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Sindh State bans child marriage, Pakistan

Date: 29 April
Source: Dawn.com

Pakistan's Sindh state has become the first of the country's four provinces to ban marriage of children under the age of 18. The Child Marriages Restraint Bill 2013 was adopted unanimously when put to a vote in the Sindh Assembly on 28 April. Among its provisions, the bill allows complaints against such marriages to be dealt with within 90 days. Lawmakers say they are aware that the problem cannot be resolved by simply passing the bill, highlighting the need to create awareness about the legislation through wide media publicity.

Demystifying data on young people’s sexual health

Date: 30 April 2014
Source: Guttmacher Institute

Demystifying Data: A Guide to Using Evidence to Improve Young People’s Sexual Health and Rights is now available in French and Spanish. The publication, published by the Guttmacher Institute and International Planned Parenthood Federation, is also available in English. It is designed to be a resource for advocates, sexuality educators, young people, service providers and others working to advance the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people around the world. It contains a wealth of data on young people's sexual health and rights in 30 countries and offers guidance on how to use those data to advocate for better programmes and improved education and services.

The guide highlights 70 key indicators on issues that include sexual activity, marriage and contraceptive use. Each indicator is defined and discussed in terms of how it can be applied in the context of advocacy, service provision and sexuality education.

The data featured in the guide come from nationally representative surveys on sexual and reproductive health and were the latest available at the time of writing. National-level data are provided for each country so that users can understand what is happening in their country and easily compare it to others in their region.

The countries covered are:

Africa - Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe
Asia - Bangladesh, Indonesia, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines and Vietnam
Europe - Albania, Moldova and Ukraine
Latin America and the Caribbean - Bolivia, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras and Peru.

Click to download the guide in English, Spanish and French and below for the accompanying resources:

Country Tables
Sexuality Education Country Tables
Indicator Appendix
Advocacy Guide


FGM suspects charged in court, UK

Date: 28 April 2014
Source: INTACT

Two men have appeared in court in the UK on the first charges brought under the Female Genital Mutilation Act (2003). A London-based doctor is accused of carrying out the procedure on a woman after she had given birth in 2012. It is alleged that he repaired the FGM that had previously been carried out on the patient, after being encouraged and helped by the other accused, who is not a doctor.

This news is shared by the Intact Network, an initiative of the Population Council aiming at combatting female genital mutilation. Their quarterly news round up is available here.


New sexuality newsletter

Date: 28 April 2014
Source: International Association for the Study of Sexuality, Culture and Society (IASSCS)

IASSCS has launched the first issue of a new biannual newsletter, with news and information about IASSCS's members and their initiatives.

The first issue can be viewed here.

The complete issue is accessible to readers who log into the IASSCS website. If you do not have an IASSCS username, please create one in the 'Member's Area'.

European domestic violence treaty to come into effect

Date: 24 April 2014
Source: Human Rights Watch

Denmark and Andorra have just become the tenth and eleventh European countries to ratify the Istanbul Convention, a ground-breaking treaty on violence against women. With the tenth ratification, the treaty will become binding on 1 August 2014.

European countries that have ratified the treaty are obligated to protect and support victims of violence. The treaty - the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, known informally as the 'Istanbul Convention', is the first European treaty specifically targeting violence against women and domestic violence. It sets out minimum standards on prevention, protection, prosecution and services. Countries ratifying must also establish services such as hotlines, shelters, medical services, counselling, and legal aid.

The treaty was adopted in Istanbul on 11 May 2011. More than half (25 of 47) of the countries that are Council of Europe members have signed the convention. To date, eleven countries have ratified: Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Andorra, Denmark, Italy, Montenegro, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, and Turkey.

A group of independent experts with the power to conduct country visits and review regular reports will monitor implementation of the treaty. The experts will be elected within a year following the entry into force.

Click here for a map of countries that have ratified, signed and not yet signed the treaty.


Veto US law to criminalise pregnant women

Date: 17 April 2014
Source: National Advocates for Pregnant Women

The state of Tennessee has just passed a law that would allow criminal assault charges to be filed against women who use illegal drugs during pregnancy. The bill has been passed by a majority and is now waiting for approval. If the governor neither vetoes nor signs it, the bill becomes law.

Criminalising pregnant drug-using women will make it harder for pregnant women to seek health care, at a time when they urgently need it. The law will have a wider impact also, as it has the potential to make a criminal of any pregnant woman who suffers a loss or gives birth to a baby with health problems.

Opposition is growing, with the New York Times publishing an editorial calling on Tennessee's Governor Haslam to veto the law. The editorial clearly stated that prosecutors should have no role in overseeing prenatal care.

To call for a veto of SB1391, please sign the petition on RH Reality Check.

Transgender constitutional rights recognised, India

Date: 16 April 2014
Source: Kafila

The Supreme Court of India has delivered a groundbreaking judgement that recognises the legal and constitutional rights of transgender persons, including the rights of the hijra community as a 'third gender'.

The judgement has been delivered on a petition by the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).

The Court judgement recognises a third gender category for hijras or equivalent cultural identities in order to facilitate legal rights. The judgement also states that transgender persons, for the purposes of the law, should be able to identify in the gender of their choice, which could be male, female or a third gender category. The judgement states that the term transgender includes 'pre-operative, post-operative and non-operative' transsexuals who strongly identify with persons of the opposite sex.

The Court has directed Central and state governments to take steps to treat transgender persons as a socially and educationally backward class entitled to reservations in educational institutions and public appointments. It also directed the Central and state governments to provide access to health care for transgender persons and provide them separate public toilets. The court observes that the denial of rights to transgender persons is based on the prevalent juridical assumption that law should target discrimination based on sex (i.e. whether a person is anatomically male or female) rather than gender (whether a person has qualities that are masculine or feminine).

The judgement, delivered by Justices KS Radhakrishnan and AK Sikri, has been hailed as one of the most rights-enhancing decisions in the Court's history, bringing hope and a promise of citizenship to a community that has largely been outside the legal framework.

Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity And Expression Caucus statement

Date: 16 April 2014
Source: International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission

The Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity And Expression (SOGIE) Caucus have issued a statement to the Commission on Population and Development, 47th Session. The statement has been endorsed by 97 organisations from 39 countries and is for general discussion.

People with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities and expressions experience crippling violence and debilitating discrimination in all regions of the world.

Legal and socially condoned discrimination marginalises many people with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities and expressions, putting them at additional risk of violence, HIV and other health problems. Discrimination and stigma further prevents these communities from seeking or receiving needed care. Too often, the result is preventable suffering, institutional violence and poverty.

Human rights, equality and non-discrimination are not "controversial issues". They are the building blocks of development and are fundamental to ensuring strong societies. The ICPD Programme of Action recognises the central role that human rights play in the achievement of sustainable development.

SOGIE states that attempts to silence discussion about human rights within this Commission are a shameful derogation from the accepted principles and standards of the ICPD Programme of Action. It is also unacceptable for representatives of States to attempt to derail negotiations by manipulating ideas about sexual orientation, gender identity and sexual rights for political gain.

View the full statement and a list of all signatories here.

LGBT fight for asylum, Switzerland

Date: 14 April 2014
Source: Organisation Mondiale Contre la Torture/World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

ctivists in Switzerland have taken up the case of O., a Nigerian gay man who has sought amnesty in Switzerland with his partner. In Nigeria, homosexuality is illegal and punishable by a prison sentence of up to 14 years. O. sought asylum, following receiving a death sentence from neighbours in his village. O.'s case was rejected by the Swiss authorities on the grounds that there is no evidence to back up his story and he would be able to hide his sexual orientation.

In Switzerland, only four asylum applications related to sexual orientation have been recognised among the 90 successful applications between 1993 and 2007. Applications have only been successful when applicants have been able to prove that they have already experienced persecution and can show proof of this persecution.

Human rights organisations, including Pinkcross, Sarigai, SOS Racisme and OMCT, are campaigning to highlight the dramatic human consequences that asylum seekers face when their asylum applications are rejected. It is a double violence to have freedom of sexual expression denied and then be asked to hide one's sexuality by another country.

See here for more information about the campaign.  


Two HPV shots enough to prevent cervical cancer, WHO

Date: 14 April 2014
Source: Guardian

The WHO's expert advisory group on immunisation (SAGE) have recommended that two shots of vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV), rather than the three doses currently recommended, will offer sufficient protection to girls so long as they have it before they reach the age of 15.

Sage also said the six month interval between doses can be lengthened to 12 months, if that helps immunisation programmes.

The decision will make the rollout of immunisation and the take-up in poor countries significantly easier.

Call for freedom to deliver outside hospital, Uruguay

Date: 11 April 2014
Source: Relacahupan (Latin American and Caribbean Network for the Humanization of Childbirth)

Midwives and women's rights activists in Uruguay are calling for support and solidarity to call for the right for women to give birth outside health institutions.

Currently, midwives in Uruguay have the right to assist childbirth, when there are no complications, anywhere. The Ministry has now proposed a change to these regulations, proposing that registered midwives can only assist women to deliver in public or private health facilities that have been accredited by the Ministry of Public Health.

The proposal has not yet been signed into law. There is a chance to change this proposal and ensure that women's sexual and reproductive rights - to choose where, how and with whom to give birth - are respected.

Abortion denied for raped 10-year-old girl, Senegal

Date: 4 April 2014
Source: Guardian

A 10-year-old girl who is pregnant with twins after she was raped by a neighbour has been forced to continue with her pregnancy, after human rights campaigners lost their fight to secure a legal route to abortion.

The case was taken up by the Senegalese Women's Lawyers’ Association, which runs a drop-in legal centre in Dakar. The girl is now five months pregnant. The women’s association will continue to keep up pressure on the authorities to ensure the girl gets regular scans and free medical care, whilst continuing to campaign for a change in the law.

The association is lobbying MPs to align Senegal's abortion legislation with the African Charter on Women's Rights. This charter has been ratified by Senegal but its provisions  - legal medical abortion in cases of rape and incest, or where a woman's physical or mental health is threatened - have never been added to the statute book.

Senegal's law on abortion, a French colonial law in place since 1810, is one of the harshest in Africa. Three doctors have to certify that the woman will die unless she terminates the pregnancy immediately. A doctor or pharmacist found guilty of having a role in a termination faces being struck off and a woman found guilty of abortion can be jailed for up to ten years. Forty women were held in custody in Senegal on charges linked to the crimes of abortion or infanticide in the first six months of last year, official figures show.


Supreme Court approves most of reproductive health law, Philippines

Date: 8 April 2014
Source: Amnesty International

The Philippine Supreme Court has unanimously upheld most of a landmark reproductive health law, which was signed into law in December 2012 but has been held under a restraining order until now, due to a legal challenge from the Catholic Church and faith-based groups. T

This decision will now require the government to provide free contraception to millions of the nation's poorest women. As well as enabling public health centres to distribute contraceptives, the law will also introduce reproductive health education into schools at a time when the birth-rate in the Philippines stands at around 25 per 1,000 people, one of the highest in Asia. 

In a country where 80% of the population is Roman Catholic, surveys have shown that 72% of Filipinos support the law. 

There were, however, some disappointing concessions. Eight provisions were deemed to be unconstitutional by the court, including Section 23, which would have prohibited health care practitioners from refusing to provide, or refusing to refer to others who would provide, reproductive health services. Section 23 would have also allowed married individuals to undergo reproductive health procedures without the consent of their spouse. Section 7 has also been removed. This would have required private health facilities, including those owned by religious groups, to provide family planning methods, including medical consultations, supplies and procedures. This provision would have also allowed girls under 18 who already have children or who have suffered a miscarriage to access modern family planning methods, including contraception, without the need for a written consent from their parents. 

The Supreme Court is the Philippines' highest tribunal. This decision can be appealed to the Supreme Court itself within 15 days. Appeals are common, but the court rarely reverses itself. If it is not appealed, the law will into effect after 15 days from the ruling's official promulgation.

CPD47: Unacceptable for youth sexual rights to be deemed too controversial

Date: 9 April 2014
Source: AWID

The Sexual and Reproductive Rights Youth Caucus have presented an oral statement to the 47th Session of the Commission on Population and Development (CPD47), in session at the moment. It was delivered by Youth Coalition on Sexual and Reproductive Rights member, Nur Hidayati Handayani.

Twenty years beyond Cairo, it is unacceptable for young people's sexual and reproductive health and rights to be deemed 'too controversial'. The youth coalition express deep disappointment in government calls for a procedural resolution instead of one that fully elaborates on key issues relevant to young people's lives.

Despite the ICPD Programme of Action and repeated calls from governments, civil society and young people for a sexual and reproductive rights based approach, services remain inaccessible. For young people, and especially young people who belong to the most marginalised and stigmatised populations, many barriers continue to impede the full realisation of sexual and reproductive health and rights.

The statement draws to attention the regular denial of young people's right to comprehensive sexuality education and access to comprehensive, sexual and reproductive health services. Restrictive and punitive laws, stigma, discrimination and the lack of youth-friendly services often prevent young people from seeking help or guidance on sexual and reproductive health issues.

The 20-year review of the ICPD Plan of Action offers member states and civil society the opportunity to not only assess progress and identify gaps, but to address the urgent unmet need of young people's sexual and reproductive health and rights.

The statement calls for governments to demonstrate their political commitment to sexual and reproductive health and rights by prioritising the removal of financial and legal obstacles to essential services and discriminatory laws and practices that violate youth rights, transformation of weak health systems and the elimination of social and economic inequalities, violence and discrimination.

Attack on gay rights, Egypt

Date: 9 April 2014
Source: Index on Censorship

A Cairo misdemeanour court has sentenced three men to eight years in prison "for committing homosexual acts". A fourth defendant in the case was sentenced to three years in prison with hard labour.

The men were arrested in March, following a police raid on a private apartment in Cairo where a party was being held. Prosecutors said one of the defendants had rented the apartment to receive "sexual deviants" in his home and host parties for them. While there are no laws banning homosexuality in Egypt, "debauchery" or breaking the country's law of public morals is outlawed. Egyptian courts use legislation on debauchery to prosecute gay people on charges of "contempt of religion" and "sexual immorality".

The severe sentences the four men received have raised concerns among rights campaigners of a widening crackdown on Egypt's long-oppressed and marginalised gay community. The recent crackdown is reminiscent of a security clampdown in 2001, before the Arab Spring. In May 2001, 52 people suspected of being gay were arrested on charges of immorality during a raid on a tourist boat moored on the Nile in Cairo. Twenty three of the men were sentenced to up to five years in prison with hard labour. Some analysts said at the time that the sudden crackdown was a means of diverting attention away from the regime's failures.

Many of Egypt's gay men and women were at the heart of the January 2011 protests demanding democracy, freedom and social justice. They had hoped that the revolution would usher in a new era of change including greater freedoms and tolerance, allowing them to better integrate into mainstream society.

However, rights campaigners report that the situation has worsened since the Arab Spring. Even following the removal of an Islamic government in July 2013, there has been a rise in the number of arrests of people based on their sexual orientation, along with a wider crackdown on personal freedoms.

Targeted HIV treatment as prevention may make public health sense, Vietnam

Date: 8 April 2014
Source: Aidsmap

A new model for estimating HIV transmission risk suggests that, in concentrated HIV epidemics, targeting specific highly connected individuals (that is, those who are likely to potentially transmit HIV to others who, in turn, are likely to transmit HIV) for prevention resources may have a disproportionately powerful effect in bringing down HIV prevalence.

The model was developed by Brian Williams, of the South African Centre for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis (SACEMA), using data from Can Tho, a province in southern Vietnam. In theory it could be applied everywhere with sufficient surveillance data. It focuses not on the number of people who have HIV overall or in specific groups, but on the amount of people to whom that person is likely to transmit HIV before they recover or die.

The model estimated how many people in Can Tho were likely to receive HIV from individuals according to their combination of HIV risk behaviours - sex work, drug injection, men who have sex with men - and, in turn, the likelihood of passing HIV onto others. The model suggested that 41% of HIV infections involved a person who injects drugs either as a transmitter or recipient and 30% a female sex worker. People who belonged to more than one group bore an even greater burden of infections and transmissions. The conclusions of the model, in this setting, are to prioritise people who inject drugs as a group and female sex workers as individuals when it comes to offering HIV treatment and other prevention services. This does not mean not offering ART to others, but it does suggest people who inject drugs and female sex workers should have a high priority if resources are stretched. This is the opposite of what happens in some countries, where people who inject drugs, in particular, are more likely to be excluded from prevention services and ART than some other groups.

Sexual rights round up

Date: 7 April 2014
Source: Sexual Rights Initiative

The Sexual Rights Initiative has produced a summary of news from the 25th session of the UN Human Rights Council, which took place from 3-28 March 2014.

The first week of the four-week session comprised of a 'High-level segment' during which high-level dignitaries addressed the Council.

News from the session and oral statements are summarised here. Reports include the report from a one-day parallel event on 'Intersectionality and Impunity: locating sexual orientation and gender identity in human rights'. This side event discussed human rights violations in relation to sexual orientation, gender identities and expressions and explored ways to address them.

There are also reports and oral statements on the rights of people with disabilities and sexuality, sexual violence in DRC and the link between sexuality and a range of rights such as right to food and the situation of human rights defenders.

Call: Production of Universal Periodic Review report on sexual rights

Date: 7 April 2014
Source: Sexual Rights Initiative

The Sexual Rights Initiative is seeking activists, researchers, academics and/or organisations who are interested in producing a 5-page report on critical sexual and reproductive rights issues in the following countries: Kyrgyzstan, Kiribati, Guinea, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Spain, Lesotho, Kenya, Armenia, Guinea-Bissau, Sweden, Grenada, Turkey, Guyana and Kuwait.

The report is or the next session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN Human Rights Council. Typically, content for the report includes analysis of laws, policies and programmes, positive advances at the national level, analysis in implementation gaps, etc., in addition to concrete recommendations directed towards the state under review. 

Every country is reviewed by UN Member States under the UPR process every 4.5 years on their human rights record, including sexual rights. This process has proven to be a powerful tool to hold governments accountable for sexual rights violations and to locate sexual rights as a crosscutting issue in human rights law. Past reviews have successfully brought attention to the criminalisation of abortion, sexuality education, reproductive rights, violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, criminalisation of sex work, among many other issues.

For more information on the UPR process see 'Sexual Rights & the UPR: A Toolkit for Advocates'.

The SRI is seeking to collaborate with activists, organizations and academics who:
- Work on sexual rights as a broad and holistic concept, including human rights related to gender, sexuality and reproduction
- Work on any issues engaging rights to sexual autonomy and free and full decision-making as to all matters of sexuality
- Have knowledge of policies and laws operating in their country that impact sexual rights
- Live and work in one of the countries up for review
- Write fluently in English, Spanish or French

Interested individuals or organisations please send organizational information or CV to Sarah Kennell (
sarah@acpd.ca) urgently.

Masculinities - journal article collection

Date: 4 April 2014
Source: Routledge Journals

Routledge Journals are offering free access to a range of journal articles on masculinities for a limited period of time. The articles seek to explore the multifaceted concept of masculinity across multiple academic subject areas, including gender studies, sociology, behavioural studies, law, politics, and ethnicity.

The free collection can be accessed here.


Kenyan women want justice over post-election violence

Date: 28 March 2014
Source: Guardian

In February, Kenya's director of public prosecutions, Keriako Tobiko, announced that his office would bring no cases related to the 2007-08 atrocities before a new international crimes division within the high court. Now, eight survivors and four civil society organisations have taken court action against him and Kenya's attorney general for failure to act.

