. This act of reproductive coercion is in line with the long held anti-rights agenda of the government, but this latest raft of restrictions are particularly brutal.  They stem from the government’s idea of nation-building, which hinges on harmful gender stereotypes that value women only as mothers and symbols of purity, beauty, and modesty. But make no mistake, at the core this is about control. Women are only valued for their capacity to give birth, raise healthy patriots and thus preserve traditional family values. The reproductive bullying of women is supported by state media propaganda encouraging women to have eight children and by the lack of relationship and sexuality education. Furthermore, 50% of women are denied access to contraception, and a recent study found that nearly 60% of women feel unable to make autonomous decisions on issues like healthcare, contraception, and giving consent to sex.   Turkmenistan failing women and girls on multiple fronts with the world watching Turkmenistan has an abysmal human rights track record with women being treated as second class citizens. With bodily autonomy being steadily stripped away, women and girls are subject to sexual and gender-based violence, virginity tests, forced marriages and prohibited from purchasing cigarettes and obtaining a driver’s licenses.  According to UNICEF and TürkmenStat (MICS), 59% of women in Turkmenistan aged 15-49 say that a husband has the right to hit his wife. There is no law against domestic violence in Turkmenistan, nor are there mechanisms and national programmes to prevent domestic violence. All this shows that women cannot expect support from anywhere and it is safer for them to be silent and tolerate the violence. Governmental agencies do not provide any statistics related to women’s health and gender equality. As noted on the UN Women’s website: “As of December 2020, only 20.6% of indicators needed to monitor the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from a gender perspective were available, with gaps in key areas in Turkmenistan.”  Freedom House has consistently ranked the country at or near the bottom of its Freedom in the World rankings since its independence. And in its 2020 Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders ranked Turkmenistan as 179th out of 180 countries surveyed, only ahead of North Korea. Lastly, civic space in Turkmenistan is rated ‘closed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor. The country lacks anything resembling real civil society and the conditions for it to emerge.   Take action We cannot turn our backs on the people of Turkmenistan.The European Union, its Member States as well as other international bodies must not sit idly by in the face of such egregious attacks on women’s rights. The European Union in particular must uphold its values and use all tools and policies it has at its disposal, including the EU Gender Action Plan, to support Turkmen women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. We must take urgent action, raise our voices, and put pressure on the Turkmen state, so that Turkmen women are not forced to suffer in silence.   Credit illustration: Martina Koleva  

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| 21 April 2022

Slovenia's ruling party guilty of repression and misuse of public funds, according to feminists

The 8 March Institute, Slovenia’s largest feminist organization, has been the target of harassment and intimidation coordinated by Slovenia’s ruling party, SDS, during the pre-election campaign period. The Institute has been doing a ‘Let’s vote’ campaign, to increase voter turnout for the Slovenian parliamentary elections and to collect signatures for a bill they have prepared for consideration by the newly elected parliament. The bill lays out a series of measures to ensure the respect for the rule of law and protect citizens from increasing inequalities. The Institute is now being falsely accused by the government of conducting a ‘political campaign’, even though they are not promoting any specific candidate or party. They could face a large fine and the possible suspension of their activities – essentially censorship. The Institute alleges smear tactics by SDS. The leader of the organisation, Nika Kovač, has faced threats and misogynistic insults from the Prime Minister himself, Janše Janša. SDS MPs have falsely accused Institute volunteers of sending them death threats, a claim which activists say is a deliberate attempt to discredit their work. The Institute has filed two civil lawsuits against SDS as a result. The Institute has also applied for an investigation of the ruling party for alleged misuse of public funds in its electoral campaign. It accuses the ruling party of using state infrastructure for “its own propaganda” during the pre-election campaign period. The Institute submitted an application to the Court of Auditors, which oversees the delivery of free and fair elections, in March. Slovenia has seen a rapid decline in civic freedoms in the past few years. The ruling party, SDS, has been accused of undermining the work of the Slovenian Press Agency and the largest public broadcaster, RTVSLO (through political appointments at the head of the agency), of slashing funds for civil society organisations and media critical of the current government, and restricting the right to protest using the excuse of the Covid-19 pandemic. Slovenia is rated "Narrowed" on the CIVICUS Monitor which means that while the state generally allows individuals and civil society organisations to exercise their rights to peaceful assembly, freedom of speech and freedom of association, violations of these rights also take place. There have been multiple reports of activists, independent journalists and protesters being harassed and intimidated by the state. The State Prosecutors’ office seems to be instrumentalised to bring cases against those protesting the current government and slapping them with fines higher than 40.000 Euros in some cases. This retaliation against civil society organisations, such as the 8 March Institute, are reminiscent of repressive measures taken in Poland and Hungary against human rights defenders. Far-right actors try to score political points through the public vilification of civil society groups, by spreading political homophobia and attacking women human rights defenders. Any type of intimidation and orchestrated oppression targeting activists, independent media and civil society organisations points to the degradation of the rule of law. The European Union must take action to ensure that civic freedoms and the rule of law are protected and that human rights defenders are politically and financially supported.   Photo by Luka E on Unsplash

luka-e-jxQtuzImhbE-unsplash.jpg
news_item

| 21 April 2022

Slovenia's ruling party guilty of repression and misuse of public funds, according to feminists

