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EWL welcomes the Commissioner for Human Rights statement "Protect women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights"

[Brussels, 23 June 2016] The European Women’s Lobby welcomes the statement made by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, who calls all member states to take the necessary steps to ensure women full and equal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights.

The Commissioner for Human rights highlights in his recommendations the pivotal role of accessing to sexuality education and asks the member states to ensure that mandatory sexuality education that is age-appropriate, evidence-based, scientifically accurate and that includes a gender perspective is taught and is part of the ordinary school curriculum.

Additionally, the Commissioner for human rights call the members states to also remove barriers in access to contraception for all women; to provide sexual and reproductive health services, goods and facilities to all women through the country that are economically accesible and non-discriminatory; and to ensure women’s rights, dignity and autonomy in maternal health care.

Furthermore, the Commissioner for Human rights highlights the need to ensure access to safe and legal abortion and encourage the member states to decriminalise abortion. The Commissioner for Human rights expresses his concerns about the bill proposed in Poland to introduce a total ban on abortion except to save a pregnant’s women life. The European Women’s Lobby had sent a letter to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland, Ms Beata Szydlo, alerting that this citizen’s initiative proposal, if adopted, would mean a significant increase in unsafe and clandestine abortions which would turn into a major health threat for Polish Women and even a threat to their lives. In its letter, the EWL was also recalling that the current abortion law in Poland is already one of the most restrictive in Europe, and that, if reviewed, the Polish legislation should take stock of all its International Commitments to ensure women´s full enjoyment of their human rights including their sexual and reproductive rights.

In this same regard, the Commissioner criticizes as well the current barriers to access to abortion in Poland, highlighting the recent case P. and S. versus Poland where the European Court of Human rights found a violation of the rights to private life and the right to be free from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment of the 14 years old girl, who was pregnant as a result of rape and who was seeking an abortion. Furthermore, the Commissioner for Human rights calls also on Ireland to amends its law on on voluntary termination of pregnancy, including effective, timely and accessible procedures for pregnancy termination in Ireland and take measures to ensure that health-care providers are in a position to supply full information on safe abortion services.

Finally, in his statement, the Commissioner for Human rights, calls the member states to protect all women against multiple forms of discrimination in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights, in particular: Roma women, women belonging to minorities, women with disabilities, migrant women, LBT women, and poor or rural women. The Commissioner for Human rights recalls in his statement that cases of forced sterilisation of Roma women or women with intellectual and psycho-social disabilities have been documented in countries like Czech Republic, Norway, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland. Governments are obliged to establish accessible and effective mechanisms to obtain reparations, and urges the Czech Republic to adopt a bill on reparations of involuntary sterilisation of Roma Women.

Find the full statement made by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, here.

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