In February, Tobiko claimed a special taskforce had reviewed 5,000 cases related to the period, and 1,000 of these had been prosecuted, with 500 convictions. Yet the government will not provide any information to substantiate this claim. The claim is contradicted by the record of impunity and prior statements about the nature and extent of investigations and prosecutions made by the office of public prosecutions. There have never been prosecutions of mid- and senior-level offenders, including many police officers. For most survivors, the Kenyan justice system has been unresponsive, at best.

The women who have launched the trial received police and medical reports after they had been raped. Their cases have never been investigated.


Legal protection of rapists to be struck out, Mozambique

Date: 1 April 2014
Source: Amnesty International

Mozambique's authorities have publicly undertaken to strike down the proposed law which would have enabled rapists to escape prosecution by marrying their victims.

The parliamentary Legal, Human Rights and Constitutional Affairs Commission announced on 20 March that an article enabling rapists to escape prosecution by marrying their victims would be struck from the draft Criminal Code.

Under Article 223 of the proposed draft Code, criminal charges could be suspended against anyone who married the person they were accused of raping. The president of the commission said that although the draft Criminal Code would still be discussed, Article 223 would no longer be included.

Although the authorities have undertaken to remove this article, the draft law still contains a provision preventing criminal proceedings against alleged sex offenders from being started unless survivors of sexual abuse, their parent or guardian if they are "minors" (a word whose meaning varies within the Code), or a person they live with, make an official complaint. In many cases survivors of sexual abuse may be discouraged from reporting the abuse by shame, fear or pressure from third parties. Another concern is the Article which refers to rape of "minors" under 12 years of age. By referring to minors as those under 12 years of age this article effectively deprives children aged between 12 and 18 years of the special legislative protection they merit and violates Mozambique’s national and international human rights obligations.

Amnesty International are asking people to write immediately:

Welcoming the news that Article 223 will be struck from the Penal Code, and urging the authorities to stand by this undertaking;
- Expressing concern that the draft law still contains a provision preventing criminal proceedings from being started unless the survivor their guardian or a person living with them has lodged an official complaint, and calling on the authorities to remove this provision;
- Expressing concern about the Article which refers to rape of minors under 12 years of age and calling on the authorities to ensure that the protection of this law applies to all those aged under 18, to bring it into accordance with international and national laws.

Please send appeals before 6 May 2014 to:

Presidenta Dra. Verónica Nataniel Macamo Dlhovo
Assembleia da República
Palácio do Quarto Congresso
Avenida 24 de Julho
República de Moçambique
Salutation: Exma. Senhora

Commission president
Presidente Dr Teodoro Andrade Waty
Comissão dos Assuntos Jurídicos, Direitos Humanos e Legalidade da Assembleia da República
Palácio do Quarto Congresso
Avenida 24 de Julho
República de Moçambique
Salutation: Exmo. Senhor



HIV incidence high among pregnant and post-partum women

Date: 25 March 2014
Source: Aidsmap

A new systematic review and meta-analysis finds that HIV incidence is high among pregnant and postpartum women. The study stresses the importance of offering repeat HIV tests to women in high-prevalence settings during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Current guidelines recommend that women who are identified as HIV negative during initial antenatal screening should have repeat HIV tests during pregnancy and post-partum, because of the ongoing risk of acquiring HIV during pregnancy and breastfeeding. This systematic review and meta-analysis analysed 47 studies, published from 1980 to 2013, and including 22,803, all from sub-Saharan Africa. 

The review found that HIV incidence was 3.8 per 100 person-years during pregnancy and 2.9 per 100 person-years post-partum. Incidence of infection during pregnancy and post-partum was highest in southeast Africa (6.2 per 100 person-years), followed by south Africa (4.8 per 100 person-years), east Africa (2.7 per 100 person-years) and west Africa (0.7 per 100 person-years). Pooled incidence rates were comparable to, or higher than, those of non-pregnant ‘high risk’ individuals, including female sex workers, HIV-discordant couples and men who have sex with men.

Policy on violence against women under development, Pakistan

Date: 29 March 2014
Source: The Nation 

A national policy on violence against women is under development by Pakistan's Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights, in consultation with the provincial governments, according to recent reports.

The Punjab government has proposed an amendment to the Poisons Act to discourage acid throwing incidents on women. Acid throwing is also being considered under anti-terrorism laws.  provincial board of Acid Burns Survivors and a Fund is being established in Punjab to recommend specialised medical and psychological care for victims.

Tajikistan lifts travel restrictions for people living with HIV

Date: 28 March 2014
Source: UNAIDS

Tajikistan has lifted all restrictions on entry, stay and residence for people living with HIV in Tajikistan.
The amendments to the Law on HIV/AIDS were signed by the President of Tajikistan on 14 March 2014.

Global health law - new publication

Date: 31 March 2014
Source: Harvard University Press

A new publication, Global Health Law, by law professor Lawrence O. Gostin, offers a comprehensive exploration of the law and global health justice. The book explores the growing field of global health law, stresses the need for effective global governance for health and offers a blueprint for reform, based on the principle that the opportunity to live a healthy life is a basic human right.

The book argues that it is critical for institutions and international agreements to focus not only on illness but also on the essential conditions that enable people to stay healthy throughout their lifespan - nutrition, clean water, mosquito control and tobacco reduction. Policies that shape agriculture, trade, and the environment have long-term impacts on health, and Gostin proposes major reforms of global health institutions and governments to ensure better coordination, more transparency, and accountability. He illustrates the power of global health law with case studies on AIDS, influenza, tobacco, and health worker migration.

Global leaders call for safe, legal abortion

Date: 25 March 2014
Source: IPAS

Political, health and human rights leaders from more than 30 countries issued a declaration today, The Airlie Declaration for Safe Legal Abortion, calling for the repeal of all criminal abortion laws and universal access to safe legal abortion. 

The Declaration calls on governments to make safe legal abortion universally available and accessible to all women regardless of age, income, or where they live.

The Declaration was agreed at a two-day meeting at Airlie Center, Virginia, against the backdrop of the 20-year review by the United Nations of the Program of Action of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo and global debates about the post-2015 development agenda.

The Airlie Declaration focuses on the slow progress on improving access to safe abortion since the Cairo conference, drawing attention to estimates that more than 1 million women have died and more than 100 million have suffered injuries - many of them lifelong - due to complications from unsafe abortion.

The organisers noted that, whilst the agreement at the ICPD in Cairo to make abortion 'safe where legal' was a breakthrough at the time, it is unsatisfactory in many respects. Now is the time to call for safe, legal abortion wherever women need it.

The Airlie Declaration is available online at www.safeabortionpost2015.org.

New funding for reproductive health - Burkina Faso, Nicaragua, Senegal, Uganda

Date: 27 March 2014
Source: Guardian

A new $50 million scheme will provide advocacy grants to civil society groups in Burkina Faso, Nicaragua, Senegal and Uganda. The scheme is a partnership between Bloomberg Philanthropies and the UN Foundation.

Organisations working among marginalised groups such as young people and unmarried women will be a particular focus for the scheme, which will also support agencies that lobby their governments for legislation and policies that support access to services.

As part of the package, Bloomberg is partnering with the UN Foundation to launch a rapid-response grants programme to support governments and providers in delivering reproductive health services in 69 of the world's poorest countries. This could include providing grants to pay for emergency supplies of contraceptives when there is a stockout at a health centre, or paying for specialised training for health workers.


More community action needed on sexual violence

Date: 25 March 2014
Source: IRIN

IRIN has compiled a series of resources on sexual violence, asking why violence against women continues to be treated with indiffierence by so many, despite the global outrage of the brutal  gang rape and murder of an Indian student. The resources include the following:

- A
multimedia package that explores the apathy of a wounded society, which tolerates sexual violence, in a rural South African town. 
- A
 15-minute film, War on Women, shows how impunity shields perpetrators of sexual violence in the Congo.
- An exploration of
what drives one in four men in Asia to commit rape.
- A report on sexual predation against Afghan boys by older men, concealed behind the veil of tradition.

Stories also highlight signs of hope: brave women and men within communities demanding change, working to make a difference. An audio slideshow, by a Kenyan rape survivor, Ziborah Iala, shows the power that women and men have to heal.

Unwanted pregnancy and abortion, Burkina Faso

Date: 24 March 2014

One third of all pregnancies in Burkina Faso are unintended and a third of them end in abortion, according to a recent study by the University of Ouagadougou and the Guttmacher Institute. The study found that more than 100,000 abortions were carried out in the country in 2012, most of them performed in unsafe conditions or by untrained health workers.

Abortion is illegal in most circumstances in Burkina Faso, but the rate of abortion in rural Burkina Faso is 22 per 1,000 women and 28 for 1,000 in urban areas. In Ouagadougou the rate is 42 out of 1,000. Almost four in 10 of women who have an unsafe abortion suffer complications and do not receive proper health care. The report found that out that 13% of abortions had been performed by midwives and trained male birth attendants and 12% by health assistants. However, none of them had received training in safe abortion techniques. Only 3% were believed to have been conducted by doctors. The rest were through other means.

The study recommends the expansion of family planning programmes throughout the country's primary health services and the provision of family planning counselling and methods, which should be made a routine part of post abortion care. Currently almost one quarter of women (23.8%) have no access to contraceptives. An effective family planning policy targeting teenagers and youths could reduce maternal mortality by 30%, says the health ministry. Family planning services should be altered so that teenagers are more able to access them.

The government in 2013 agreed to halve the already subsidised contraceptive costs. A pack of contraceptive pills will cost 50 francs ($0.10) and a contraceptive implant 500 francs, from April 2014. However, the health ministry says no legal amendments on abortion are being considered at the moment. Under the law, abortion in permitted only when the woman's life is in danger, in cases of incest, rape and foetal impairment.

The report can be viewed here.


Attacks on health workers undermine health care, Nepal

Date: 21 March 2014
Source: IRIN

Regular attacks and harassment of Nepalese health workers are undermining health care in the country, authorities and doctors say.

Such attacks have been specifically outlawed in Nepal since 2010, but pervasive impunity since the end of Nepal's decade-long civil war in 2006 has resulted in weak enforcement of existing laws and little faith in formal mechanisms for resolving disputes.

A 2010 report by The Asia Foundation, entitled Impunity In Nepal: A Study of Excesses in the Transition, viewed attacks on doctors as a symptom of post-war impunity. When patients at hospitals died owing to the alleged negligence of doctors or hospitals, family members and onlookers stormed hospitals and attacked medics rather than let the law take its course. A 2013 survey of 747 healthcare workers in Nepal reported that nearly one quarter felt insecure at their workplace due to threats or attacks. A 2012 report by Merlin, an international health care organisation working on health care, reported seven deaths related to doctor-patient disputes, with limited support from local government officials in conflict resolution.

At the same time, patients and their families can also face degrading treatment in health centres, spurred by weak communication skills by staff. Interviews with Nepalese doctors and foreign health care interns highlighted doctors yelling at patients or even hitting them and an unwillingness to explain procedures.

A 2014 article in Health Science Journal cited violence against healthcare workers in Nepal as one of the main reasons Nepali doctors and nurses leave the country to seek employment abroad.

Resource on maternal and newborn morbidity and mortality

Date: 20 March 2014
Source: World Health Organization

New analyses of the WHO Multi-Country Survey on Maternal and Newborn Health are now available in an Open Access supplement of BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 

These new analyses of the cover a wide range of issues, including the major causes of maternal mortality and severe morbidity and social determinants of health. 

Significant findings include:

- Higher risk of abortion-related death amongst women under 20 years of age, single women and women undergoing late abortions.
- Indirect causes of maternal mortality were responsible for about 20 and 25% of severe maternal outcomes and maternal deaths, respectively.
- Higher risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes in adolescent pregnancy and women of advanced maternal age

The articles highlight a number of policy recommendations. The supplement is Open Access, all articles are available to download from the BJOG website.


Conference on ending female genital mutilation, European Union

Date: 20 March 2014
Source: Replace 2

REPLACE 2 International Conference
Prevention or Prosecution? The Behaviour change approach to tackling FGM in the EU
Friday 11th April 2014
Venue: Coventry University's London Campus, UK

Registration deadline: 8th April 2014

Coventry University is hosting the third international interdisciplinary conference on female genital mutilation.

REPLACE 2 aims to implement and evaluate the REPLACE community-based behaviour change intervention framework to tackle female genital mutilation in the EU, specifically in six countries: England, the Netherlands, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Belgium.

Speakers include the UK Crime Prevention Minister at the Home Office, anti-FGM activists and researchers.

For submission of abstracts and online registration, click here.

New HIV prevention vaginal ring trials show mixed results

Date: 20 March 2014
Source: Aidsmap

Research into vaginal rings containing the experimental anti-HIV drug, dapivirine, were well tolerated and blocked HIV infection of cervical tissue samples. However, rings containing maraviroc did not produce adequate drug concentrations, according to reports at the 21st Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Boston.

An ongoing phase 1 clinical trial (MTN-013/IPM 026) is evaluating the safety, pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of vaginal rings containing two anti-HIV drugs - dapivirine alone, maraviroc (Celsentri) alone, both drugs in one ring and a placebo ring. The study is being conducted with 48 sexually abstinent, HIV-negative women in the US.

After wearing the rings for 28 days, participants underwent cervical biopsies to collect tissue samples, which were then exposed to HIV in the laboratory. All the vaginal rings were generally safe and well-tolerated. Levels of dapivirine in cervical tissue samples were sufficient to block HIV infection in cervical tissue in both single drug and combination rignts. However, only four of the 24 women using maraviroc-only or combination rings had measurable levels of maraviroc.

The non-profit International Partnership for Microbicides said that they were doing additional development work to try to increase the amount of maraviroc that gets into cervical tissue and are planning a second safety study for 2015. Vaginal rings release drugs slowly over time, which could help with adherence.

South Sudanese call to stop rape and gender violence

Date: 19 March 2014
Source: International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict

Campaigners have called on the international community to take urgent action and end the violence in South Sudan during a regional meeting of the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict in Nairobi.

The statement issued from the meeting supports the calls of grassroots women's activists in South Sudan who are continuing to struggle for meaningful participation at peace talks and ensure humanitarian access to the region.

The current conflict in South Sudan is disproportionally impacting women and children.

Download the full statement here.


Challenge to family protection statement, Human Rights Commission

Date: 18 March 2014
Source: Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

The Sexual Rights Initiative (SRI) and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) are highly concerned over the "protection of the family" joint statement at the recent session of the Human Rights Council. 

This statement seriously undermines the important work the Council has led to tackle the issues of child, early and forced marriage, violence against children, child sexual abuse, domestic violence and violence against women. 

SRI and WIILPF urge all States to NOT sign onto this or to WITHDRAW their endorsement if they have already signed.

Whilst families are viewed as a basic social unit, and can be a source of protection, families often times are also the site of violence. This is the case when there is one head of the family, usually the eldest male member of the family, who has the authority to make decisions on the family's behalf.

omestic violence against women occurs in the supposedly safe space of the family and most times involves women being assaulted by male family members.

The Human Rights Council passed the historic resolution condemning child, early and forced marriages in June 2013. Such marriages will continue if families are given the right and authority to marry children at any age to whomsoever they want without any accountability.

Child sexual abuse is most commonly perpetrated by a family member. Recently considerable efforts have gone into creating systems where children are protected from violence alongside efforts to also prevent such violence. "Protection of the family2 fails children by ignoring complaints and symptoms of sexual violence or by not taking action, because most times it is a member of the family perpetrating this violence.

Abortions banned in public hospitals, Turkey

Date: 13 March 2014
Source: International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion

The Turkish Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology claimed state hospitals have effectively abolished abortion operations, delivered through a written statement on 11 March.

The group reported that, although it is supposed to be carried out freely for up to 10 weeks, abortion has been removed from the system without any legal basis. The code for abortion on the online appointment system has been removed and all of the services and controls on abortion were automatically stopped.

The Health Ministry has rejected these claims, saying that abortion operations up to ten weeks of pregnancy were carried out in state hospitals and birth control methods were applied free of charge. However, the Ministry did not address the criticism that abortion was removed from the online system.

In 2012, the parliament passed a bill limiting the abortions to ten weeks, requiring sentences on women who underwent medically unnecessary abortions after the tenth week of pregnancy.

Proposed law lowers marriage age to nine years, Iraq

Date: 12 March 2014
Source: Human Rights Watch

Iraq's Council of Ministers has approved a draft law, the Jaafari Personal Status Law, that would make it easier for men to take multiple wives and allow girls to be married from age nine. The draft law must now be approved by parliament to become law.

The draft law is based on principles of the Jaafari school of Shia religious jurisprudence and would cover Iraq's majority Shia citizens and residents. It includes provisions that prohibit Muslim men from marrying non-Muslims, legalises marital rape by stating that a husband is entitled to have sex with his wife regardless of her consent and prevents women from leaving the house without permission from their husbands. The law would automatically grant custody over any child age two or older to the father in divorce cases, lower the marriage age to nine for girls and fifteen for boys and allow girls younger than nine to be married with a parent's approval.

The law was introduced to the Council of Ministers by the Justice Minister in October 2013. In December, the council said it would postpone considering the draft until after legislative elections scheduled for April 2014, and after the supreme Shia religious authority approved the draft, which it has not yet done. But the council went ahead and approved it on 25 February, despite strong opposition from rights advocates and some religious leaders.

Iraq's current Personal Status Law , which applies to all Iraqis regardless of sect, sets the legal age for marriage at 18, but allows for a judge to permit girls as young as 15 to be married in "urgent" cases.

A broad spectrum of Iraqi rights activists, Sunni and Shia religious leaders and judges have criticised the draft law as discriminatory, violating religious texts and, because the law would single out one sect, entrenching sectarian divisions in law. The Iraqi Women's Network held protests on 8 March, International Women's Day, calling it a day of mourning in Iraq.

Calls for acceleration of MDGs for women and girls

Date: 10 March 2014
Source: AWID

The 58th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, from 10-21 March 2014, opened with a strong call to make women's rights and gender equality a reality for women and girls.

The UN Secretary-General emphasised the importance of championing the rights of women in the post 2015 development agenda.
He made a call for quality sexual reproductive health and services and for ensuring women’s reproductive rights. While maternal health is improving and child mortality is dropping significantly, too many women and girls continue to die every day because of pregnancy-related causes, almost all of them are from developing countries, who die from preventable causes. He made the crucial link between violence against women and HIV.

Saraswathi Menon, of UN Women, spoke at an IPPF event on 'Sexual and reproductive health and rights - a crucial agenda for the post-2015 framework'. She called for a move beyond the narrowing of reproductive health to childbearing, as was done in the MDGs, and for more attention to be paid to the rights that underpin women's autonomy in sexual and reproductive matters. Her speech can be viewed here.

Compiled text of agreed conclusions will be regularly updated throughout the Commission and can be viewed here.


Sexually transmitted infections greatly increase risk of HIV infection in pregnancy, Kenya

Date: 11 March 2014
Source: Aidsmap

New research from Kenya suggests that pregnant women in Kenya have a similar risk of HIV infection during pregnancy to serodiscordant couples or sex workers.

Women with a history of sexually transmitted infections had close to a four-fold increased risk of acute HIV infection, having syphilis led to a ten-fold and bacterial vaginosis close to three-fold increased risk. The findings underscore the importance of screening for and treatment of STIs in HIV prevention.

The findings
come from a a prospective cohort study of pregnant and postpartum women in western Kenya, conducted between May 2011 and June 2013. In the study, more than half of all incident HIV infections diagnosed were acute infections detected during pregnancy. These findings reinforce the need for repeat HIV testing during pregnancy and underscore the need to use more sensitive methods to detect HIV, especially in regions with high HIV prevalence and incidence.

Brazil gives monetary reparation for maternal death

Date: 11 March 2014
Source: Center for Reproductive Rights

The Brazilian government has given monetary reparations to Maria Lourdes da Silva Pimentel, the mother of Alyne - an Afro-Brazilian woman who did not receive immediate medical attention for her pregnancy complications and later died. The reparations are part of the first United Nations ruling on human rights violations in her maternal death case. 

Almost three years after CEDAW declared Brazil responsible for the death of Alyne and called on the state to provide access to quality maternal health care without discrimination, the Brazilian government provided her mother with reparations and will place a plaque telling Alyne's story on April 3, at a maternity ward in Nova Iguaçu Hospital that was renamed in Alyne’s honour last year.


Intersex peoples' rights at the UN Human Rights Council

Date: 10 March 2014
Source: Organisation Intersex International Australia

A side event at the 25th Session of the UN Human Rights Council considered the rights of intersex people for the first time.

The event looked at the long-term consequences for children subjected to irreversible surgery to "normalise" their genitals before they are old enough to give consent. Panellists at the event highlighted the genital mutilation, torture, trauma and discrimination that intersex people face and called for concrete action that states and the international community must take to protect intersex people.

HIV transmission to infants down to lowest level yet, UK

Date: 10 March 2014
Source: Public Health England

HIV transmission from mother to infant in the UK has dropped four-fold in 10 years, to one of the lowest levels globally. The transmission rates dropped from 2.1% in 2000-2001 down to 0.46% in 2010-2011.

Pregnant women in the England and Wales are routinely offered screening for HIV, hepatitis B, syphilis and susceptibility to rubella infection. Screening is vital to identify those pregnant women who do not know they are infected with HIV. Almost 685,000 pregnant women were screened in the UK in 2012, with just over 1,300 testing HIV positive.

HIV and intergenerational sex findings, South Africa

Date: 7 March 2014

Having a sexual relationship with an older man is not putting young women at increased risk of HIV, new research conducted in rural South Africa concludes.

The findings confound a theory, suggested by previous studies of HIV prevalence -that younger women in sub-Saharan Africa are put at high risk of acquiring HIV as a results of relationships with older men.

The latest research is the first study to follow women over a long period, looking at HIV incidence and age of sexual partners.

Over 2,400 HIV-negative women, aged between 15 and 49, were recruited to the study and tested annually for HIV between 2005 and 2012. Women in the 15 to 29 age group had sexual partners who were on average five years older than they were. But HIV incidence among these women did not differ according to the age of their partners. For women aged 30 to 49, having an older partner actually reduced the risk of acquiring HIV. Women with a partner who was between five and ten years older were more than one third less likely to acquire HIV compared to women who had partners of a similar age to themselves, while women with a partner who was ten or more years older had their risk of acquiring HIV reduced by more than half.

Stigma and violence face men who have sex with men, Myanmar

Date: 7 March 2014
IRIN News 

A colonial-era law criminalising 'unnatural’ sex is reinforcing the stigma against men who have sex with men in Myanmar and is hindering efforts to prevent and treat HIV, AIDS experts and activists say.

Earlier in the week, two men who had marked their ten year anniversary together with a wedding-style event have been denounced in the media. Some monks, lawyers and police are now calling for a rarely-enforced colonial era law - Section 377 of the Penal Code - to be used to imprison the couple.

The day after the ceremony was reported in the news, Myanmar's largest newspaper, Eleven Daily, equated sex between men to bestiality, and asked why the couple were not being investigated under this penal code. The director of rights group, Equality Myanmar, which is leading the campaign to repeal Section 377, said Eleven Media was using hate speech to stoke homophobia.

Increased hostility against MSM could make it harder to reach the community's most hidden members, according to a Population Services International spokesperson. PSI operates the largest HIV outreach programme in Yangon.

Myanmar's National AIDS Programme (NAP) puts the number of men who have sex with men at 240,000 out of an estimated 60 million people. Less than 30% of this number have received HIV prevention services. This low level of outreach to a group that may also be vastly underestimated alarms experts. Concerns are compounded by the lack of sex education in Myanmar.

NAP conducted its first surveillance of HIV prevalence among MSM in 2007, finding a 29% infection rate. The rate is about 7-8% now, compared to less than 0.6% for the overall population.

Call to end child marriage, Malawi

Date: 6 March 2014
Source: Human Rights Watch

A new report from Human Rights Watch has called on the Malawi government to take stronger action to combat child marriage.

According to government statistics, half of the girls in Malawi will be married by their 18th birthday, with some as young as age 9 or 10 being forced to marry.

The report, 'I've never experienced happiness': child marriage in Malawi, documents how child marriage prevents girls and women from participating in all spheres of life. The practice violates the rights to health, to education, to be free from physical, mental, and sexual violence, and to marry only when able and willing to give free and full consent.

Malawi's first woman president, Joyce Banda, who took office in April 2012, should publicly support prompt enactment of the Marriage, Divorce, and Family Relations Bill (Marriage Bill), which includes vital protections against child marriage, Human Rights Watch said.

The full report can be downloaded here.


Human rights in contraceptive programming

Date: 6 March 2014
WHO Reproductive Health Update

WHO has launched new guidance to help countries ensure human rights are respected in providing more girls, women and couples with the information and services they need to avoid unwanted pregnancies.

An estimated 222 million girls and women who do not want to get pregnant, or who want to delay their next pregnancy, are not using any method of contraception. Access to contraception information and services will allow better planning for families and improved health.

The guidance recommends that everyone who wants contraception should be able to obtain detailed and accurate information, and a variety of services, such as counselling as well as contraceptive products. It also underlines the need for no discrimination, coercion or violence, with special attention given to assuring access to those who are disadvantaged and marginalised.

Other key measures are scientifically accurate sex education programmes for young people, including information on how to use and acquire contraceptives. The guidance states that adolescents should be able to seek contraceptive services without having to obtain permission from parents or guardians. It also recommends that women be able to request services without having to obtain authorization from their husbands. It emphasises the importance of respecting the privacy of individuals, including confidentiality of medical and other personal information.

The International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo in 1994 highlighted the importance of a rights-based approach to family planning. The past 20 years have seen a large amount of work demanding and defining a rights-based approach to health services - including contraception. Yet there has been comparatively little practical advice how to do so. This guidance aims to address that gap.The guidance also suggests ways to improve supply chains and affordability, recommends additional training for health workers, and outlines a series of steps to improve access in crisis settings, in HIV clinics, and during pre-natal and post-natal care.

The guidance is available here, with executive summaries also available in French and Spanish.


Court rules being gay not a crime, Lebanon

Date: 4 March 2014
Source; Huffington Post 

A court in Lebanon has made a historic ruling stating same-sex relations are not "contradicting the laws of nature" and cannot therefore be considered a crime.

A judge in Beirut threw out a case brought against an unnamed transgender woman by the Lebanese state.

The transgender woman was accused by the state of having a same sex relationship with a man. However, the judge rejected the case based on accepting a previous ruling by the Lebanese NGO, Legal Agenda and Helem, which found that gender identity is not only defined by the legal papers but that the evolution of the person and his/her perception of his/her gender should be taken into consideration. The ruling also found that homosexuality is an exception to the norms but not unnatural. Therefore article 534 (which prohibits sexual relations that "contradict the laws of nature") cannot be used against homosexuals, and therefore, technically, homosexuality is not illegal.

Although the concept of legal precedent does not apply in Lebanon, hopefully this ruling will encourage more judges to make the right choice.

Petition against anti-women law, Mozambique

Date: 4 March 2014
Source: AWID 

Survivors of sexual abuse in Mozambique are at risk of being deprived of justice and having their rights violated by proposed amendments to the Criminal Code to be brought before parliament in March.

In March the Mozambique National Assembly will consider proposed revisions to the Criminal Code, which contains an article which would enable rapists to escape prosecution by marrying their victim.

The article provides for the suspension of criminal charges against a person accused of sexual offences if that person marries the person whom they allegedly sexually violated. It further provides that any penalty imposed will be suspended and dropped after five years of marriage unless there has been a divorce or separation caused by the accused.

In addition, the draft Criminal Code contains a provision preventing criminal proceedings against alleged sex offenders to be started unless survivors of sexual abuse, their parent or guardian if they are minors, or a person they live with make an official complaint.

Please write immediately in Portuguese, English or your own language:

* Expressing concern that the draft Criminal Code containing an article which enables rapists to escape prosecution by marrying their victim has been provisionally passed and could become law if passed by parliament in March;
* Expressing concern that it prevents criminal proceedings to be started against alleged perpetrators unless there is an official complaint from the victim, guardian or a person living with them;
* Stating that this law allows rapists to commit crimes with impunity, in violation of women's and girls' rights not to be subjected to torture and ill-treatment; this law is also a retrogression of the rights of women and girls in the country and places survivors of sexual abuse at risk of being deprived of justice, as well as being subjected to a profoundly abusive situation where they will be subjected to further acts of rape, under the obscene guise of a so-called 'marriage'; and calling on the authorities not to pass this into law.

Please send appeals before 15 March 2014 to:

Presidenta Dra. Verónica Nataniel
Macamo Dlhovo
Assembleia da República
Palácio do Quarto Congresso
Avenida 24 de Julho
República de Moçambique
Fax: +258 21400711 or +258 21225179
: Exma. Senhora

Presidente Dr Teodoro Andrade Waty
Comissão dos Assuntos Jurídicos, Direitos Humanos e Legalidade da Assembleia da República
Palácio do Quarto Congresso
Avenida 24 de Julho
República de Moçambique
Fax: +258 21400711 or +258 21408846
Salutation: Exmo. Senhor

New findings show HIV treatment is prevention for gay men

Date: 4 March 2014
Source: Aidsmap

The second large study to look at whether people with HIV become non-infectious if they are on antiretroviral therapy, the PARTNER study, has found no cases where someone with a viral load under 200 copies/ml transmitted HIV, either by anal or vaginal sex.

Statistical analysis shows that the maximum likely chance of transmission via anal sex from someone on successful HIV treatment was 1% a year for any anal sex and 4% for anal sex with ejaculation where the HIV-negative partner was receptive, but the true likelihood is probably much nearer to zero than this.

The previous study, HPTN 052, established in 2011 that the efficacy of antiretroviral therapy in the HIV-positive partner was at least 96% in heterosexual couples, but had too few gay couples in it to establish if the same applied to anal sex.

The PARTNER study has so far recruited 1110 couples where the partners have differing HIV status. Nearly 40% of the couples are gay. In total, 767 couples took part in this two-year interim analysis and there were a total of 894 couple-years of follow-up. Among the heterosexual couples, HIV serostatus was split evenly - in half the couples the man had HIV and in the other half, the woman.

There were significant differences between the gay and heterosexual couples. At baseline, gay couples had been having condomless sex for a shorter period on average: 1.5 years versus 2.5 for heterosexual men and 3.5 for women.

During the follow-up period, all the heterosexual HIV-negative partners reported condomless vaginal sex and 70% of the gay HIV-negative partners reported receptive anal sex. A significant proportion of the heterosexual couples reported anal sex.

In PARTNER so far there have been no transmissions within couples from a partner with an undetectable viral load, in what was estimated as 16,400 occasions of sex in the gay men and 14,000 in the heterosexuals. Although some of the HIV-negative partners became HIV positive (exactly how many will be revealed in later analyses), genetic testing of the HIV revealed that in all cases the virus came from someone other than the main partner.

At a press conference, PARTNER study principal investigator Dr Jens Lundgren pointed out that this meant that there was a maximum 5% chance that over a ten-year period, one in ten HIV-negative partners in a gay couple who had unprotected anal sex might acquire HIV; equally, though, it was more likely that their chance of acquiring HIV from their partner was nearer to zero, and indeed could be zero.

PARTNER is still recruiting gay male couples and, as noted above, its full results will not be out till 2017. Till then it is necessary to remain cautious about what it has proved. It will probably never be possible to show with mathematical certainty that the risk of transmission from someone on successful HIV therapy is absolutely zero.

Misoprostol from women's pharmacy, Tanzania

Date: 4 March 2014
Source: IPAS

The Women's Promotion Center in rural Kigoma Region have started a pharmacy to bring misoprostol to local communities to save women's lives.

Abortion is illegal in Tanzania except to save a woman's life, and unsafe abortion is a significant contributor to the country's high maternal death rate.

In 2009, WPC launched its Save Mothers' Lives with Misoprostol initiative, which began with an education and awareness-raising campaign to prevent unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortion, and to promote misoprostol as a method for safe abortion and treatment of postpartum haemorrhage.

In 2010, WPC opened a local pharmacy that sells misoprostol and also offered counselling by a well-trained professional on how to safely use misoprostol, as well as take-home information about how to use the drug and referrals to doctors willing to help in case of complications.

Since the pharmacy opened, women's access to misoprostol and contraceptives in Kigoma Region has improved, and WPC has noted a decrease in reports of women dying from unsafe abortion. In addition, the pharmacy's sale of misoprostol created economic competition with private drug sellers in the area and reduced the price from the equivalent of $12 to $5 for a package of 12 pills.


Guidelines to support Ugandan rights activists

Date: 3 March 2014
Source: Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, Uganda

The Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law has issued guidelines on how national, international and regional partners can support Ugandan LGBTI Persons and their allies in facing the reality of the Anti-Homosexuality Act (2014).

The document highlights the need to emphasise the shrinking space in which all actors can speak out, not just on LGBTI issues, call for worldwide demonstrations, action from multinational companies with presence in Uganda, strategic aid cuts along with support to service delivery and advocacy in defiance of the law.

The guidance can be viewed and downloaded here.


Impunity for forced sterilisation, Peru

Date: 3 March 2014
Source: AWID

Peruvian courts have thrown out for a second time a case claiming crimes against humanity by the Peruvian government for forced sterilisation of indigenous men and women from 1995 to 2000.

The case claims that the Government Health Service had rounded up all the women with children and sterilised them without their consent.  The activities focused on poor, indigenous, Quechua-speaking and Aymara people. The total number came to 300,000 women and 22,000 men. The majority did not sign informed consent statements and were also subjected to threats, coercion and other violations. These sterilisations were carried out by a programme ironically called Voluntary Surgical Contraception Program, under which doctors were given monthly sterilisation quotas.

The case was already rejected previously and thrown out again this year, following the return to Peru of the former president Fujimori. The public prosecutor rejected the case on the grounds that the category of crimes against humanity fit only one individual, who died and in whose case, four doctors had already been found guilty. However, the prosecutor decided to drop the case right after taking testimony from former president Fujimori and gave the petitioners in the case a weekend - from Thursday to Monday - to respond.  A network of women's groups have announced that, if necessary, they will appeal to the Supreme State Prosecutor's Office, and will again take the case to the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights.


Community consensus statement on HIV treatment as prevention

Date: 1 March 2014
Source: Aidsmap

A community consensus statement on the use of antiretroviral therapy (ART) to reduce the risk of HIV transmission from people living with HIV. The statement has been developed in order to safeguard the health and wellbeing of all people with HIV and their freedom and power to take or not to take HIV treatment.

The statement notes that HIV treatment greatly reduces the chance of passing on HIV to others and can potentially free people with HIV from a huge burden of guilt and anxiety about infecting others. It notes that taking ART is a decision people need time to consider and they should not be pressured into it.

The statement highlights the need for care providers to be trained in counselling, opposes any proposals to use compulsory HIV testing or compulsory ART as a public health measure. ART should not be adopted as the sole component of HIV prevention programmes.

You can sign the consensus statement here

Anti-gay law has been signed, Uganda

Date: 24 February 2014
Source: Guardian

President Museveni of Uganda has signed a controversial law allowing those convicted of homosexuality to be imprisoned for life, defying international disapproval.

Museveni formally initialled the anti-homosexuality act, which outlaws the promotion of homosexuality and requires citizens to denounce to the police anyone suspected of being gay. This dashes the hopes of many activists calling on him to not approve the law.

The president announced that no study shows that homosexuality is innate. He also announced that 'outsiders' cannot dictate to Uganda and advised 'friends form the west' not to make this an issue.

The US has already announced that it will begin an internal review of its relationship with Uganda's government, including assistance programmes. South African Nobel peace laureate Desmond Tutu said that the law recalled attempts by the Nazi and apartheid regimes to legislate against love.

Publication: Using the law to end child marriage

Date: 19 February 2014
Source: Equality Now

Protecting the Girl Child is a new report that highlights the direct correlation between higher minimum age of marriage laws and a lower incidence of child marriage. Around the world, approximately 14 million girls are married every year.

The report analyses the laws and issues surrounding child marriage from 18 countries in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Middle East and provides case studies with recommendations from 11 countries. It argues for implementation of a strong legal framework at the national level based on human rights standards, alongside a broad effort to transform gender relations.

The full report can be downloaded here.


Bolivia's constitutional court reduces legal barriers to abortion

Date: 19 February 2014
Source: IPAS

Bolivia's highest court, the Plurinational Constitutional Court, has ruled that the law requiring judicial authorisation for women seeking legal abortion should be dropped. The court ruling follows a review of penal code provisions that criminalised abortion, following a challenge to the constitutionality of several penal code articles that discriminate against women. 

The court ruling states that the decision to keep or terminate a pregnancy rests with the pregnant woman and will be not be subject to the ideologies or religious beliefs of judges or attorneys. In cases of rape, the decision affirms a woman's right to seek an abortion. However, she is still required to file a complaint with the police or prosecutor. In cases where there is a threat to the woman's life or health, the diagnosis of a physician is sufficient to authorise a legal abortion.

This opinion follows earlier court rulings from Mexico City and Colombia that also increase women's rights and access to legal abortion.

President calls for amendment of proposed criminal law, Afghanistan

Date: 18 February 2014
Source: Trust.org

The Afghan president has withheld his signature and instead asked for revisions to a proposed criminal code that has been seen as an obstacle to prosecuting crimes of violence against women

presidential spokesperson announced that the law will not come into force unless new amendments are made and that the law will not bar any relative or any family member to testify against each other or another member of their family.

Activists have welcomed the reprieve and declared his action a victory for the advocacy of rights groups. However, the amended law must be sent back to the parliament, where hardliners already have resisted previous efforts to water down the law.

Guidance for women arrested on grounds of misoprostol use

Date: 17 February 2014
Source: Gynuity Health Projects

Gynuity Health Projects have developed guidance for instances when women are arrested and prosecuted for procuring illegal pregnancy on the grounds that misoprostol has been found in the blood.

Recent efforts to prosecute women for induced abortion have included allegations that misoprostol was found in the woman's blood. However, such allegations should be viewed sceptically.

The guidance provides simple factual information about when misprostol can be detected and what laboratory tests would be needed to determine use of misoprostol. The guidance has been developed in order to give these women and their defendants the information that would allow them to dispute the claims of doctors and officers of the law, given that it is likely that allegations of such evidence may not be true.

If a woman induces an abortion with misoprostol, depending on the dose and route, the average time between taking the drug and expelling the fetus is 6-8 hours in the first trimester and 10-20 hours in the second trimester. Suspicion of induced abortion with misoprostol generally occurs well after expulsion, meaning several hours have passed since the alleged misoprostol administration. During the intervening hours, the misoprostol is rapidly metabolised and, depending on the interval between taking the drug and suspicion, it will likely be undetectable in a blood sample. If a claim is made that misoprostol was detected in blood, a few critical questions may help to ascertain if the allegations could be real. 

The guidance is available in English, Spanish and Portuguese.


Women's protection package launch, Pakistan

Date: 17 February 2014
Source: Express Tribune 

A five year programme on accountability for women - the Women's Legislative Agenda - has been launched in Pakistan. The project, implemented through five NGOs - the Aurat Foundation, Strengthening Participatory Organisation, The South Asia Partnership-Pakistan, Sungi Development Foundation and the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), is to focus on legal protection for women from domestic violence.

At the launch of the programme, the Minister for Population Welfare said the government would consider the recommendations mentioned in the Women Legislative Agenda. She said the chief minister would announce a comprehensive package for women on 8 March 2014.

Attitudes towards intimate partner violence, Pakistan

Date: 17 February 2014
Source: Aware Girls

According to a small qualitative survey conducted by Aware Girls and Young Feminists Movement - Pakistan, attitudes toward violence against women and girls remain extremely high.

The study found that 85% of respondents believed that men were entitled to beat their wives in at least some circumstances - more than half thought it was justified if the wife disobeys the husband, and more than one quarter thought it justifiable if the wife does not take care of her husband. More than one in five respondents did not consider domestic abuse as an important issue for Pakistan. 

Whilst 61.96% responded that men should be punished for beating or verbally abusing their wives, nearly one in ten felt that there should be no punishment and more than one fifth that taking the matter to court tarnishes the honour of family, the matter should be resolved within the family. 7.61% believed that women should not take legal help in case of domestic abuse and 32.61% felt they should only do so when the case is very severe.

In response to what should be done with a girl who run away with home to get married, 31.52% responded that the matter should be dismissed silently, 28.26% responded that she should be congratulated and supported, while 7.61% responded that she should be killed.

On the positive side, more than four in five did feel that the government should open Shelter homes for women who are either victims or at the risk of domestic abuse  and 92.39% said they want laws against domestic abuse in Pakistan.

The full research report can be downloaded here.


Traditional and religious leaders call for new abortion law, Malawi

Date: 13 February 2014
Source: Nyasa Times

Senior religious and traditional leaders from the north of Malawi have asked the government to develop new and modern laws that take into account women's rights.

Currently, abortion is illegal except when the woman's life is at risk. Malawi's current legislation on abortion was developed in 1860 - women who seek abortion can be imprisoned for up to seven years and those providing abortions for 14 years.

Chiefs and clergy issued a statement calling on the government to scale up contraceptive use - currently at 42% - and to allow for legal abortion, to reduce the extremely high rate of unsafe abortion. The chiefs noted that culture is important but that culture is also important to the thousands of women who die every year from unsafe abortion. They called for the development of clear standards and guidelines, in line with international standards. The chiefs and religious leaders had attended a two day workshop on unsafe abortion organised by reproductive rights groups.


Poland's reverse sexual revolution

Date: 11 February 2014
Source: Guardian

Post-communist countries have experienced an #inverted sexual revolution#. Along with the wide publicity on the against "homosexual propaganda" in Russia and a ban on civil partnerships in Croatia, there has been a 'war on gender' in Poland.

In Poland, the word 'gender' has become a catch-all term, conflating anything that diverges from conservative, patriarchal norms. The controversy was sparked by "gender workshops", age-appropriate sex education sessions organised in pro-equality nurseries and schools, where children are shown alternatives in a context where getting married to a member of the opposite sex while a virgin is deemed the only acceptable solution. These have been smeared by the church and rightwing press, with the church releasing a letter to warn the faithful, read out in every parish over Christmas and the establishment of a special commission in the parliament, founded by the rightwing Law and Justice party, to fight gender ideology.

The Polish church has recently been hit by child abuse scandals and has responded by blaming parents and broken homes. Poland has not ratified the Istanbul convention on domestic violence, amongst parliament concerns that the new law might 'hit the family'. The author of this article argues that it is the power of the church, not the history of communism, which is profoundly and negatively changing the social consensus.

Checklist for integrating gender into Global Fund new funding model

Date: 11 February 2014
Source: UNDP

UNDP has launched a Checklist for integrating gender into the new funding model of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.

The Checklist provides specific steps and examples to ensure that the gender dimensions of HIV are addressed in all phases of programming - from country dialogues, through proposal drafting to monitoring and evaluation. 

The Checklist can be used in collaboration with UNDP's Online Course: Integrating Gender into National HIV Strategies and Plans, a step-by-step guide that focuses on the process of integrating gender issues and concerns into national HIV strategies and plans.
The Checklist can also be accessed through UNDP's Capacity Development Toolkit for Global Fund grant implementation, which includes a module on enabling legal and policy environments for the three diseases.


Access to abortion upheld, Switzerland

Date: 9 February 2014
Source: Tribune de Genève

The Swiss electorate has rejected an initiative by anti-choice groups that proposed that abortion costs should no longer be paid by the mandatory health insurance. The initiative was defeated on February 9th with a clear majority of 70 % of the votes.

The clear result is a confirmation of the legal regulation on abortion in Switzerland. 

Consultation - sexual and reproductive health and rights for women with HIV

Date: 4 February 2014
Source: Salamander Trust

The World Health Organization plan to update their 2006 guidelines on sexual and reproductive health for women living with HIV. The guidelines focus on five key areas - sexual health, family planning, maternal and perinatal health, abortion and sexually transmitted infections. The new guidelines will encompass recommendations for policy, formal health care and community engagement. The Guidelines will be embedded in a human rights framework. The will be global in scope but for adaptation to specific country contexts. 

Salamander Trust is conducting a preliminary consultation among women living with HIV to help determine priorities and outline key content areas for the Guidelines and assure the support and engagement of women living with HIV for the final product. Over the next couple of months, Salamander Trust will develop and roll-out a global on-line survey, supplemented by both virtual and face-to-face dialogues for broad engagement by women and girls living with HIV in all their diversities. 

For more information, please contact
alice@salamandertrust.net, or luisa.orza@gmail.com.

Vatican blasted by UN committee over sex abuse, abortion and gay rights

Date: 5 February 2014
Source: Washington Post

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has issued a scathing indictment of the Vatican's handling of child sexual abuse cases involving clerics. The same report includes criticism of church teachings on homosexuality, gender equality and abortion.

The report follows the Vatican's appearance before the Committee in January. This was the first time that the Holy See has appeared before the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which conducts periodic reviews on states that have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Holy See ratified the convention in 1990.

The report demanded that the Vatican immediately turn over to criminal investigators any known or suspected abusers and end its "code of silence" by enforcing rules ordering dioceses to report abuse to local authorities. It also called on the Vatican to open its archives on sexual allegations against clerics. The Vatican declined the panel's request to review internal files and data on abuse cases.

The report from the committee, made up of 18 child rights advocates and experts, called on the Vatican to adopt reforms and update the panel by 2017.

The panel also condemned church doctrine that it considers out of step with the principles of human rights and child welfare, especially sexual orientation, reproductive health and gender equality.

Officials said they are still studying the findings, but responded angrily to what they described as recommendations that are ideologically biased. They said the United Nations has no right to weigh in on church teachings.

Since becoming pope 11 months ago, Pope Francis has said that addressing the child abuse allegations is important to restoring the church's credibility. In December, the Vatican announced the creation of a commission on abuse cases that would inform the pope about the progress of investigations and come up with initiatives to combat the problem. Victims groups, which hailed the UN report, have said the new committee is too little, too late.

The full report can be viewed here.


Show opposition to criminalisation of sex work clients, European Parliament

Date: 5 February 2014
Source: International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe

The International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE) condemns FEMM, the European Parliament Women's Rights and Gender Equality Committee on their decision to support the criminalisation of clients.

The ICRSE invites members, civil societies and members of the public to forward their  statement to Members of European Parliament, or use it as a template for their own letter.

The letter can be downloaded here in English, with lins to the letter in Portuguese, Spanish, German (signed by 29 organisations from Germany and Switzerland), Italian and Romanian (signed by 5 Romanian organisations).

A list of
MEPs is available here.

New Afghan law will silence victims of gender violence

Date: 4 February 2014
Source: Guardian

A proposed new change to Afghanistan's criminal prosecution code will ban relatives of an accused person from testifying against them. Most violence against women in Afghanistan is within the family, so the law - passed by parliament but awaiting the signature of the president - will effectively silence victims as well as most potential witnesses to their suffering. The law could undo efforts to tackle so-called "honour" killings, forced marriage and vicious domestic abuse.

The change is in a section of the criminal code titled 'Prohibition of Questioning an Individual as a Witness'. Other people covered by the ban are children, doctors and defence lawyers for the accused. Senators originally wanted a milder version of the law that would prevent relatives from being legally obliged to take the stand in a case in which they did not want to testify. But both houses of parliament eventually passed a draft banning all testimony. As most Afghans live in walled compounds, shared only with their extended families, this covers most witnesses to violence in the home.

The bill has been sent to the president, who must decide whether to sign it into force. After failing to block the change in parliament, campaigners plan to throw their weight behind shaming the president into suspending the new law. Activists hope to repeat the success of a campaign in 2009 that forced Karzai to soften a family law enshrining marital rape as a husband's right. However, there has been a strengthening of conservative forces in recent years. Last year parliament blocked a law to curb violence against women and cut the quota for women on provincial councils, while the justice ministry floated a proposal to bring back stoning as a punishment for adultery.

LGBTI violence and the Sochi Olympic Games, Russia

Date: 4 February 2014
Source: Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch have published a video showing the dreadful treatment of LGBT people in Russia and showing how LGBT activists are fighting for their rights.
The video has been viewed more than 1.7 million times in the first 72 hours since it was published.

One activist, Gleb Latnik, describes the impunity he faces: I went to the police to submit a claim and the officers at the station just said 'That’s alright, you’re gay, so it's normal that you were attacked. Why would you need to submit a claim against someone?' That's how it goes.'

The video can be viewed here.


New publication: Sexuality and the law

Date: 5 February 2014
Source: Institute of Development Studies

A new report, Sexuality and the law: case studies from Cambodia, Egypt, Nepal and South Africa, provides a synthesis of five case studies on the relationship between sexuality and law. The report aims to identify policy options and strategies for activist engagement with law and to inform the realisation of sexual rights.

The work is particularly concerned with people negatively affected by laws on sex, gender and sexuality, with gaps in policy and inadequate implementation of laws that negatively affect people and their sexuality and with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer activism around legal and human rights issues.

The publication can be downloaded here.


Websites highlights risks of traditional male circumcision, South Africa

Date: 29 January 2014
Source: Guardian

A Dutch doctor in South Africa has published a website that includes graphic images of penises mutilated during botched traditional male circumcision ceremonies. This has angered traditional leaders who accuse him of meddling in their culture.

Dr Dingeman Rijken said he had set up that website because traditional leaders had shown "shocking" indifference and incompetence to the annual toll of death and injury.

Thousands of teenage boys in Eastern Cape province undergo a traditional rite of initiation, including male circumcision. Many initiation schools are officially sanctioned, but others are unregulated and allow bogus surgeons to operate with unsterilised blades. According to Rijken, 825 boys have died from complications since 1995 and many more have suffered serious damage to their penises.

The website, ulwaluko.co.za, includes graphic images showing severely disfigured, infected or amputated genitals. The website contains a warning that it contains graphic medical images and advises an age restriction of 13 years or older. But critics argue that Rijken has betrayed their culture and should have handled the matter differently.

Traditional leaders have condemned Rijken for breaking a cultural taboo and reported his site to South Africa's Film and Publication Board, demanding it be shut down. 
The Film and Publications Board has restricted the website for under-13s but ruled that it is a 'bona fide scientific publication with great educative value', noting that it does not condemn the rich cultural practice but makes a clear plea for it to be regulated so that deaths do not occur.

Police abuse and extortion of gay men, Kyrgystan

Date:  29 January 2014
Source: Human Rights Watch

Police in Kyrgyzstan have extorted, threatened, arbitrarily detained, beaten and sexually abused gay and bisexual men, according to a new report - They told us we deserved this: police violence against gay and bisexual men in Kyrgyzstan - just released by Human Rights Watch.

Although consensual sex between men was decriminalised in Kyrgyzstan in 1998, the report found that gay and bisexual men have been subjected to a range of abuses at the hands of police in Kyrgyzstan, including physical, sexual, and psychological violence, arbitrary detention and extortion under the threat of violence or of exposing victims' sexual orientation to friends and family.

The report is based on detailed interviews with 40 gay and bisexual men in four regions of Kyrgyzstan. Only two of the 40 men interviewed had filed complaints with the police. Neither case led to anyone being held accountable for the abuse. The others said they did not file complaints for fear of retaliation or of having information about their sexual orientation sent to their families or employers. Human Rights Watch has not been able to find a single case in which a police officer has been held accountable for the arbitrary detention, extortion, torture, or ill-treatment of a gay or bisexual man.

The report recommends that the government should condemn and thoroughly investigate reports of abuse and establish a confidential complaint mechanism for all cases of abuse by police officers. The government of Kyrgyzstan has taken a number of measures to stop torture and ill-treatment in detention facilities, but have no mechanism to file complaints about police abuse for people who are not incarcerated.

The full report is available in English, with Kyrgyz and Uzbek summaries, including recommendations.

Publication: sexual health and HIV linkages

Date: 28 January 2014
Source: WHO

The SRH/HIV Linkages Interagency Working Group (IAWG) has produced a summary of advances in the field of strengthening linkages between SRH and HIV interventions. The brief summary includes an overview of the current status of SRH and HIV linkages among key partners.

The leaflet is part of the IAWG's resource package that is designed as a 'living', adaptable set of resource materials targeted to national governments, international and national NGOs, United Nations agencies, and donors.

The resource package can be accessed here.


Media campaign on prostate cancer

Date: 24 January 2014
Source: Prostate Cancer UK

A new media campaign has been launched in the UK to provide information on prostate cancer to men.

The campaign was launched live at the start of football's FA Cup fourth-round tie and live on television. The campaign is calling on men to 'man up and take control of their own health'. The campaign is offering a short online test and has formed a Men United super-team, with UK sports and media names, such as Homeland star Damian Lewis, Charles Dance, Sir Michael Parkinson and rugby player Will Carling.

New handbook for safe abortion care

Date: 22 January 2014
Source: World Health Organization

WHO have launched 'Clinical practice handbook for safe abortion care, a practical tool for health professionals'. This handbook was developed as a companion to the 2nd edition of WHO's 'Safe abortion: technical and policy guidance for health systems', 2012. 

The clinical practice handbook summarises key clinical recommendations to enable evidence-based decision-making with respect to safe abortion care, including:

- informed decision-making and counselling
- 1st and 2nd trimester abortion
- post-abortion contraception
- pain management
- infection prevention
- managing complications.

Revised content of the Clinical Practice Handbook (as of January 20, 2014) is now available for download here.

Ugandan president blocks anti-homosexuality bill but condones homophobia

Date: 17 January 2014
Source: Huffington Post

Uganda's president has opposed an anti-gay bill passed by lawmakers in December that calls for life imprisonment for homosexuals. However, his letter to the speaker of parliament describes homosexuals as 'abnormal' and states that they should be rehabilitated. He calls for harsh legislation for people who 'lure youth into abnormal and deviant behaviours'. His comments were published in Ugandan newspapers.

Activists warn that his characterisation of gay men encourages hatred and report ongoing acts of violent homophobia and discrimination.


Women receive uterus transplants, Sweden

Date: 13 January 2014
Source: Guardian

Nine women in Sweden have successfully received transplanted wombs donated by relatives and will soon try to become pregnant. The women, mostly in their 30s, were born without a uterus or had it removed because of cervical cancer. They are part of the first major experiment to test whether it is possible to transplant wombs into women so they can give birth to their own children.

There have been previous attempts to transplant a womb, in Turkey and Saudi Arabia, but both failed to produce babies.

The transplants began in September 2012. The donors include mothers and other female relatives of the recipients. The transplant operations did not connect any of the women's uteruses to their fallopian tubes, so they are unable to get pregnant naturally. All of them have their own ovaries and can make eggs. Before the operation, they had some removed to create embryos through in-vitro fertilisation. The embryos were then frozen and doctors plan to transfer them into the new wombs, allowing the women to carry their own biological children.

The transplants have ignited hope among women unable to have children because they lost a uterus to cancer or were born without one. About one in 4,500 girls are born with a syndrome known as MRKH, which means they do not have a womb.

Fertility experts say the project is significant but stress that it is unknown whether it will result in healthy babies.

HIV self-testing could lead to more HIV infections

Date: 20 January 2014
Source: AIDSMap News 

A new modelling study suggest that HIV prevalence and incidence could rise if gay men replace clinic-based HIV testing with less sensitive home tests. Because home tests have longer window periods than laboratory tests, there is a danger that men with recent HIV infection remain undiagnosed, the model suggests.

The new modelling study was developed on the basis of the sexual and testing behaviour of gay men in Seattle. Men in this setting already test quite frequently - the model assumed that at-risk men test on average once or twice a year. The assumptions about window period were that modern clinic-based laboratory tests have a window period of 15 days and detect 100% of infections after this time, whilst the currently available HIV self-test, OraQuick In-Home HIV Test, had a window period of three months and could detect 91.7% of infections after this time.

The model found that, if all HIV testing continues to occur in the clinic, at the same frequency, HIV prevalence in gay men would be around 18.6% - similar to actual current prevalence rates of 15%. However, the model found that HIV prevalence would be over 23% if half the men home-tested and would rise as high as 27.5% if all men tested. This is because a number of men who have recently acquired HIV HIV infection would fall within the window period and may continue to have unprotected sex while they have an exceptionally high viral load. 

The researchers tested a range of assumptions, including more frequent testing using self tests, changes in prevalence if the window period was lower. In all cases, prevalence increased. The potential increase in prevalence seems to be driven primarily by the relatively long window period of the approved home-use test when compared with available laboratory based tests.

The abstract can be read here

Katz DA et al. Replacing Clinic-Based Tests With Home-Use Tests May Increase HIV Prevalence Among Seattle Men Who Have Sex With Men: Evidence From a Mathematical Model. Sexually Transmitted Diseases 41: 2-9, 2014. 


Violence against gay men following anti-homosexuality bill, Nigeria

Date: 15 January 2013
Source: The Independent

Police are hunting down and torturing homosexuals in Nigeria, rights groups say, only days after President Goodluck Jonathan signed new anti-gay measures into law.

Campaigners also allege that gay men were tortured into naming dozens of others, to be arrested.

Homosexual acts were already illegal in Nigeria, but the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, passed with no announcement on 13 January, means anyone belonging to a gay organisation can get up to 10 years in jail, and anyone married to someone of the same sex can get up to 14 years.

The law was met with condemnation from countries such as the United States, Britain and Canada. The UN Secretary General has spoken out against it and UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said "Rarely have I seen a piece of legislation that in so few paragraphs directly violates so many basic, universal human rights."

According to the Associated Press news agency, accounts varied of how many arrests were made in Bauchi state on Tuesday, and a local law enforcement official denied that anyone was tortured. Executive director of Nigeria's International Centre for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights said an undercover officer joined a group being counselled on AIDS, pretending to be gay. The organisation said police then detained four gay men over the December holiday period and tortured them until they named others allegedly belonging to a gay organisation.

The chair of Bauchi state Shariah Commission, which oversees regulation of Islamic law, said that 11 gay men have been arrested over the past two weeks. He said community members helped "fish out" the suspects and that "we are on the hunt for others."

Campaign to stop Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Date: 16 January 2014
Source: Amnesty International

Follow this link for more recent information about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

Uganda's notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill is now with the President for approval or dismissal by the end of January. The Bill proposes to sentence anyone identified as LGBTI in Uganda to life in prison and to punish activists, health workers and lawyers for 'promoting' homosexuality.

This month marks three years since prominent gay rights activist David Kato - who campaigned against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill when it first appeared before Parliament in 2009 - was murdered in his home. His murder followed a hate campaign in the national press which called for Kato and others on a 'gay list' to be hanged.

Click here to sign a campaign asking President Museveni to veto the Bill.



Morocco makes major reform to rape law

Date: 15 January 2014
Source: Women's Learning Partnership

On 8 January, the Moroccan Parliament finally adopted the draft law to amend article 475 of the Criminal Code, which allowed rapists to escape prosecution if they married their victim.

The amendment removed a paragraph that allowed for marriage of the victim to the rapist in the name of "preserving the honour of the girl's family." The new amendment lifts the immunity of the rapist and prevents him from marrying his victim. It follows many months of campaigning following the suicide of 16-year-old Amina Filali.

This long-overdue reform marks a significant step for the women of Morocco and a great achievement for Morocco's women's movement.

Indigenous peoples' sexual health and reproductive rights, 15-17 January

Date: 12 January 2014
Source:  UN Forum on Indigenous Issues

The first international expert group meeting on indigenous peoples' sexual health and reproductive rights will be held on 15-17 January.

The UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues is mandated to discuss indigenous issues related to economic and social development, culture, the environment, education, human rights and health and to provide expert advice and make recommendations to Member States as well as the UN system. Throughout its twelve sessions, the Permanent Forum has made 19 recommendations that deal specifically with sexual health and/or reproductive health and rights.

The Expert Group Meeting is intended to:

- Analyse enshrined human rights within international standards and policies and how these could be more responsive to advancing the sexual health and reproductive rights
of indigenous peoples;
- Promote an opportunity to exchange information, analysis and good practices;
- Identify options and further plans to build the necessary conditions for addressing the sexual health and reproductive rights of indigenous peoples, through concrete recommendations to the UN system, Member States, indigenous peoples and their organisations as well as non-indigenous civil society organisations.

The final report and recommendations of the Expert Group Meeting will inform the thirteenth session of the Permanent Forum (12-23 May 2014), and also feed into the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples (September 2014) as well as the 20 year review of the International Conference on Population and Development and the ongoing discussions to define a development agenda beyond 2015.

For more information, click here.

New funds for transgender and men who have sex with men programme, South Asia

Date: 13 Jan 2014
Source: United Nations Development Programme, Asia-Pacific Centre

UNDP's Asia-Pacific Centre (APRC) has signed a $16.7 million grant agreement with the Global Fund to Fights AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for a multi-country South Asia HIV programme. The two and half year programme aims to reduce the impact of HIV on men who have sex with men, transgender people and hijras in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Rates of HIV among MSM and transgender people in many countries across South Asia are significantly higher than those in all other adults groups. High levels of marginalisation, stigma and discrimination in health and welfare service are very often a barrier to prevention and care and support services. Community-implemented HIV prevention, treatment and care and support services are often interrupted as a result of police harassment of staff and outreach workers, many of whom are MSM, transgender or hijra peer educators. 

The programme will focus on strengthening community systems to improve coordination with local governments and health care providers, deliver concentrated and quality capacity development support and provide technical assistance to ensure high intervention impact and sustainability. The programme will work the two regional community advocacy organisations, the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health (APCOM) and the Asia Pacific Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (APN+) and a number of national community groups to develop rights-based interventions and strengthen engagement of civil society.

Petition to amend law that allows marriage after rape, Morocco

Date: 10 January 2013
Source: Avaaz

Update: Following this news item, the provision has been repealed.

In 2012, 16-year-old Amina Filali was raped and beaten, then forced to wed her rapist. Article 475 in Morocco's penal code allows a rapist to avoid prosecution and a long prison sentence by marrying his victim if she is a minor.

Amina killed herself - the only escape that she could see. Moroccan activists have been campaigning for years to repeal this provision. This coming week, there could be a vote in Parliament to repeal the provision. If the vote is called, insiders say the repeal is certain to pass. Currently there is almost no news coverage and no pressure on legislators to do the right thing.

Campaigners are planning petitions and mass events, with proposed ads in the newspapers that MPs read and a demonstration with Moroccan activists outside of Parliament with a sea of pink balloons representing the massive global response.

Click here to sign the petition.

Contraceptive cases in high courts, India and Nepal

Date: 10 January 2014
Source: Center for Reproductive Rights

Two cases have recently been filed in South Asia, holding government to account for failure to fulfil women's reproductive rights.

In India, a case has been filed in the High Court of Punjab and Haryana. The case has been filed as a public interest case and calls on the government to protect women's reproductive health by providing access to a full range of contraceptive methods, information, and services, and consequently end the violations of women's fundamental and human rights arising from the lack of access. The case alleges that women face serious barriers to accessing contraceptive information and services in Haryana due to flawed state policies and the failure of the state government to implement national-level policy guarantees. Haryana's state-level policies relating to contraceptives focus disproportionately on permanent methods, resulting in barriers to access for women who may need short-term contraceptives to time and space their pregnancies. Haryana falls far short of its commitment to appoint and train the 17,000 volunteers necessary to effectively implement a community-based reproductive programme. The government has also refused to address the stigma surrounding contraceptive use.

Another case has been filed at the Supreme Court of Nepal by Nepali lawyer Sarmila Shrestha, with 11 co-petitioners including rural women who have failed to access services, demanding that the Nepalese government take specific steps to protect women's reproductive health and rights by prioritisng access to contraceptive information and services at all levels within the public health system, particularly for rural, poor, and marginalised women. Immediately after the filing, the Supreme Court issued a show cause notice to the government and the case has now been taken up as priority litigation. The case is based on field research that identifies multiple barriers faced by Nepali women in accessing contraceptive information and services. These include lack of universal access to a full range of modern contraceptive methods, lack of information and counselling on modern contraceptive methods, failure to address barriers faced by rural, poor and remotely located women and young girls, and lack of trained health providers in the health system.

Both cases have been supported through the Center for Reproductive Rights' South Asia Reproductive Justice and Accountability Initiative (SARJAI). This initiative seeks to build a robust body of law that will secure safe and accessible reproductive healthcare - specifically, contraceptive and safe abortion services - for women in South Asia.



Bolivia bans expulsion of pregnant school girls

Date: 8 January 2013
Source: BBC

The Bolivian government has banned schools from refusing entry to, or expelling, pregnant students and ordered that every educational institution should support and ensure the continuation and completion of their studies. This ban applies to both state and private schools.

In cases where a school does not follow this policy, girls may submit complaints to the authorities for redress. Last December, a young woman reported that she was banned from attending a promotional event at her school and followed this up with a formal complaint.

Anal cancer risk in all adults with HIV

Date: 7 January 2014
Source: AIDS

A study of 2,075 HIV-positive patients in the US has found high rates of anal dysplasia (pre-cancer) in men who have sex with men (MSM), women and heterosexual men.

The study screened 2,075 HIV-positive patients with anal cytology. 62% of men who have sex with men, 42% of women and 29% of heterosexual men had abnormal findings. Of these, 728 patients underwent further screening and cancer was found in 32% of men who have sex with men, 26% of women and 23% of heterosexual men.

The study shows that anal cancer risk is high in people living with HIV of all sexual risk groups who have abnormal anal cytology. All people with HIV may warrant anal cancer screening.

Family planning left behind, Myanmar

Date: 7 January 2014
Source: IRIN

Despite donor funding to advance Myanmar's health care system, family planning services have yet to receive the levels of support they need.
Two-thirds of the population lives in remote, rural areas with little or no access to family planning and maternal health services, according to Marie Stopes International's regional director.

At 200 deaths per 100,000 live births, Myanmar's maternal mortality rate is one of the worst in the region. UNFPA notes that 87% of maternal deaths occur in rural areas, largely due to poor infrastructure and lack of reproductive health access and awareness. The unmet need for family planning in Myanmar stands at 19%, compared to only 3% in neighbouring Thailand. Official statistics put contraceptive usage at less than 40%, which Burmese officials hope to increase to 50%, as well as lowering the unmet need for family planning to 10% in the next two years.

The government considers Myanmar under-populated compared to other countries in the region and the authorities continue to back a pro-natalist policy that encourages childbearing. Further challenges to family planning include security concerns in conflict-affected areas along the Thai-Burmese border. There are also cultural pressures from conservative community and religious leaders who see large families as a blessing and view family planning as unnatural.

Terminating a pregnancy is illegal, and carries a prison term of up to three years for the provider and seven years for the mother. Unsafe abortions are one of the leading causes of maternal death.

In 2011, a multi-donor pledge of up to $300 million was made to the Three Millennium Development Goal fund, with around two-thirds of the money allocated to maternal and child health from 2012 to 2016. However, there has been no strong commitment by the Burmese government, as the health budget is still dwarfed by defence spending.

Irish abortion act changes nothing for women

Date: 6 January 2014
Source: British Pregnancy Advisory Service

The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act came into force in Ireland on 1 January. It allows abortion in an extremely narrow set of circumstances, and in effect changes nothing for Irish women.

This blog describes the stories of four Irish women who have visited UK abortion services in the past year - not one of these women would have benefited from the new law. One woman has a severely disabled child and, having fallen pregnant after having been advised against using contraception for medical reasons, was not supported although she is clear that not having another child is the right thing for her and her son. All of the women have sound reasons for not wanting a child at the point in life at which they have become pregnant.

The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act would not have helped any of these women. It is, in fact, designed to help as few women as possible. The Irish government must find a solution that will actually provide Irish women with the access to abortion care they need, at home.

Sustained reduction in HIV sexual transmission through treatment, Uganda

Date: 7 January 2014
Source: AIDS

A study of sexual behaviour and HIV viral load in Uganda has found that HIV treatment reduced the periods of HIV transmission by over 90% during the six years that the study was conducted.

The study collected sexual behaviour and viral load data at each 90-day clinic visit by 463 Ugandan men and women living with HIV, from the time of ART initiation. If viral load was more than 400 copies/ml and the participant reported unprotected sexual contact with at least one partner without HIV or status unknown, this was defined as a transmission risk period.

Over half (56%) had at least one period of higher viral load or sexual transmission risk behaviour. However, only 23 (5%) had both simultaneously.

These findings provide further support for provision of ART, along with interventions to promote long-term adherence, to reduce HIV transmission in HIV-endemic settings.

Women with circumcised partners less likely to have HIV, South Africa

Date: 19 March 2014
Source: Aidsmap

A study from Orange Farm near Johannesburg in South Africa, the area that hosted the first randomised controlled trial of male circumcision for HIV prevention, has found evidence that women who are partners of circumcised men are less likely to have HIV themselves.

A 2009 meta-analysis of the benefits to women of circumcising men found no evidence that having sex with a circumcised, rather than an uncircumcised, man reduced the risk of HIV infection to women.

This is the first study to provide convincing evidence that male circumcision offers a degree of protection to their female partners too. The benefit is quite small - in the order of a 15% reduction in prevalence in women who only have sex with circumcised men. Researchers believe that, rather than there being a direct protection for the woman, the protection for women is probably due to the lower HIV prevalence rate among circumcised men. A longitudinal study would be needed to settle this question.

Among women who report ever having had sex, 30% in the present study reported having had only circumcised partners. HIV prevalence among these women was lower than among other sexually active women - 22.4% in the partners of circumcised men and 36.6% in women who said some or all of their partners were uncircumcised. After other factors, such as younger age for circumcised men and their partners, the reduction in risk was 15%.

Circumcision appears to make no difference to the rate of condom use in extramarital sex. Fifty-five per cent of women thought condom use was easier for circumcised men.

Of women who had had sex with both, almost three quarters (74.4%) said they preferred circumcised men, precisely because they were seen to be less likely to have HIV, but a relatively low 9.6% thought that if they had sex with a man who did have HIV they would be fully or partly protected from HIV if he was circumcised. Nine out of ten women did understand that if a man was circumcised, he could still acquire HIV.

Spanish government introduces abortion restrictions

Date: 20 December 2013
Source: Guardian

Spain's conservative government has approved an abortion law that rolls back current legislation permitting the procedure without restrictions until the 14th week.

The Justice Minister announced in December that abortion will only be allowed in the case of rape or when there is a serious mental or physical health risk to the mother or when there are fetal deformities that would endanger a child's life if born.

He said 16- and 17-year-olds will once again have to obtain permission from their parents to have an abortion.

The bill, which must be approved by parliament, has been vigorously opposed by most opposition parties and women's groups across the country.

Canadian Supreme Court strikes down prostitution laws

Date: 20 December 2013
Source: Globe and Mail

The Supreme Court of Canada has struck down the country's major prostitution laws, saying that bans on street soliciting, brothels and people living off the avails of prostitution create severe dangers for vulnerable women and therefore violate Canadians' basic values.

The Chief Justice, writing for a unanimous court, stressed that the ruling is not about whether prostitution should be legal or not, but because proposed regulations infringe the constitutional rights of prostitutes. "The prohibitions all heighten the risks... They do not merely impose conditions on how prostitutes operate. They go a critical step further, by imposing dangerous conditions on prostitution; they prevent people engaged in a risky - but legal - activity from taking steps to protect themselves from the risks."

The court suspended its ruling for one year to give Parliament time to respond. The Justice Minister must now decide whether to adopt new prohibitions and if so, how to ensure those prohibitions do not fall afoul of the court.

Inadequate aid inhibits sexual health programmes in typhoon aftermath, Philippines

Date: 11 December 2013
Source: New York Times

A new effort to protect women from rape and help them deliver babies in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines remains troubled and inadequate, according to an informal coalition of UN and international development groups who aim to assist 65,000 women deemed at risk of sexual assault and an estimated 1,000 women giving birth a day in regions ravaged by the typhoon in November.

But the money for the effort in the Philippines is flowing slowly. The United Nations Population Fund has asked its donor nations and agencies to contribute $30 million to give Filipino women hundreds of thousands of kits with hygiene supplies, hire staff at 80 temporary maternal wards and counsel victims of rape. So far, it has commitments for only about $3 million.

Advocates are applauding what they say is improved coordination among the contributing organizations and the speedy arrival in the Philippines of specialists to make sure that evacuation centres have better lighting, safe spaces where women can congregate separately and gender-segregated bathrooms with locks on the doors. However, critics of the approach believe that this integrated approach is not sufficient and that there is a need for specialised gender-based violence programming.

Filipino government cuts all funding for modern contraception

Date: 23 December 2013
Source: Center for Reproductive Rights

The President of the Philippines has approved a national budget that cuts all public funding for modern contraceptives, despite passing legislation exactly one year earlier that would have guaranteed universal and free access to nearly all modern contraceptives for all citizens.

On 21 December 2012, President Aquino signed the historic Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012, known as the RH Law, that would have significantly improved contraceptive access through government health centres to all Filipinos, especially those living in impoverished communities. The RH Law was immediately challenged in the courts by various Catholic groups and the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order, which was subsequently extended, as judges deliberate on the constitutionality of the law with no deadline in sight.

One year on, politicians and courts continue to erect insurmountable barriers to affordable contraception and restrict Filipino women's ability to control their reproductive health and lives.

Life-saving hepatitis C drug approved but cost is high

Date: 23 December 2013
Source: IRIN

Following approvals in the US and Europe this month of a new drug to treat hepatitis C, activists are pushing for the medication to be made available in poor countries. WHO estimates that as many as 185 million people are infected with hepatitis C, many of whom also have HIV. The illnesses are both blood-borne and have shared routes of transmission, particularly injecting drug use.

Unlike HIV, hepatitis C can be cured. But current treatment options have serious side effects, do not always work and are unaffordable for most people. The existing treatment, pegylated interferon, which is manufactured by Roche and Merck, can cost as much as $18,000 for a 48-week course. Interferon, which must be injected, can, in combination with the drug ribavirin, cure 40-70% of patients who use it. But its high cost has kept it out of reach for most patients, except in Egypt and Thailand, where the governments were able to negotiate significant price reductions with drug manufacturers.

The new drug, sofosbuvir, released by pharmaceutical giant Gilead, promises a leap forward in the hepatitis C treatment. It is orally administered, reduces treatment time to 12 weeks, has fewer side effects, and, if used in combination with other drugs, can achieve a 90% cure rate. But in the US, Gilead is expected to charge $80,000 for one course of treatment - more than four times the cost of interferon. While the cost of the drug is likely to be lower elsewhere, healthcare advocates fear the price will remain beyond the reach of poor people.

MSF's Access Campaign, which lobbies for affordable medicines for resource-strapped communities, is waiting for Gilead to finalise its access strategy for poor countries after having received input from a range of organisations. A Gilead spokesperson reported that it would announce the details of its access programme early next year.

According to one study, a 12-week course of sofosbovir could cost as little as $62-134 to produce.
Open Society Foundation observes that, because of its association with HIV and drug use, hepatitis C is still highly stigmatised. "When governments are confronted by high prices for a stigmatised population affected, they tend to look the other way."

In India a patent opposition has been filed by the Initiative for Medicines Access and Knowledge (I-MAK) to stop Gilead from obtaining a patent on the drug there, which would clear the way for low-cost generics to be manufactured. I-Mak argues that sofosbuvir is "old science" stemming from a long line of antiretroviral drugs.


Uganda rushes through anti-gay bill and ban on miniskirts

Date: 19 and 20 December 2013
Source: BBC

Uganda's parliament has passed a bill to toughen the punishment for homosexual acts to include life imprisonment in some cases. The anti-homosexuality bill also makes it a crime punishable by a prison sentence not to report gay people.

The vote was rushed through with very little advance notice. The prime minister opposed the vote, saying not enough MPs were present and it is possible that he might follow up on his complaints about a lack of quorum, while it remains to be seen whether President Yoweri Museveni will sign the bill into law.

The private member's bill originally proposed the death penalty for some offences, such as if a minor was involved or the perpetrator was HIV-positive, but this has been replaced with life in prison. The bill also bans the promotion of homosexuality.

The introduction of this bill led Uganda to be called the worst place to be gay. As parliament debated it, gay activists met to work out their own plan. They say their lives are often in threat here because of intolerance. Although enforcement remains a challenge, once enacted the bill might give law enforcers extra motivation to tackle 'homosexual crimes'. This could lead to more arrests and intrusive medical exams.

The day before, Ugandan MPs passed a controversial anti-pornography bill, that will ban miniskirts, outlaws overtly sexual material including music videos and will outlaw material which shows parts of the body including breasts, thighs and buttocks, or any erotic behaviour intended to cause sexual excitement. It will also ban anything that shows indecent acts or behaviour intended to corrupt morals - a wide and potentially highly repressive category. The bill was voted through after a short debate although it does still need to be approved by the president before becoming law.

Urgent signatures needed to protect right to abortion in Spain

Date: 16 December 2013
Source: International Campaign for Women's Right to Abortion

This is an urgent announcement from Spain!
The group We Decide! are collecting signatures to endorse a campaign not to change the Spanish law on abortion, which would make it much harder for women to access voluntary abortion.

The campaign information can be viewed here and signatures and support need to be send to pactomujeres@gmail.com by today, 16 December 2013.


Youth keeping HIV on the post-2015 agenda

Date: 1 December 2013
Source: crowdoutaids.com

From November 2013 to January 2014, youth activists from around the world will start organising to ensure HIV remains a priority in the post-2015 agenda and that sexual and reproductive health and rights gets recognised for the first time ever in major UN goals.

We live in a different world from the one that policy makers were faced with in 2000.  Young people now have the opportunity to truly influence the post 2015 global development agenda. 

The PACT - a collaboration of 25 youth-led and youth-serving organisations - together with UNAIDS are launching ACT 2015: one goal, many voices - a movement-building initiative that aims to secure a post-2015 development framework that advances the SRHR and HIV response for young people. ACT 2015 also aims to inspire action on the priorities of youth activist within national AIDS responses. 

Using online technology to reach young people on the ground, the PACT are asking youth activists to sign up and host community dialogues.  The community dialogues are a tool for you and your peers to share stories, find solutions and commit to action:

- What's the reality in your country?
- What are the needs of young people living with HIV?
- How does HIV affect you?
- How can we be the generation that gets to the end of the AIDS epidemic?

In the second phase, PACT will follow-up at the country-level and provide the tools to mobilise and take action in your community based on the needs you identify in the dialogues.

Check out how you can get involved here!

Moroccon court acquits kissing teenagers

Date: 6 December 2013
Source: France 24

A Moroccan court has acquitted three teenagers accused of public indecency after pictures of two of them kissing were posted on Facebook. The couple, aged 14 and 15, and their 15-year-old friend who took the photos were arrested in October, after a local NGO filed a lawsuit charging that their actions had a negative effect on society.

The teens had risked possible prison sentences of five years under Moroccoo's penal code, in a case that drew strong criticism from international rights groups and sparked a storm of online protest.

Their lawyer confirmed that they were acquitted of charges of public indecency and publishing compromising photos, although they were reprimanded by the court, despite the fact that they are minors and Facebook is a private space.

The arrests and trial triggered a wave of online support, with activists posting pictures of couples locking lips. Around a dozen couples also staged a symbolic but unprecedented "kiss-in" outside parliament.

Threat to gay rights, India and Australia

Date: 11 December 2013
Source: BBC

India's top court has upheld a law which criminalises gay sex, in a ruling seen as a major blow to gay rights.

The Supreme Court ruling reverses a landmark 2009 Delhi High Court order which had decriminalised homosexual acts. The court said it was up to parliament to legislate on the issue. According to Section 377, a 153-year-old colonial-era law, a same-sex relationship is an "unnatural offence" and punishable by a 10-year jail term.

Several political, social and religious groups had petitioned the Supreme Court to have the law reinstated in the wake of the 2009 court ruling. Although the law has rarely, if ever, been used to prosecute anyone for consensual sex, it has often been used by the police to harass homosexuals.

The Supreme Court ruling has come as a huge surprise for activists who have campaigned for years for acceptance in India's deeply conservative society. Nobody expected the Supreme Court, often seen as a last recourse for citizens faced with an unresponsive government, to reverse an order many had hailed as a landmark. Gay rights activists have described the Supreme Court ruling as disappointing and said they would approach the court to review its decision.

The ruling has been welcomed by religious groups, particularly leaders of India's Muslim and Christian communities, who had challenged the Delhi High Court order.

In the same week, Australia's High Court has overturned legislation allowing gay marriage in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). The ACT parliament passed a bill in October making the territory the first part of Australia to legalise same-sex weddings. But the national government challenged the decision, saying it was inconsistent with federal laws. Some 27 couples who married since the law came into effect last weekend will now have their unions declared invalid. The court said the issue should be decided by parliament, which in September 2012 voted down gay marriage legislation.


European parliament rejects reproductive rights resolution

Date: 13 December 2013
Source: Center for Reproductive Rights 

The European Parliament has rejected a resolution that called for access to safe and legal abortion, contraceptive services, non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and comprehensive sexuality education. This comes after a massive and deliberately misleading campaign by conservative groups against the progressive report - the 'Estrela report' - on sexual and reproductive health and rights that accompanied the resolution. The resolution was rejected by a margin of seven votes.

Instead the Parliament adopted an alternative resolution initiated by the European People’s Party and European Conservatives and Reformist Group that merely states that policies on sexual and reproductive health and rights are at the discretion of European Union member states.

While not adopting the progressive resolution, the European Parliament also conclusively rejected an opposing motion that had been tabled by the Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group, by an overwhelming 548 votes. This motion proposed support for greater restrictions on access to safe abortion, among other retrogressive measures.


Increased access to key HIV medicines through licensing agreement

Date: 12 December 2013
Source: Medicines Patent Pool

The Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) and parmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb have signed a licensing agreement to increase access to a key HIV medicine, atazanavir, in 110 developing countries.

This is the MPP's first agreement covering a WHO-preferred second-line therapy. The WHO estimates there will be over one million people on second-line treatment by 2016, and many more will need access to these therapies.

While royalties are not applicable in the vast majority of the countries and are waived for all paediatric products, any royalties that are collected under this licence agreement will be reinvested in local HIV groups in those countries.


European Parliament annual report highlights serious abuse for LGBTI people

Date: 12 December 2013
Source: European Parliament LGBT Intergroup

The European Parliament’s annual report on human rights in the world highlights serious human rights and makes annual recommendations for EU action.

Following substantial revisions, the approved report calls on the EU to challenge Russia on its treatment of LGBTI persons, expresses concern at increasing state violence against LGBTI persons in several sub-Saharan countries, especially Uganda, Nigeria, Cameroon and Senegal and points that 76 countries still criminalise homosexuality, including five which provide for the death penalty. The report also notes the regrettable trend to enact laws restricting freedom of expression and assembly for those who support the human rights of LGBTI persons in Lithuania, Russia and Ukraine. Similar laws have been proposed in Georgia, Armenia and Kazakhstan. The Parliament congratulates Moldova for repealing its anti-propaganda law. The report also welcomes the adoption by the Council of the EU guidelines on the promotion and protection of all Human Rights by LGBTI persons last June.  Finally, the Parliament also regrets the adoption of a resolution on 'traditional values' at the United Nations, undermining human rights, and calls on supportive states to follow up on the 2011 Human Rights Council resolution on Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Celebrating Human Rights Day, 10 December 2013

Date: 10 December 2013

Source: International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion

Today is Human Rights Day and this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights on 25 June 1993.

The World Conference on Human Rights recognises the importance of the enjoyment by women of the highest standard of physical and mental health throughout their life span. Women's sexual and reproductive rights are human rights and they include the right to safe abortion.

Let us remember human rights relating to safe abortion:

Right to life requires amendment of criminal laws to permit legal grounds for abortion

Right to health requires that abortion facilities and trained providers are available in sufficient quantity and equitably distributed

Right to equality and non-discrimination requires amendment of laws that criminalise medical procedures only needed by women and that punish women who undergo those procedures, requires women to be treated with respect and dignity, and that abortion services are sensitive to women's needs and perspectives

Rights to liberty, security of person and privacy requires removal of third-party authorisation requirements as inconsistent with the right of women to make decisions about reproduction and to exercise control over their bodies.

Reducing gender-based violence, Madagascar

Date: 10 December 2013
Source: IRIN

Volunteers working with UNFPA and the UN Volunteers Programme have gone from door to door in Madagascar's capital, Antananarivo, to inform women about the existence of judicial centres where women who are victims of domestic violence can get legal advice and psychosocial support, as part of its Sixteen Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence campaign.

National statistics on the prevalence of gender-based violence are not available, but a survey carried out in 2011 in three cities found that about 30% of women reported having experienced domestic violence at least once in their lives. Analysis of data collected in Demographic and Health Surveys from around the world found that Madagascar was one of only three out of 26 countries where the percentage of men and women who rejected all justifications for domestic violence actually decreased between 2003 and 2009.

Efforts to reduce violence against women in Madagascar are coming up against the economic realities and social norms lived by the majority of women in the country. While police have been trained to help women press charges against violent partners, many women still have trouble speaking out about abuse.

The only provision made in traditional Malagasy society for abused women is the right of misitaka, or to distance oneself. However, there are no shelters for battered women in Madagascar, leaving them with few options but to return to the home of their parents, where they face pressure to go back to the husband. Those women willing to talk about their problems tend to first go to the head of the fokotany or neighborhood, who is viewed as the village elder. The fokotany will then negotiate on the wife’s behalf, often without results. 

The next step is the judiciary and the police, but very few women get this far because of the costs involved.

The judicial centres often end up focusing on the pyschosocial aspects of abuse and on changing societal attitudes towards gender-based violence in the hope that more women will start to speak out and use the services that are available to them. In the last week, UNFPA launched a soap opera on local radio, detailing the experiences of a woman who presses charges against her abusive husband.

An emergency shelter where victims of domestic violence can stay for up to 48 hours is also set to open in Antananarivo soon.

Support women who fight back against intimate partner violence, US

Date: 5 December 2013
Source: RH Reality Check 

Marissa Alexander fired a warning shot into a wall after her husband beat down a door to attack her and threatened her life, just nine days after she had given birth to their daughter. Marissa is now facing charges that carry a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence for firing a gun near the husband who'd been previously convicted for pushing her into a bathtub and sending her to the hospital and who has admitted to assaulting the mothers of his other children.

Marissa was released on bond some days ago and is waiting for a retrial. In spite of serious errors that caused the original verdict to be overturned, and even though Marissa has already served the three years she was offered early on in a plea bargain, the prosecutor is determined to press charges that would send this domestic violence survivor to prison for 20 years under Florida's mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines.

A man who kills his intimate partner in the United States would likely face a two- to six-year average sentence. A woman who kills her intimate partner would likely face a 15-year average sentence.

Activists are campaigning to support an all volunteer legal team to fight this harsh prosecution. Click here to contribute to the campaign.


New Rapporteurship for Rights of LGBTI persons, Americas

Date: 25 November 2013
Source: Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

The Inter-American Human Rights Commission has created a Rapporteurship on the Rights of LGBTI persons, which will start functioning in February 2014.

The Commission notes that human rights defenders working on LGBT rights and women's sexual and reproductive rights are at particular risk of reprisals. The Commission has recognised that the risk of reprisals against these individuals increases in the context of citizen insecurity and organised crime, and where discrimination and deeply conservative values exist at an institutional level.

In the context of the preparation of a regional thematic report on the situation of violence against LGBTI persons, the IACHR has a questionnaire and invites all stakeholders, including all OAS Members States, civil society organisations and interested individuals to submit their responses to this questionnaire until 20 December 2013.


How US foreign policy harms women, Ethiopia

Date: 27 November 2013
Source: RH Reality Check

In Ethiopia, the plight of two women in similar circumstances but with very different outcomes highlights the damage that US foreign policy on aboriotn is causing.

Imagine two women, Wubalem and Chaltu, both young, married and seeking to create the best lives possible for themselves and their families. Both wanted to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. Both live only five kilometres from the nearest public health clinic. Under Ethiopian law, both have the right to safe, legal abortion. Yet, because of unnecessarily broad interpretation of U.S. government policy, one was denied this fundamental right.

Wubalem was raped by a close relative and further traumatised when she discovered she was pregnant. She went to the nearest public health clinic and requested an abortion but was told that the clinic, which receives support from USAID, does not provide abortions. She would need to travel over 60km to a facility that offers this legal service. In desperation, she returned home and attempted to end the pregnancy on her own. She almost died from a severe infection and a ruptured uterus and can now not have children.

In contrast, Chaltu, who got pregnant when her youngest was only 10 months old, obtained a safe legal abortion from the nearest public health clinic, on the grounds that another pregnancy could endanger her health. Chaltu returned home the same day after a very simple procedure and resumed caring for her children.

The stories of these two women - not real women but whose experiences mirror those of many Ethiopian women - provide a stark reminder of the impact of US abortion restrictions. Althouh the 1973 Helms Amendment states that funds cannot be used for abortion as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions, legally, this restriction does not extend to abortions performed following rape or incest or when a woman’s life is in danger, as women and girls in these situations clearly are not using abortion as a method of family planning. Yet for the past 40 years, USAID and its grantees have implemented the Helms Amendment as a complete ban on abortion.

As this blog demonstrates, the current restrictive interpretation of the Helms Amendment is at odds with U.S. domestic policy on abortion, whose allowance of government funding for abortion in cases of rape, incest, and life-endangerment is supported by even the most conservative members of Congress. Failure of the Obama administration to correctly implement the Helms Amendment, by allowing support to abortion overseas in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the woman, perpetuates an unconscionable imposition of U.S. abortion politics on women in developing countries who are least able to advocate for their own needs.

Maternal health after Typhoon Haiyan, Philippines

Date: 5 December 2013
Source: IRIN

The massive destruction of healthcare facilities, disruption to access and delivery and displacement caused by Typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda) is set to undermine maternal health provision in the Philippines, warn experts.

Before the typhoon, 60% of women were delivering in healthcare facilities. This is will drop drastically, warned the chief of UNFPA’s humanitarian branch. According to the recently released Multi-Cluster/Sector Rapid Assessment (MIRA), produced by more than 40 agencies across nine provinces, damage to health facilities varied from 50-90% in typhoon-affected areas. 

There are an estimated 292,000 pregnant women affected by Typhoon Haiyan, who need urgent maternal and newborn health services. Health experts fear conditions in evacuation centres can put pregnant women at heightened risk of malnutrition and pre-term labour.

Under the internationally-approved Minimum Initial Service Package (MISP) for reproductive health, certain activities must be implemented at the onset of every emergency, including distributing emergency delivery kits to displaced pregnant women in their last trimester, which the national family planning organisation is doing. However, what is also really needed is the provision of contraceptives like pills, condoms and injectables to prevent mistimed pregnancies.

What works for women and girls in HIV treatment

Date: 5 December 2013
Source: Health Policy Project

The website 'What works for women' has produced a simple 4-page summary of the issues, interventions and evidence for HIV treatment for women and girls, from provision and access to adherence and support to staying healthy and reducing transmission.

You can download the summary brief here.


Pregnant, positive and on pills for life

Date: 5 December 2013
Source: IRIN

While Botswana has managed to lower HIV transmission rates from mother to child to as low as 3%, Lesotho's rate remains at an unacceptable 23%. Lesotho also has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, at 630 deaths per 100,000 live births. More than half of these deaths are attributed to HIV-related complications.

The government is working on an accelerated plan to reduce maternal deaths and expand the reach of HIV services. Until recently, recommended treatment options to prevent vertical HIV transmission have depended on CD4 count tests, which are frequently inaccessible to people living in isolated mountain communities, especially during the cold, harsh winters. The Lesotho government has recently introduced Option B+ - giving pregnant women antiretroviral treatment for life, regardless of the CD4 count. Malawi adopted this approach in 2010 and within the first year of implementation, the number of HIV-positive pregnant women starting ARV treatment increased six-fold.

The guidelines may have changed in Lesotho, but the number of staff that will have to help patients deal with issues around stigma, serodiscordancy and disclosure, have remained the same. With the large numbers of people to be initiated on treatment, the country will also need to scale up its monitoring capacity by bringing in more viral load testing machines.

Activists have raised fears that the name, Option B+ , is misleading if it is the only 'option'. Many women will be diagnosed for the first time during pregnancy and will not have had the time to process what being HIV-positive really means, making it critically important that women are allowed to make an informed choice on whether they want to start Option B+ or another option with less long-term commitment.

Giving life-long treatment to pregnant women could increase tensions between people receiving treatment and those who are not - particularly couples, emphasizing the need for couples testing. National support services will have to be strengthened when countries adopt this new strategy to ensure that women stay in care and lost mothers are tracked down. In Malawi, Option B+ patients who started ARVs during pregnancy were five times more likely not to return to clinics after their initial visit than patients who started with a low CD4 cell count.

Groups sue El Salvador government over abortion

Date: 3 December 2013
Source: RH Reality Check

A group of activist groups have filed a lawsuit on behalf of Beatriz with the Inter-American Human Rights Commission in New York against the Salvadoran government for violations of human rights.

Beatriz is the El Salvadorean woman who was denied an abortion, despite medical advice that it was necessary to save her life and safeguard her health and that the fetus had no chance of survival. Despite threats to her own health and life, Beatriz and her doctors risked lengthy prison terms in the effort to save her life.

The lawsuit was filed by the Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion in El Salvador, the Feminist Collective for Local Development, CEJIL (Center for Justice and International Law), and Ipas Central America.

The lawsuit demands the reparation of the damages suffered by Beatriz and seeks to order the Salvadoran government to modify its laws in order to fully guarantee women the right to health, personal integrity, reproductive rights, and effective judicial protections.

Feminist organisations assert that Beatriz's story reflects the consequences of the absolute criminalisation of abortion and the institutional violence that is exercised against Salvadoran girls, adolescents and adult women. According to data gathered by the Citizen Group for the Decriminalization of Abortion, between 2000 and 2011, a total of 129 women in El Salvador have been charged with abortion or aggravated homicide, with sentences ranging between two and 40 years in prison. Currently there are at least 30 women serving prison such sentences, the majority having suffered the loss of their pregnancies for various obstetric complications.


American Civil Liberties Union sues bishops who put women's health at risk

Date: 2 December 2013
Source: American Civil Liberties Union

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Michigan have filed a lawsuit on behalf of a pregnant woman who miscarried and was denied appropriate medical treatment because the only hospital in her county is required to abide by religious directives. The directives, written by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, prohibited the hospital from providing life-saving care.

Tamesha Means rushed to Mercy Health Partners in Muskegon, Michigan, when her water broke after only 18 weeks of pregnancy. Based on the bishops' religious directives, the hospital sent her home twice even though Means was in excruciating pain, there was virtually no chance that her pregnancy could survive and continuing the pregnancy posed significant risks to her health.

Because of its Catholic affiliation and binding directives, the hospital told Means that there was nothing it could do. It did not tell Means that terminating her pregnancy was an option and the safest course for her condition. When Means returned to the hospital a third time in extreme distress and with an infection, the hospital, once again prepared to send her home. While staff prepared her discharge paperwork, she began to deliver. Only then did the hospital begin tending to Means' miscarriage.

Catholic-sponsored hospitals are required to adhere to the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services. The directives prohibit a pre-viability pregnancy termination, even when there is little or no chance that the fetus will survive, and the life or health of a pregnant woman is at risk. They also direct health care providers not to inform patients about alternatives inconsistent with those directives, even when those alternatives are the best option for the patient's health. The lawsuit charges that, because of the directives, the USCCB is ultimately responsible for the unnecessary trauma and harm that Means and other pregnant women in similar situations have experienced at Catholic-sponsored hospitals.

This is one more case like that of Savita Halappanavar in Ireland, who tragically died in similar circumstances. View RHM's blog on Catholic hospitals and emergency obstetric care here.


Tajikistan tackles high maternal deaths

Date: 25 November 2013
Source: Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty

Tajikistan has embarked on an ambitious plan to improve access to obstetric care. However, a recent survey found that at least 44% of the women who gave birth in Khatlon Province's Yovon district over the past year delivered their babies at home. In nearly half of those cases, the women gave birth without the assistance of a qualified midwife.

The Tajik Health Ministry says that, nationwide, the vast majority of women choose to give birth in hospitals or other facilities, with only 10% of women opting for home births, but do acknowledge that few home births are attended by a health worker. The main challenge is the high cost of delivering in health facilities and without medical supervision and the poor quality of care in public health facilities.

The high maternal mortality rate has prompted Tajik health authorities to launch an initiative that intends to ensure every pregnant woman has access to obstetric care during pregnancy and childbirth by 2015.

Although Tajikistan's maternal mortality rate remains the highest in Central Asia, there are signs of progress. Just five years ago (2008), the maternal mortality rate stood at 64 for every 100,000 live births.

Sexual rights campaigners call for equitable, inclusive internet policy

Date: 4 November 2013
Source: Association for Progressive Communications

The human rights of women and sexual minorities are being increasingly impacted by the internet, not only through violence and discrimination, but through policies and legislation that do not recognise their specific contexts, concerns and capacities.

This is a key message at the recent 'Connecting Our Rights: Strategies for Progress' workshop, hosted by the Association for Progressive Communications. Participants discussed ways in which internet rights issues are being addressed within various human rights mechanisms and spaces, and the implications for global internet governance and public policy.

Examples include a 2012 law anti-cybercrime law in the Philippines that includes cyber sex as a content-related offense. Women's rights and internet rights groups have questioned the constitutionality of this new law, which has now received a temporary restraining order by the Supreme Court. Women's rights groups have called for a law that recognise the capacities of women, rather than treating them simply as victims, and which provides for equality of access, opportunities and results.

In Indonesia, LGBT websites have been blocked, on the basis that they promote pornography and sexual deviance, yet the local internet service providers' association ran a 'Miss Internet Bali' event, which ignores the multiple identities of women.

Participants from countries including Indonesia and Sweden spoke out against increasing levels of hate speech and violent language targeted at women and sexual minorities, silencing the voices of these groups in online spaces.

