“The right to safe and legal abortion is under pressure around the world. We need to make sure the clock is not being turned back.” With these words MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld opened the webinar held on the international day for safe abortion. The webinar launched the new European Abortion policies Atlas. The Atlas compares European countries in women’s access to abortion. Belgium figures in the European top 10 but lags the UK, Scandinavia and neighbouring France and the Netherlands. The obligatory waiting period in Belgium could be shortened and Belgium could do better in tackling disinformation about abortion.
In 2021, the UK Government is moving to further reduce its aid budget from 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) to 0.5%. Analysis of estimated funding between 2019 and 2022 compared to 2015 to 2018, indicates that gender equality focused programming is severely affected, and women and girls will suffer disproportionately from reductions in funding to critical sectors. The Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO) said these changes are the result of COVID-19’s impact on public finances.
The CPD follows up the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action (Cairo PoA). The 2021 Theme was Population, food security, nutrition and sustainable development. After years of non-agreement, having an agreed outcome was a must. Following constructive discussions in the informals and excellent facilitation by the Bureau, agreed conclusions were adopted.
In the 2020 Contraception Policy Atlas, Belgium stands out with a whopping 96.4% score, leaving the 2nd in rank – France – far behind. Belgium beat France by improving women’s access to emergency contraception and reimbursing contraception for women under the age of 25. Former Chair of the 'Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda' and recently appointed Minister of Pensions in Belgium’s new federal government, Karine Lalieux has been one of the driving forces behind the new reimbursement schemes.
The Contraception Policy Atlas developed by EPF compares 46 countries by looking at their policies regarding access to contraceptives, including the reimbursement schemes and family planning counselling as well as at the available public online information.
De Croo, previously Minister of Development Cooperation and Deputy Prime Minister took office on October 1st. He will lead the so-called Vivaldi government, in reference to the political party colours represented in his team. Vivaldi consists of the two liberal parties, the two green parties, the two socialist parties and the Flemish Christian-democrats, making a total of 7 parties.
Belgium and 57 other countries call for the protection of SRHR and the promotion of a gender sensitive response to the Covid-19 pandemic
In a powerful joint statement, 58 countries, including Belgium expressed their concern about the impact of COVID-19 on women and girls’ human rights, the deepening of existing inequalities and the worsening discrimination of other marginalised groups such as persons with disabilities and people living in extreme poverty.
The right of women to safe abortion should be guaranteed by all countries. However, a recent study by the International Planned Parenthood Federation demonstrates that too many barriers continue to be put in place by lawmakers, civil servants and care providers in various European and Central-Asian countries.
The right to an abortion is a hot topic in Belgium, as the new figures on abortion collected by the abortion evaluation commission show. The parliament is also to discuss a new abortion bill which will be voted on soon. The legislative change would extend the period within which women are able to end their pregnancies from 12 to 18 weeks. This is the perfect moment to compare the situation with different countries in Europe.
Belgium tops the list of European countries in cervical cancer prevention, the Cervical Cancer Prevention Policy Atlas shows. Cervical cancer is preventable and treatable. Yet every year, over 25,000 women die from the disease in Europe, making it the 2nd most common female cancer deaths in women aged 15 to 44.
The Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer. HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection, which can be acquired by men and women. Governments consequently have a responsibility to prevent cervical cancer incidence and mortality by providing national HPV vaccinations, effective cervical cancer screenings and quality online information.
Belgium’s prevention policies
Belgium, but particularly Flanders stands out for its policy. Since 2011 girls have been receiving HPV vaccination at the age of twelve. Since September 2019 boys are also vaccinated free of charge. Screeings for HPV are organized and information about HPV and cervical cancer is easily accessible through government supported websites, such as allesoverseks.be by Sensoa.
Disastrous figures for Eastern European countries
Belgium shares its leading position with Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom. In Western Europe, France, Luxemburg and Spain are lagging at 74%. The situation in Eastern European countries is disastrous, with figures as low as 17% in ex-Yugoslavian republics.
The Cervical Cancer Prevention Policy Atlas is an initiative of the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive rights and was first launched in January 2020.
The European Council elected Belgian prime minister Charles Michel as President of the European Council. The president presides over and drives forward the work of the European Council and is the European Union’s principal representative on the world stage. He is elected for the period from 1 December 2019 until 31 May 2022. But who is Charles Michel and what is his track record on SRHR and gender equality?
Belgium put sexual and reproductive rights in the spotlight during the ‘European Sustainability Week’ in Berlin, June 2019. Sensoa participated in a panel with Moroccan documentary maker Mohammed Nabil and human rights activist Katrin Erlingsen of the NGO Deutsche Stiftung Weltvölkerung (DSW) at the Belgian Embassy in Berlin.