“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.
What happens when Antwerp youth and Palestinian teenagers (virtually) sit together? Curiosity, recognition and humbleness. That is what we were witness to. On September 22-23rd Sensoa co-organised an exchange with UNFPA Palestine for young people from 15 Palestinian schools in Jerusalem and a class of 3rd graders of Koninklijk Atheneum Antwerpen.
The youngsters talked about their lives during the lockdowns – “My life was put on hold” -, their expectations as to marriage and relationships – ‘love’ and ‘spending time together’ ranked highest - and their ideas about gender and situations of sexual transgressive behaviour.
UNAIDS’ recent report finds that worldwide goals for 2020 have not been reached, despite past years’ efforts. More people know their HIV-status, more people have access to medicines and more people have an undetectable viral load thanks to treatment. Yet, the efforts to prevent new infections have been less successful. The number of new infections among adults has hardly dropped in the past 4 years. Not a single region reached the goal to decrease new infections by 75% compared to 2016.
Cervical cancer is the third most common type of cancer among women worldwide. Moreover, it is the most common cancer in women in approximately 42 low-income countries. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), the most transmitted sexually transmitted infection (STI), is the leading cause of cervical cancer. Around 70% of all cervical cancers are caused by HPV. Today, cervical cancer is one of the most easily preventable types of cancers. High-income countries should be able to eliminate cervical cancer in the 21st century. However, low- and middle-income countries hold the highest burden and the highest mortality rates of cervical cancer.
Reducing inequalities lies at the heart of UNAIDS’ 2021-2026 new Global AIDS Strategy. It aims to assist and guide every country and community in reaching UNAIDS goals of zero new HIV-infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. A comprehensive framework of actions has been outlined to tackle inequalities and protect human rights in the HIV response. The gaps for HIV prevention, testing, treatment and support can be closed by reducing inequalities. The Strategy’s vision for reducing inequalities and laying the foundation to reach the 2030 targets builds on its three Strategic Priorities: (1) Maximise equitable and equal access to HIV services and solutions; (2) Break down barriers to achieving HIV outcomes;(3) Fully resource efficient HIV responses and integrate HIV in systems for health, social protection, and humanitarian and pandemic responses.
The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) took place in New York, late March. The CSW is instrumental in promoting women’s rights, documenting the reality of women’s lives throughout the world, and shaping global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women. The priority theme for this year’s session was: “Women's full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.”
Like-minded countries (EU, Mountains (Norway, Canada, Iceland, Australia, NZ, Switzerland) and the Santiago Group (Latin America countries), including the US delegation) were quite aligned towards the CSW-text, but constantly faced the conservative voices from Russia, Holy See, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. While an agreed outcome was eventually adopted, the UN Member States were not able to agree on key issues - such as sexual and reproductive health and rights, Young Women and Girls’ participation, intimate partner violence, Multiple and Intersecting Forms of Discrimination, Women, Peace and Security and Women’s Human Rights Defenders (WHRD).
Belgian MPs shared their SRHR promises for 2021 in a joint campaign with EPF on social media. They did so on the occassion of World Women’s Day.
Members of the Belgian All-Party Parliamentary Group ‘Parliamentarians for the 2020 Agenda’ individually commit to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights nationally and internationally. Each MP has set personal goals. MPs commit to take up the challenges regarding young people’s access to contraceptives and the morning-after pill; the extension of the abortion law, the fight against forced marriages, incest, gender-based violence at the work place, period poverty and more. For you to discover in the video-slide show or in the visuals below.
“Macho politics uses the emotional debate and media attention generated by sexual and reproductive rights issues to appear “strong”. It uses criminalisation to persuade voters that their real problems - of insecurity, inequality, poverty, powerlessness, anger - can be solved by attacking these groups rather than by a fundamental redistribution of political and economic power”, asserted IPPF General Director Alvaro Bermejo in an exchange with the members of the ‘Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda’, Belgium’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Days of protests followed the tightening of abortion laws in Poland on 27 January. This legislation prohibits women from terminating a pregnancy, even if their foetus has severe abnormalities. Doctors and caregivers who assist women and their partners to do so, now risk up to 3 years in prison.
Law and Justice (PiS), the ruling party, previously tried to push through this tightening. Already in 2016 and 2018, it presented the law in parliament, but each time it met with huge popular protests. Thanks to the establishment of the Constitutional Court and the systematic replacement of moderate judges with conservative ones, the PiS was able to push through the stricter rules after all.
Newly appointed US President Joe Biden cleans house after 4 years of the Trump administration. The US has rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement, will not withdraw from the World Health Organisation and will again fund UNFPA, the United Nations Population Agency.
On top of all these executive orders, Biden also repealed the Mexico City Policy or Global Gag Rule. This policy, which prohibits US aid to foreign organisations that refer people to centres that offer abortion or discuss abortion as an option, was successively instituted by Republican presidents and repealed by Democratic presidents. An on and off relationship for years, with all the consequences on the ground.