Health and Human Rights Syllabus Database launch

Date: 1 December 2013
Source: Institute for Global Health, University of South California

The Program on Global Health & Human Rights, Institute for Global Health at the University of Southern California has launched the Health and Human Rights Syllabus Database.

The database includes dozens of syllabi from universities around the world, many with an explicit focus on sexual and reproductive health and rights. This resource aims to facilitate information exchange and help strengthen communication within and across institutions teaching health and human rights, as well as other organisations interested in teaching related content, concepts or methods related to gender, sexual and reproductive health and rights across a range of groups.

The database provides up-do-date information on course objectives, readings, materials, assessments and approaches to health and human rights courses and seeks to stimulate and support efforts to integrate health and human rights into a wide variety of teaching, training and programmatic activity. Further, it seeks to better position sexual and reproductive health and rights at the forefront of teaching efforts going forward.

Publications: Sexuality and Development

Date: December 2013
Source: Institute for Development Studies

The Sexuality and Development Programme have launched a range of new publications addressing some of the most relevant issues on sexuality:

Sexuality and Development Programme: An Annotated Bibliography reflects global thinking on sexuality, bringing together texts on poverty, pleasure, gender, heteronormativity, rights, and a lot more. Available to download here.

ELDIS Key Issues Guide on Heteronormativity explores research, policy and practice which has offered an analysis of the impact of heteronormativity on issues such as economic justice, human rights and health. The guide examines why heterosexism affects everyone, should not be confined to same-sex communities and how it intersects with issues surrounding masculinities and women's empowerment. Available to download here.

Marriage Above All Else:The Push for Heterosexual, Nuclear Families in the Making of South Africa's White Paper on Families highlights the power dynamics that have led to the inclusion and exclusion of specific content and language, particularly around the notion of what constitutes a family in contemporary South Africa, in relation the development of the White Paper on Families as it exists in its current iteration. The report points to two worrying trends in the making of policies and laws in South Africa: (1) public policy in South Africa is becoming increasingly conservative as a result of religious and cultural doctrines which do not recognise sexual diversity or support the engendering of human rights in society; (2) the South African government and its representatives are promoting a heteronormative value system in its policy and programming, despite resistance from civil society. Download the summary version here.

Undressing Patriarchy: Redressing Inequalities is a new report of a seminar held in September 2013. A wide range of global participants engaged in dialogues across perspectives from feminism, men and masculinities work, sexual rights and other social justice struggles. The wide-ranging discussions and suggested actions can be viewed here.


Afghan government considers reintroduction of public stoning

Date: 25 November 2013
Source: Guardian

Afghanistan's government is considering bringing back the use of public stoning as a punishment for sex outside marriage. The sentence for married adulterers, along with flogging for unmarried offenders, appears in a draft revision of the country's penal code being drawn up by the ministry of justice.

It is the latest in a string of encroachments on hard-won rights for women, after parliament quietly cut the number of seats set aside for women on provincial councils, and drew up a criminal code whose provisions will make it almost impossible to convict anyone for domestic violence.

Activists fear that as conservatives are making headway in undermining rights they see as a foreign imposition. A translated section of the draft seen by the Guardian has several references to stoning, including detailed notes on judicial requirements for handing down the sentence. The provision on stoning was drawn up by a sub-committee working on sharia law, and has not yet been put to the main working group for approval. But its inclusion even in the draft is a warning sign that conservative judges and lawmakers are feeling bolder, women's rights campaigners said.

A senior official at the ministry of justice confirmed there was a provision for stoning in the sharia provisions of the draft penal code, but said the cautious drafting process was barely half complete. When the draft is complete, and approved by the working committee, it will be reviewed by the ministry before going to the presidential palace and then finally to parliament for approval.

New adolescent HIV guidelines

Date: 25 November 2013
Source: World Health Organization

More than 2 million adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19 years are living with HIV, and many do not receive the care and support that they need to stay in good health and prevent transmission. In addition, millions more adolescents are at risk of infection.

The failure to support effective and acceptable HIV services for adolescents has resulted in a 50% increase in reported AIDS-related deaths in this group compared with the 30% decline seen in the general population from 2005 to 2012.

New WHO recommendations, 'HIV and adolescents: Guidance for HIV testing and counselling and care for adolescents living with HIV', address the specific needs of adolescents living with HIV and at risk of infection.

WHO recommends governments review their laws to make it easier for adolescents to obtain HIV testing without needing consent from their parents. The guidelines also suggest ways that health services can improve the quality of care and social support for adolescents. Recommendations highlight the value of involving this age group to create an adolescent-centred approach to the services that work for people of their age.

To help health workers put these recommendations into practice WHO has developed a new online tool which will be launched in January 2014. It uses practical examples from country programmes that are working closely with adolescents on HIV issues.

The guidelines can be downloaded here.

Urgent need to address resurgent gay epidemic, UK health chief

Date: 23 November 2013
Source: Aidsmap

There is an increasing and potentially catastrophic HIV and sexual health epidemic in gay men and men who have sex with men (MSM) in every part of the world, according to a senior UK health official.

Despite having an increasing number of tools to prevent HIV, HIV prevalence in MSM is increasing almost everywhere and incidence (the proportion who acquire HIV every year) is stubbornly refusing to change. Optimising HIV testing programmes for MSM, particularly in countries where they faced criminalisation and discrimination, was key to controlling the epidemic, but this would be a challenge, according to a director at the UK's national public health agency.

It is estimated that the HIV rate in MSM is eight times that of the general population in low-income countries and 23 times the general population rate in high-income countries.

Reducing the burden requires culturally competent care from health workers, which is a basic human right. Health workers needed training to provide supportive, non-judgmental care and the sometimes systematic exclusion of MSM from HIV prevention, services and research has to be combated.

In a related news item, recent data from the UK shows a rise in new HIV infections amongst gay men. During 2012, 3,250 gay men were diagnosed with HIV, the largest number of cases ever recorded in this group. Some of the diagnoses are likely to be from previously acquired infections because more gay men appear to be testing, but the figures are also fuelled by risky behaviour and new infections.

Efforts to increase the number of gay men who test, and the frequency with which they do so, are beginning to pay off. There has been a drop in the proportion of gay men living with HIV who were unaware of their infection, from 26% in 2010 to 18% in 2012. The proportion of new diagnoses that were made late also dropped, from 38% in 2010 to 34% in 2012. But HIV transmission continues at high levels. The large majority of transmissions originate in men unaware of their own infection. More gay male diagnoses were made in London than in other regions, with the upward trend in diagnoses most marked there, but within London HIV is particularly concentrated in areas with more socioeconomic problems.

African Commission condemns forced sterilisation of women with HIV

Date: 6 November 2013
Source: OSISA

The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights has condemned the coerced sterilisation of women living with HIV as a blatant violation of their fundamental rights, which are guaranteed under the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights.

Following reports of coerced and forced sterilisation of women living with HIV in numerous African countries in recent years, including South Africa, Kenya, Namibia, Swaziland, Lesotho, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Zambia, the resolution has been warmly welcomed by activists and civil society groups across the continent.

The strongly worded Resolution on Involuntary Sterilisation and Protection of Human Rights in Access to HIV Services was adopted on November 4th during the Commission's 54th ordinary session in Banjul.

The resolution condemned all forms of stigma and discrimination in terms of access to, and provision of, health services in the context of HIV. It also made it clear that all forms of involuntary sterilisation violated women's rights to equality and non-discrimination, dignity, liberty and security of the person, and freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, as well as the right to the highest attainable physical and mental health as enshrined in regional and international human rights instruments.

New guidelines for cervical cancer screening and treatment

Date: 25 November 2013
Source: World Health Organization

Women's cancers, including breast, cervical and ovarian cancer, lead to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths among women. Whilst investments and cytology-based programmes to prevent and treat women’s cancers such as cervical cancer have improved and led to strong reductions in high-income countries, in low-and middle-income countries, deaths among women remain high.

In low- and middle-income countries, cytology-based programmes are very difficult to implement, and where they are implemented, the screening coverage is low. Therefore, WHO have published new cervical cancer screening and treatment guidelines, in response to the need for screening and treatment strategies that will increase coverage in all countries, especially low- and middle-income countries, where deaths amongst women remain high.

The recommendations, based on the available evidence, focus on the use of a screen and treat approach using visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA) for screening and treatment with cryotherapy, or when feasible HPV testing followed by treatment.

Cervical cancer prevention requires a comprehensive, integrated approach across different health programmes and government ministries. These new guidelines combined with HPV vaccination, support the commitment of Member States to implement cervical cancer prevention programme as part of the 2013-2020 Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases.

The guidelines can be downloaded here.


Publication: Programming strategies for post-partum contraception

Date: 25 November 2013
Source: World Health Organization

WHO have published a new resource, for use when designing interventions to integrate postpartum family planning into national and subnational strategies.

Postpartum family planning should be considered an integrated part of existing maternal and child health and family planning efforts. Successful interventions for postpartum family planning require holistic and evidence-based programme strategies that contribute to strengthened health systems and sustained improvements in high-quality services that put people at the centre of health care.

The resource identifies three critical areas of work for countries to ensure successful implementation of the strategies:

- close tracking of postpartum contraceptive use to ensure a steady supply and distribution of contraceptives;

- high quality, easy-to-understand informational materials about family planning options to help women and families make informed choices; and

- health worker training of recommended practices so services are consistent with global standards of care.

Programming Strategies is being launched by WHO, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and its implementing partner, the Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP).

The publication can be downloaded here.


Tanzania likely to fall short on family planning targets

Date: 19 November 2013
Source: IRIN

Tanzania will likely fall short of its 2015 reproductive health targets, which aim to reduce the estimated one million abortions, 2.9 million unintended births, 18,000 maternal deaths and 500,000 child deaths that occur every year because of poor of access to family planning services, according to experts in the field.

The planned increase in proportion of women or their partners using contraception from 27% in 2010 to 60% over the next five years is considered to be more than 50% off target by Health Development Tanzania, an NGO that monitors government spending on reproductive health programmes.

Challenges include a need for greater government investment in reproductive health and more timely disbursements. So far, the government has released less than one quarter of the estimated funding required - around $88.2 million between 2010 and 2015. In 2011/2012, the government released only 4 billion shillings ($2.5 million), when the estimated need was 20 billion shillings ($12.4 million).

Senior government officials report that they are upbeat about meeting their target although admit hurdles with lack of human resources, allegations of corruption in the sector and low expectations from the public.

Laws and policies for youth sexual and reproductive health, Asia and the Pacific

Date: 22 November 2013
Source: UNESCO Asia-Pacific Regional Office

A new publication, Young people and the Law in Asia and the Pacific: A review of laws and policies affecting young people's access to sexual and reproductive health and HIV services, has just been launched in Bangkok.

The study, commissioned by UNESCO, UNFPA, UNAIDS, UNDP and Youth Lead, identifies legal and policy issues that affect young people's access to HIV and sexual and reproductive health services. It draws on analysis of over 400 legal and policy documents from 32 Asia-Pacific countries and focus group discussions with young people in the region.

Very few countries have taken legal steps to clarify the health rights of young people. This creates particular problems in the sensitive areas of HIV, sexual health and reproductive health. The report offers recommendations on steps that can be taken to address challenges keeping young people from accessing essential health and information services. These cover legal reforms, changes in law enforcement practices and the greater inclusion of young people's voices in drafting policy related to SRH and HIV services.

The report can be downloaded here and a video that illustrates the issues and findings in the report here.

MDG funding target shortfall for reproductive health and HIV

Date: 26 November 2013
Source: Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevoelkerung

A new report, Euromapping 2013 - The Definitive Guide to Global Population Assistance, is launched today by Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevoelkerung (DSW) and the European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development.

The report has a stark message - global development assistance has dropped and the international community is in real danger of not meeting the 2015 funding targets set by the Millennium Development Goals.

Total Overall Development Aid (ODA) from OECD countries dropped by 4%, to $125.9 billion in 2012, reaching levels last seen in 2007. The majority of international and European donors continue to renege on their commitment to increase ODA to 0.7% GNI by 2015. Only Denmark, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway and Sweden reached or exceeded this target in 2012.

Development budgets were slashed in 15 countries in 2012, with those hardest hit by the Euro crisis among those implementing the harshest cuts - Italy (down 24.7%), Greece (17%) and Portugal (13.1%), and, most precipitously, Spain (49.7%). Despite this, however, the European Commission and EU member states collectively remain the largest donors, providing 50% of all global ODA in 2012.

Funding for family planning, reproductive health and HIV and AIDS has been severely impacted by cuts to development budgets, and funding has stalled since 2007. The majority of international donors, including all EU member states, are failing to honour their commitment to set aside 10% of all ODA for population assistance. The EU continues to fall behind the USA - which contributes 20% of its ODA - in terms of both absolute and relative contributions.

Euromapping concludes that if donors are to honour their commitments to population assistance by the 2015 deadline, an additional $54bn is needed to make up for current shortfalls - particularly for reproductive health and family planning services.

You can download the full Euromapping 2013 Report here.


Safe abortion hotline opens, Bangladesh

Date: 18 November 2013
Source: Women on Waves

A new sexual and reproductive health hotline, Naribandhob, has been launched in Bangladesh, providing information about reproductive health education and use of misoprostol for safe medical menstrual regulation, post-menstrual regulation care and prevention of bleeding after birth (post-partum haemorrhage).

Information is provided free of charge through a regular mobile phone number.

The hotline is run by the Bangladeshi Organization Community Life Bangladesh, in collaboration with Women on Waves (Netherlands), Women on Web, Asia Safe Abortion Partnership and Aware Girls (Pakistan).

Misoprostol is available in Bangladesh under the brand names of Cytomis and Isovent. Unsafe abortion is responsible for 8,000 maternal deaths and over 572,000 women suffering complications every year in Bangladesh.

This hotline joins those run by participating organisations in Pakistan, Indonesia, Morocco, Kenya, Malawi, Thailand, Ecuador, Argentina, Venezuela and Chile.

Protecting women and girls in emergencies

Date: 14 November 2013
Source: IRIN News

Attention has focused on the protection of women and girls in emergencies at the #
KeepHerSafe event in London, a high-level event for governments, UN agencies, international NGOs and civil society that aimed to reach an agreement on a 'fundamental new approach to protecting girls and women in emergency situations, both man-made and natural disasters.'

The devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, and its impact on women and girls, highlights the particular risks faced by women and girls struggling to receive basic aid in a situation of deteriorating security. 

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, spoke of how difficult it had been to change working culture in the field, to make staff understand that protection is an essential part of humanitarian work - considering safety when designing temporary accommodation by ensuring separate sanitation facilities with privacy and lockable doors, lighting, cooking facilities that do not require women and girls to travel long distances, into isolated areas, in search of firewood. During food drops, such as are currently happening in the Philippines, women cannot get to the food fast enough, and as a result they are forced to make tough decisions about what they will give the men in return for food.

Speakers addressed the need to include reproductive health services in emergency situations - including safe abortion for victims of rape. Abortion was not mentioned in the final communiqué, but the UK secretary of state for international development, said, "It's absolutely vital that we provide the life-saving services that women actually need, as opposed to those that we might feel most comfortable providing. Contraception, prevention and treatment of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, and safe abortion are life-saving services. And yet they are often ignored in humanitarian responses."

View the communique and a detailed work plan, in which governments, agencies and NGOs in attendance put their names to specific promises and actions: to forestall violence, to increase the numbers of specialist staff, to improve capacity, and to support survivors of rape and violence.

China to loosen one-child policy

Date: 15 November 2013
Source: Guardian

China's state media has reported that proposed policy change to the national one-child policy, decided at the recent Communist Party's third plenum. Under the new policy, couples in which one member is an only child will be allowed to have two children. Currently, couples can only have two children if both members are only children themselves.

Commentators observe that the fact that the policy has not been abolished outright suggests that the party are more concerned with economic than human rights.

EU court ruling on sexual orientation partial success for refugees

Date: 7 November 2013
Source: European Parliament's Inter-Group on LGBT Rights and Amnesty International

The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that people fleeing their country with a well-founded fear of being persecuted because of their sexual orientation may qualify for asylum in the European Union.

Rules to grant asylum in European Union Member States are laid down in the Directive on asylum qualifications. The Directive holds that depending on circumstances in their country of origin, people belonging to "particular social groups" may seek refuge in the European Union.

Faced with asylum requests from three gay men from Senegal, Sierra Leone and Uganda, the Dutch State Council asked the Court of Justice whether homosexual people were considered a "particular social group" within the meaning of the Directive.

The Court of Justice answered that people of a specific sexual orientation targeted by laws criminalising their conduct or identity could constitute such a group. The Court added that prison sentences prescribed by law only counted as persecution when they were enforced. This is the case in most of the 76 countries criminalising homosexuality, but not all.Finally, the Court affirmed that EU Member States could not reasonably expect gay, lesbian and bisexual asylum-seekers to hide their sexual orientation in the countries they fled.

Critics and activists argue that this ruling did not go far enough and the Court lost a valuable opportunity, observed by Amnesty International, 'to state clearly that to criminalise consensual same-sex conduct ultimately amounts to criminalising people for who they are and, therefore, amounts to persecution per se, regardless of how often sentences of imprisonment are enforced.' Activists would like the Court to recognise that the mere existence of laws criminalising homosexuality are contrary to human rights law, rather than purely acting once the law has been used to persecute individuals - not criticising the law itself allows human rights violations to be committed, as is already the case in so many countries.

Integrating abortion and contraceptive services, Ethiopia

Date: 11 November 2013
Source: IPAS 

The International Conference on Family Planning 2013 is currently underway in Ethiopia, a country with two notable examples of how to increase access to reproductive health care. Ethiopia is integrating women's access to medical abortion and to post-abortion contraception services into government family planning programmes.

Ethiopia's 2005 legal reforms expanded women’s access to safe, legal abortion care. Community outreach to ensure that women - including young women - know about the abortion law change and how to access safe services has made a significant difference. Help Points are an innovative strategy to provide Ethiopian youth across the country with much-needed information on reproductive health. These Help Points are placed on high school and college campuses and in community centres. Help Points are staffed by trained peer educators and offer information, counselling services, contraceptives, group learning sessions and mass edutainment activities such as trivia sessions to engage young people on their reproductive health needs and rights.

All women who have abortions are supposed to now receive counselling on their contraceptive options, and a contraceptive method, if they so choose, before they leave the health facility. The number of women choosing a post-abortion contraceptive method in Ipas-supported facilities increased from under a third (31%) in 2005 to 84% by 2012.

Staff in health facilities are being provided with reproductive health training support. For example, a 2011 peer-mentoring model paired providers at facilities with lower IUD service delivery rates with those at facilities with higher rates.

Since the 2008 introduction of medical abortion in Ethiopia, women's use of this method has increased rapidly, with over half of all women who seek early termination of pregnancy services in public facilities now choosing medical abortion.

While Ethiopia's family planning program has made great strides in just under a decade, much work remains to ensure that all women can control their reproductive lives. Women and providers, especially in rural places where a majority of the nation's population resides, are still often unaware of the 2005 abortion law changes and the range of reasons women can now have a legal abortion. And although contraceptive prevalence is increasing, 25% of married women still report an unmet need for contraceptives.

HIV may be becoming less 'fit'

Date: 8 November 2013
Source: Aidsmap

HIV, at least in some parts of the world, may be developing a lower replicative capacity as it adapts to variations in the human immune system, studies in southern Africa and elsewhere suggest.

Findings presented at the recent AIDS Vaccine conference suggest that competition between HIV and certain varieties of other human genes, that help the body distinguish between its own tissues and foreign invaders, may be making HIV less virulent. This in turn is leading to fewer people with high viral loads and a larger number of people who appear to have low viral loads without needing treatment. These changes seem to be happening surprisingly fast and it is likely that the introduction of antiretroviral therapy would also tend to reduce the fitness of the HIV that was still circulating.