The 8 March Institute, Slovenia’s largest feminist organization, has been the target of harassment and intimidation coordinated by Slovenia’s ruling party, SDS, during the pre-election campaign period. The Institute has been doing a ‘Let’s vote’ campaign, to increase voter turnout for the Slovenian parliamentary elections and to collect signatures for a bill they have prepared for consideration by the newly elected parliament. The bill lays out a series of measures to ensure the respect for the rule of law and protect citizens from increasing inequalities. The Institute is now being falsely accused by the government of conducting a ‘political campaign’, even though they are not promoting any specific candidate or party. They could face a large fine and the possible suspension of their activities – essentially censorship. The Institute alleges smear tactics by SDS. The leader of the organisation, Nika Kovač, has faced threats and misogynistic insults from the Prime Minister himself, Janše Janša. SDS MPs have falsely accused Institute volunteers of sending them death threats, a claim which activists say is a deliberate attempt to discredit their work. The Institute has filed two civil lawsuits against SDS as a result. The Institute has also applied for an investigation of the ruling party for alleged misuse of public funds in its electoral campaign. It accuses the ruling party of using state infrastructure for “its own propaganda” during the pre-election campaign period. The Institute submitted an application to the Court of Auditors, which oversees the delivery of free and fair elections, in March. Slovenia has seen a rapid decline in civic freedoms in the past few years. The ruling party, SDS, has been accused of undermining the work of the Slovenian Press Agency and the largest public broadcaster, RTVSLO (through political appointments at the head of the agency), of slashing funds for civil society organisations and media critical of the current government, and restricting the right to protest using the excuse of the Covid-19 pandemic. Slovenia is rated "Narrowed" on the CIVICUS Monitor which means that while the state generally allows individuals and civil society organisations to exercise their rights to peaceful assembly, freedom of speech and freedom of association, violations of these rights also take place. There have been multiple reports of activists, independent journalists and protesters being harassed and intimidated by the state. The State Prosecutors’ office seems to be instrumentalised to bring cases against those protesting the current government and slapping them with fines higher than 40.000 Euros in some cases. This retaliation against civil society organisations, such as the 8 March Institute, are reminiscent of repressive measures taken in Poland and Hungary against human rights defenders. Far-right actors try to score political points through the public vilification of civil society groups, by spreading political homophobia and attacking women human rights defenders. Any type of intimidation and orchestrated oppression targeting activists, independent media and civil society organisations points to the degradation of the rule of law. The European Union must take action to ensure that civic freedoms and the rule of law are protected and that human rights defenders are politically and financially supported.   Photo by Luka E on Unsplash

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| 23 March 2022

No to EU funds for the governments of Poland and Hungary

Civil society organisations write to the European Commission and the Council asking them to refrain from approving recovery funds to the governments of Poland and Hungary and instead provide direct support to local authorities, civil society and human rights defenders providing for refugees of the war. Neither Poland, nor Hungary, have made meaningful progress to restore the checks and balances necessary to uphold the rule of law and reinstate an independent judiciary.  The war in Ukraine should not be used as a pretext to weaken the rule of law mechanism and let any Member State get away with serious rule of law violations. If anything, this war shows the very real dangers that come with a country dismantling the rule of law and democratic oversight. This is not the time to set aside concerns about the rule of law and respect of fundamental rights in EU Member States. Unblocking funds whereas the concerns in the countries remain as serious as ever, would be detrimental.  

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news_item

| 23 March 2022

No to EU funds for the governments of Poland and Hungary

Civil society organisations write to the European Commission and the Council asking them to refrain from approving recovery funds to the governments of Poland and Hungary and instead provide direct support to local authorities, civil society and human rights defenders providing for refugees of the war. Neither Poland, nor Hungary, have made meaningful progress to restore the checks and balances necessary to uphold the rule of law and reinstate an independent judiciary.  The war in Ukraine should not be used as a pretext to weaken the rule of law mechanism and let any Member State get away with serious rule of law violations. If anything, this war shows the very real dangers that come with a country dismantling the rule of law and democratic oversight. This is not the time to set aside concerns about the rule of law and respect of fundamental rights in EU Member States. Unblocking funds whereas the concerns in the countries remain as serious as ever, would be detrimental.  

