Lack of information, misinformation, myths about sex and contraception, poor access or even no access to contraception, but also the lack of dialogue about contraception use and pregnancy between partners cause many (young) women to become pregnant unplanned. These challenges mean that one of the most fundamental choices, to become pregnant or not, is not a free and informed choice for many women worldwide. This is the gist of the State of The World Population report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), 2022.
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.
The crisis affects every country, every individual person, but we still need to guarantee a global approach. More than ever, this crisis demonstrates how our lives are interconnected. In other words, a solidary, joint response will be necessary.
Sensoa International works with other organisations, including umbrella organisation IPPF, Belgian health and development organisations to steer the policy of Belgium, other EU member states and partner countries. We inform policymakers and advocate to safeguard sexual and reproductive rights, also in times of Covid-19.
The weakness of healthcare structures in developing countries will now become painfully clear and be a major threat to the global spread of the virus. Together with its partners, Sensoa International is therefore focusing on the importance of strengthening health systems, ensuring the continuity of care, and the promotion of universal healthcare coverage, which should include sexual and reproductive health services and family planning.
Sensoa International advocates to keep up and increase the necessary financial support. Existing official development assistance (ODA) should not be diverted to tackle the current crisis, as this creates new problems. Instead, new funds should be set up to counter the spread of Covid-19 and to address the large-scale side effects of the approach in a spirit of solidarity.
Measures to deal with the pandemic should not result in restrictions of human rights, democracy and the critical role of civil society and media. Jointly with our civil society partners in Belgium and abroad, we are watching and alerting policy makers when human rights, and particularly sexual and reproductive rights are at risk.
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.
Kicking off with the success story of Ireland’s long road towards the recognition of the right to abortion, the annual 2018 EuroNGOs conference sought to re-energise the European SRHR community for the road ahead under the banner ‘Act on Hope’. Over 150 participants gathered in the heart of Ghent to share and exchange the lessons learned and to discuss the challenges promoting SRHR at home and in the world.
On 17 May 2018, the Belgian platforms Be-cause health and Educaid.be jointly organise an international conference on the intersection between health and education in international cooperation at the Egmont Palace, Brussels.
Body & Rights, the e-tutorial developed by Sensoa the expertise centre for sexual health and member association of IPPF in Belgium and commissioned by the Institute of Tropical Medicine and Be-cause Health, the Belgian platform for international health is now available in English.
At the conference of the World Association for Sexual Health (WAS) in Prague, Belgium stood out again as one of the most progressive and exemplary countries worldwide when it comes to promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights.