While the US Supreme Court’s decision to withdraw Roe v. Wade was still pending, three international women’s rights activists explained the risks involved in the limitation or outright prohibition of women’s access to safe abortion care in a digital dialogue with the Belgian ‘Parliamentarians for the 2030 Agenda’.
Five years after the successful international She Decides conference, launched in response to the reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule (GGR) under former US President Donald Trump, Belgium and the She Decides Support Unit reconvened sexual and reproductive health and rights advocates from around the world in Brussels, 19-20th May.
One year after the highly controversial changes to the Polish abortion law making Poland one of the EU-countries with the most restrictive access to abortion care, the human rights and rule of law situation in Poland continues to deteriorate.
Two members of the parliamentary group Parliamentarians for 2030 Agenda, Séverine de Laveleye and Orry Van de Wauwer witnessed this when they participated in the European Parliamentary Forum on Sexual and Reproductive rights’ annual Conference in Warsaw, Poland on 21-22 October. At the end of a first day of panel discussions on SRHR in Poland and worldwide, the participants signed a statement of commitment with regard to Poland and the global state of SRHR.
Across the globe COVID-19 has led to the closure of schools for weeks and sometimes months on end. In many cases, distance learning turned out to be an imperfect substitute to live, on campus, classes and the school closures deepened existing inequalities, disproportionally affecting those who had already fallen behind: girls and women, poor people, refugees and ethnic minorities.
“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.
The parliamentarians for the 2030 agenda and UNFPA Brussels co-hosted the Belgian launch of UNFPA’s 2021 State of the World Population report that carries the meaningful title ‘My Body is Own’/ ‘Mon Corps m’Appartient’. UNFPA presented its report that discusses what bodily autonomy is and how we can measure it. It poses the question how we can achieve bodily autonomy for everyone.
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.
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.
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.