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| 17 March 2022

Call To Action On Ukraine

In a Call to Action, IPPF EN joined more than 90 human rights organizations to urge the European Union, Member State governments, the United Nations, other donor governments, and the broader international community to urgently implement measures protecting the sexual and reproductive health and rights of people fleeing the war in Ukraine.  The Call to Action urges European decisionmakers to include SRHR services, such as maternal health care, emergency contraception, and medication abortion in their measures to meet the needs of people in Ukraine and refugees in five neighboring countries.  In Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia a range of pre-existing legal and policy restrictions on SRHR and cost barriers are severely impeding access to urgent and essential sexual and reproductive health care for those fleeing Ukraine. In particular, these barriers are undermining access to emergency contraception and other contraceptive methods, abortion care including medical abortion, antenatal care, post-exposure prophylaxis, STI treatment and antenatal care.  

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news_item

| 17 March 2022

Call To Action On Ukraine

In a Call to Action, IPPF EN joined more than 90 human rights organizations to urge the European Union, Member State governments, the United Nations, other donor governments, and the broader international community to urgently implement measures protecting the sexual and reproductive health and rights of people fleeing the war in Ukraine.  The Call to Action urges European decisionmakers to include SRHR services, such as maternal health care, emergency contraception, and medication abortion in their measures to meet the needs of people in Ukraine and refugees in five neighboring countries.  In Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia a range of pre-existing legal and policy restrictions on SRHR and cost barriers are severely impeding access to urgent and essential sexual and reproductive health care for those fleeing Ukraine. In particular, these barriers are undermining access to emergency contraception and other contraceptive methods, abortion care including medical abortion, antenatal care, post-exposure prophylaxis, STI treatment and antenatal care.  

Africa EU
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| 25 February 2022

EU-AU Summit leaves many questions unanswered and crucial topics unaddressed

Joint Civil Society Reaction The African Union - European Union Summit that took place on 17 and 18 February 2022 aimed to deepen cooperation between the EU and the AU “based on shared interests and values” and resulted in a joint-political declaration. It was an opportunity for European leaders to work towards ending not only the COVID-19 pandemic, but also persisting epidemics like HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, and other diseases, by supporting sustainable mechanisms for building health systems worldwide. While we welcome the fact that health was high on the political agenda of the Summit, and Team Europe made wide-ranging commitments in the area of health, it remains unclear how some of these initiatives will be funded, what type of support will be provided (grants, loans, or blended finance), how these initiatives will connect to each other to create a coherent continental approach, or how sustainable they will be in the long run. The call from the AU and civil society to support the waiving of Intellectual Property rights on COVID tools was also not addressed, despite its urgency. We deeply regret the absence of a commitment to the achievement of universal access to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) in the political declaration, despite the calls made by civil society and youth ahead of the Summit about the importance of prioritising SRHR. SRHR are critical to achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC), as well as gender equality and human development. While we welcome the development of a Team Europe Initiative on SRHR in Sub-Saharan Africa, we call on the EU and the AU to implement ambitious policies and allocate adequate funding to the achievement of SRHR for all. Download our full joint statement below.

Africa EU
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| 24 February 2022

EU-AU Summit leaves many questions unanswered and crucial topics unaddressed

Joint Civil Society Reaction The African Union - European Union Summit that took place on 17 and 18 February 2022 aimed to deepen cooperation between the EU and the AU “based on shared interests and values” and resulted in a joint-political declaration. It was an opportunity for European leaders to work towards ending not only the COVID-19 pandemic, but also persisting epidemics like HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, and other diseases, by supporting sustainable mechanisms for building health systems worldwide. While we welcome the fact that health was high on the political agenda of the Summit, and Team Europe made wide-ranging commitments in the area of health, it remains unclear how some of these initiatives will be funded, what type of support will be provided (grants, loans, or blended finance), how these initiatives will connect to each other to create a coherent continental approach, or how sustainable they will be in the long run. The call from the AU and civil society to support the waiving of Intellectual Property rights on COVID tools was also not addressed, despite its urgency. We deeply regret the absence of a commitment to the achievement of universal access to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) in the political declaration, despite the calls made by civil society and youth ahead of the Summit about the importance of prioritising SRHR. SRHR are critical to achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC), as well as gender equality and human development. While we welcome the development of a Team Europe Initiative on SRHR in Sub-Saharan Africa, we call on the EU and the AU to implement ambitious policies and allocate adequate funding to the achievement of SRHR for all. Download our full joint statement below.