In one study of people with HIV in Durban, South Africa, people with certain gene subtypes (B*5701, 5702, and 5801) had at least a threefold lower viral load than the average for the population and those who had HIV subtype B*5703 had on average a five-fold reduction in HIV compared to the average. In Durban, there appeared to be an unusually high proportion of women in the population who were controlling HIV spontaneously. Twenty-four of the first 239 women whose viral loads were tested (10%) and who were not taking treatment had a viral load under 50 copies/ml, whereas no more than 0.5% in most populations studied had such low viral load when not on treatment. HIV fitness might also be declining because untreated people with high viral loads have higher mortality and therefore have less time to potentially transmit the virus to others. Another reason may be that, in countries where testing remains low, those who get sickest are enrolled on treatment first, thus reducing transmission of the most infectious and 'fittest' forms of the virus first, leaving HIV transmission to occur most amongst people who have the 'weaker' forms of virus.

Women and girls' need for reproductive health assistance, Syrian crisis

Date: 8 November 2013
Source: Lancet

Humanitarian assistance funding for Syria must include long-term planning of comprehensive reproductive health services.

The Syrian civil war has entered its third year. 6.8 million people need humanitarian assistance, of whom 5.1 million people are internally displaced. Syrian women and children comprise the largest proportion of displaced people, at present about 78%. 

Women and girls are at an increased risk of exposure to gender-based violence, particularly sexual violence, deteriorating mental health and maternal and newborn complications. The rise in female-headed households cause additional burdens for women as caregivers and providers. 

Assessments of refugees in neighbouring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt find that reproductive health is a crucial issue, but women face barriers in accessing services because of lack of services or cost. The number of refugees has also placed a strain on the existing health services.

Inside Syria, about 1.7 million women of reproductive age are in need of assistance and do not have access to reproductive health services. Access to internally displaced people for international organisations is becoming more difficult in Syria, making it harder for civilians to access humanitarian assistance. Attacks on civilians and hospitals affect women's access to safe deliveries and antenatal and postnatal care.

At present, only 40% of the total funding requested for Syria has been received. The humanitarian community must consider new approaches for reaching hard-to-access populations within Syria, and improved coverage of out-of-camp refugees. Increased access to cash assistance, in place of in-kind support, could mitigate risks for sexual exploitation and abuse. Expedited registration of refugees needs to be continued to ensure continuing access to life-saving reproductive health services and to offer protection for women and girls who are at increased risk for abuse.

Action on human rights violations against women seeking abortion, Bolivia

Date: 5 November 2013
Source: IPAS

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has called on Bolivia to stop prosecuting women for illegal abortions and to remove judicial barriers to legal abortion.

The Committee noted that Bolivia is denying women access to their full range of rights, protected by the Bolivian constitution. Bolivia's strict abortion law allows exceptions in cases of rape or threats to health or life of a woman. In order to get a legal abortion, women must first get authorisation from a judge. So far, only six women have been granted legal abortion since 2009.

The Committee has recommended that Bolivia remove judicial authorisation in cases of therapeutic abortion and refrain from prosecuting women for having had illegal abortions as a result of the obstacles caused by prior judicial authorisation. Bolivia has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the region, and unsafe abortion accounts for nearly one-third maternal deaths.

A 2012 study by IPAS found that this authorisation is routinely denied with women having no other recourse but unsafe and illegal abortion and that in general women who are poor, young, rural or indigenous are selectively targeted by the state for prosecution. 

The full committee report can be found here.


Fighting gender-based violence, Sierra Leone

Date: 6 November 2013
Source: IRIN

The ongoing trial of Sierra Leone's former Deputy Education Minister, Mahmoud Tarawally, on rape charges has highlighted the prevalence of sexual violence in the country. Tarawally, who has since been sacked, was charged after a report was filed by the alleged victim, a 24-year-old university student.

More than 6,500 incidents of domestic- and gender-based violence were reported in Sierra Leone in the first eight months of 2013, almost as many as in the whole of 2012. Authorities say the upward trend is likely due to more people deciding to report cases of sexual abuse. 

The director of gender affairs at the Ministry of Social Welfare said the high level of sexual violence has its roots in Sierra Leone's decade-long civil war. Impunity surrounding gender-based crimes, stigma and an under-resourced court system are major contributing factors. Of the 6,591 reported cases of domestic or gender-based violence so far this year, only 6% resulted in a conviction, according to police statistics.

In 2011, the government, with the support of UNDP, launched a new initiative to address some of the obstacles to accountability. Some courts now extend their working week to include Saturdays, when they hear only gender-related cases. The aim of the Saturday sessions is to clear a backlog of around 700 cases. Police have been trained in the standard operating procedures for dealing with gender-based crimes. Community-based organisations are being supported in their efforts to encourage victims to seek justice through the courts. While still low, the 399 people convicted for sexual and domestic crimes in Sierra Leone during the first eight months of this year is an improvement over 2012, when just 152 people were found guilty.

Youth activists' guide to safe abortion

Date: 4 November 2013
Source: Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights

This updated guide seeks to empower young activists working on sexual and reproductive rights with the information and context needed to become strong advocates for young women's right to abortion.

Young women's access to abortion touches on some of the most sensitive issues in cultures around the world - the role of parents, community and religious leaders in decision-making on the issue of children and adolescents and youth sexuality.

The guide offers a youth perspective on some of the key issues in advocating for young women’s right to abortion, includes new information on the global context as well as background information on abortion health and rights and tips for advocates.

It is available in English, French and Spanish.

Cyber attacks on Latin American reproductive rights activists

Date: 5 November 2013
Source: Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC)

On 21 September the Latin America and Caribbean Women's Health Network's (LACWHN) website was hacked and disabled. The attack occurred immediately following the launch of several campaign activities for the September 28 Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion.

The attack highlights the serious threat that online harassment presents to sexual and reproductive rights activists. As recognised recently by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, those working on sexual and reproductive rights are at a particular risk of harassment, discrimination, stigma, criminalisation and physical violence.

A 2013 global survey found that 51% had received violent or threatening messages online, about one third had beem intimidated, blocked and filtered and 29% had been censored. This resulted in 27% of them discontinuing the work they were doing online.

New guidelines on transgender health, UK

Date: 2 November 2013
Source: Lancet

A new report sets out the UK's first good practice guidelines for assessing the needs of adults with gender dysphoria - when an individual has a difference between their gender identity and visible sex.

The report puts the patient at the centre of care and highlights the need for a collaborative multidisciplinary approach to improve quality of life and dignity. Stigma surrounding gender variance has led to an increasing number of people self-medicating using hormones and hormone-blockers available over the internet. To adequately care for patients, a network of clinicians is needed to enable transfer between services, including referral to specialist gender identity consultants, in a timely and confidential manner. Doctors need to be aware of the integrated care pathways needed to ensure a coordinated quality of specialist care. They should also be aware of the needs of individuals who do not think of their gender as merely male or female, or may describe themselves as non-gendered.

The report, published by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, has been developed and endorsed by many different organisations.

The guidelines reinforce the advice of the Standards of Care published in 2011 by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health to step away from a psychopathological model towards one based on evidence.

The report is available for download here.


Adolescent pregnancy linked to human rights failures

Date: 1 November 2013
Source: AWID

UNFPA's 2013 report on world population, The State of World Population 2013: Motherhood in Childhood, focuses on the impact of adolescent pregnancy on girls' education, health and long-term employment. The report explicitly connects adolescent pregnancy with the failure to fulfil girls' rights to comprehensive sexuality education and to readily accessible sexual and reproductive health services. The report calls on the global community to address a range of contributing problems, including gender discrimination, lack of autonomy, child marriage and lack of comprehensive reproductive health information and care. The report also urges the implementation of policies and programmes that support, rather than stigmatise, pregnant adolescents.

According to State of the World 2013, every day 20,000 girls below age 18 give birth in developing countries. Girls under 15 account for 2 million of the 7.3 million new adolescents mothers every year. One in five girls worldwide has given birth by the age of 18.

The report is available in English, French, Spanish, Russian and Arabic.

Schoolgirls forced to take pregnancy tests, Tanzania

Date: 2 November 2013
Source: AWID

A new report, Forced out: mandatory pregnancy testing and the expulsion of pregnant students in Tanzanian schools, highlights an abusive practice of forced pregnancy testing by schools, which has driven at least 55,000 girls out of schools in the country over the last decade and which violates basic human rights.

The survey, conducted in Tanzania from 2011 to mid-2013, was based on interviews with students, teachers, health care providers and education officials. Girls described the pregnancy tests as crude assaults on their bodies, usually involving the pinching or squeezing of breasts and stomachs, often in front of other students. Such tests may be part of an admissions process or be carried out with considerable frequency after a student is already enrolled. Interviewees reported that they were not given the option to choose between this manual procedure and a urine pregnancy test. Nonetheless, it is preferred by schools because, unlike a urine pregnancy test, it can be performed free of charge.

Tanzania is preparing to introduce education policies that will cover teenage pregnancy. However, some provisions in the draft implementation guidelines reflect a continuing punitive and coercive approach to adolescent pregnancy in schools. For example, the guidelines state that a female student would have only one readmission opportunity following pregnancy, implying that a second pregnancy, regardless of the circumstances, would result in expulsion. The guidelines require schools to conduct periodic pregnancy tests on female students and mandate that a pregnant student disclose the male responsible for her pregnancy.

The report can be viewed here.

Khmer Rouge sexual violence survivors break silence, Cambodia

Date: 1 November 2013
Source: IRIN

A recent hearing for victims of sexual violence under the Khmer Rouge has given a space for women who have kept silent for almost 35 years. The hearing has taken place alongside the UN-backed Extraordinary Chamber of the Courts in Cambodia (commonly referred to as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal). 

Cambodia Defenders Project (CDP), in cooperation with Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO) and the Victims' Support Section of an ongoing war crimes probe, launched annual public hearings in 2011 to give voice to sexual violence survivors during the Khmer Rouge regime (1975-1979), when an estimated 1.8 million people were murdered.

The tribunal's judges ruled in September 2010 that extramarital sexual crimes could not be tried in their court. They acknowledged that rape occurred under the Khmer Rouge's rule, but the judges wrote that those who were suspected of 'immoral' behaviour, including rape, were categorised as bad elements or enemies, and were often re-educated or killed. This was done under a policy known as Code No. 6, which prohibited sexual relations between unmarried couples, with the possibility of both parties being executed if discovered. The judges decided that this demonstrated that the
Khmer Rouge policy clearly aimed to prevent rape and thus leaders could not be held responsible for gender-based crimes outside of marriage.

Following this denial of space for women in the official court, CDP decided to give gender-based violence survivors a voice. There have now been three public hearings, each attended by five participants. CDP note that survivors of sexual violence during the time of the Khmer Rouge have only come forth in recent years. A radio programme started in 2009 encouraged women to speak about their experiences with sexual violence. This, plus advocacy by local human rights organisations, led the war crimes tribunal to include forced marriage as a punishable crime in its proceedings. However, instead of preventing rape, the Khmer Rouge leaders' policy ensured survivors would not report their perpetrators, given that the penalty for extramarital sex, including rape, was death.

Last month, in its most recent review of the government's compliance with CEDAW, the UN questioned the failure of Cambodian government to address adequately sexual violence against women under the Khmer Rouge regime. The UN has called on the government to 'develop effective non-judicial transitional justice programmes, including the provision of adequate reparations, psychological and other appropriate support'.

Still standing: rape survivors speak out, Kenya

Date: 31 October 2013
Source: IRIN

The recent gang rape of a 16-year-old Kenyan girl, and the laughable punishment given to some of her attackers - they were made to cut grass for an afternoon before being set free - has made headlines around the world.

So far, more than 1.3 million people have signed an online petition to demand justice for the young woman, who suffered horrific injuries and is now wheelchair-bound, and for the police involved in her petition to be disciplined.

The petition to the Kenyan Inspector General of Police can be signed here.

The most unusual aspect of the case was not its brutality, nor the fact that her attackers, despite stiff penalties for rape being on the statute books, remain free. Rather, what is unusual is that, unlike so many similar crimes, her ordeal generated so much publicity.

Still Standing is an audio slideshow telling the story of a similar rape survivor, Ziborah Iala, and her seemingly endless quest for justice and healing. Having kept silent about her ordeal for several years, Iala found through counselling both the strength and the determination to speak out, so as to improve her chances of gaining redress and to encourage other women in the same position to do likewise.

The video can be viewed here.


Victory in European Parliament against anti choice actors

Date: 23 October 2013
Source: International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) European Network

Despite the referral of the pro-choice Estrela Report to the Women's Rights Committee of the European Parliament, there was also a major victory when an overwhelming majority of 486 MEPs voted against the anti choice alternative Motion for a Resolution that aimed to replace the Estrela Report.

The Motion for a Resolution, included as Amendment 1 to the Estrela Report, contained a an alternative report that was a series of hard-core anti-choice recommendations that, if adopted, would have replaced the whole Estrela Report. The report was submitted by the Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) party - a coalition of ten far right-wing political parties, the largest being the UK Independence Party and the Italian Northern League.The centre-right European People Party did not support the anti-choice Motion for a Resolution.


Call for civil society contribution to report on child marriage

Date: 24 October 2013
Source: Civil Society Section, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

Call for submission on child, early and forced marriage

Deadline: 15 December 2013

The recently adopted UN Resolution 24/23 on the subject of child, early and forced marriage requests the OHCHR to prepare a report on preventing and eliminating child, early and forced marriage, to be presented to the Council at its 26th session in June 2014.

The OHCHR requests submissions from civil society to feed into this report.
In particular, views and information would be welcome on:

a) How States are implementing their obligations under international human rights conventions and international human rights treaties on child, early and forced marriage at the national level;

b) Steps taken to prohibit child, early and forced marriage, as well as examples of positive experience and challenges encountered at the national level in adopting polices, measures and implementing strategies to address this issue;

c) Policies, projects and measures undertaken at national and sub-national levels by all actors to promote the elimination of child, early and forced marriage, specifically including action taken to address the issue in practicing communities, and to address or mitigate its impact, making specific reference to the outcomes of such policies, projects and measures;

d) Surveys, assessments and studies carried out at national and sub-national level on the prevalence of child, early and forced marriage and/or its impact on the human rights of women and girls and other affected groups;

e) Recommendations on or examples of good practices regarding possible appropriate measures and strategies to prevent and eliminate child, early and forced marriage.

Please send your submission to the Women Human Rights and Gender Section of OHCHR by e-mail (

Pain relief a distant dream for patients in Senegal

Date: 25 October 2013
Source: IRIN

A new report by Human Rights Watch, Abandoned agony, highlights the pain and suffering of an estimated 70,000 Senegalese suffering from pain related to a prolonged illness, such as cancer or HIV.

According to the report, Senegal currently stocks only enough morphine for around 200 patients each year. Bureaucratic issues relating to the ordering and procurement of morphine are complicated, and that there are many laws surrounding the importation of such drugs. Additionally, despite rising disease rates, the amount of morphine that Senegal orders each year has remained the same since 1960. Oral morphine is available at only three hospitals in Dakar, and liquid morphine is not on Senegal's list of essential medicines. Senegal lacks universal palliative care.

The report proposes a number of recommendations to the Senegalese government to ensure that palliative care becomes available to all patients who need it. These include making pain medications available in hospitals around the country. Morphine is very cheap to produce, so the cost should not be prohibitive. Another recommendation is to change the regulations for prescribing morphine. Currently, the law allows a patient to only receive a seven-day supply at one time. In many countries, patients can receive a 30- or even 90-day supply of morphine at a time. Finally, health workers must be trained in palliative care so that they can identify when a patient needs such services and what kind of pain management they require. These services must be available in not only the capital but in village clinics as well.

The government notes that pain relief is an important issue, but argue that cancer, along with cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory infections, are considered priorities by the government, they just do not receive the same amount of funding or attention from international donors as issues like HIV, childhood malnutrition or malaria.

The report can be downloaded here.


Sexual and reproductive health and rights - are they on the post-2015 development agenda?

Date: 25 October 2013
Source: AWID

The 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly, 23-27 September 2013, was the first international inter-governmental process related to the Post 2015 Development Agenda. It set out the formal process for governments to be involved in negotiations around the new development agenda. The session ended with renewed commitment to anti-poverty targets and an agreement to adopt new development goals in 2015.

Women's groups used every opportunity to put their demands and critiques on the table, but there is still much to be done to achieve an inclusive, transformative and sustainable development framework. Women's rights advocates and organisations highlight six major concerns.

The outcome document does not reflect strong affirmation for women's human rights and a standalone gender equality goal, as well as gender equality as a cross-cutting issue in the post 2015 development agenda. The document does not overtly consider a human rights framework for the new development agenda and there is need to be more ambitious. There is need for a far more coherent and stronger articulation between acceleration of the Millennium Development Goals, evolution of the Sustainable Development Goals and other multilateral processes. The lack of concrete mechanisms and resources for implementation continues to be a major concern.
More must be done to achieve meaningful, inclusive and transparent intergovernmental processes that include civil society and feminist movements.

Importantly, for sexual and reproductive health activists, a final push is urgently needed to achieve the MDGs, particularly goals three and five focused on gender equality, sexual and reproductive rights, as well as women's human rights.

Decision model for men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgender persons and persons who inject drugs

Date: 24 October 2013
Source: Health Policy Project

The Decision Model is a newly published tool designed to help country stakeholders build a public policy foundation that supports access to and implementation and scale-up of evidence-informed services for men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgender persons and persons who inject drugs.

The Decision Model helps to clearly identify and address policy barriers to services. The outcome of analysis is to identify feasible, near-term advocacy priorities that will improve access to services, even while longer-term human rights initiatives are undertaken. Its policy inventory and analysis tools draw from the extensive body of international laws, agreements, standards and best practices in services, allowing the assessment of a specific country policy environment in relation to these standards.

The model
was developed in response to restrictive, poorly written, and absent policies that restrict access to, and sustainability, of key services in community-based and prison programmes.

The MSM/TG/SW Decision Model, developed with support from USAID and PEPFAR, can be downloaded here.

Moldova repeals 'anti-gay' law

Date: 14 October 2013
Source: Advocate.com

The government of Moldova has narrowly voted to repeal anti-gay legislation banning the 'promotion' of LGBT issues to children.

The law in question, which was similar to Russia's "gay propaganda" ban, prohibited talking to children about relationships other than those linked to marriage and the family, including any information about homosexuality.

The repeal is interpreted as a political move, as Moldova is seeking entry into the European Union. Moldovan officials reportedly plan to sign an Association Agreement with the EU, a formal step in admission, at a summit in Lithuania next month.

European Parliament delays vote on universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights

Date: 23 October 2013
Source: XES We Can't Go Backwards

A vote on a resolution calling for universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights throughout Europe did not take place.

The resolution for the European Parliament drafted by Portuguese MEP Edite Estrela, was sent back to the Women's Rights and Gender Equality Committee, which had adopted it, for 'further work' by 351 votes to 319.

Pro-choice and women's rights groups had lobbied MEPs to vote for the resolution, which called on member states to implement various standards, including safe and legal abortion services, comprehensive sex and relationships education, teaching about negative LGBT stereotypes and the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections.

Full text of the resolution can be viewed here.

Anal cancer screening beneficial for all women with HIV

Date: 17 October 2013
Source: Aidsmap

Newly published research from France suggests that all women with HIV should be screened routinely for pre-cancerous changes in the anal canal.

The research, reported this week at the 14th European AIDS Conference in Brussels, found that women living with HIV had a higher risk of anal pre-cancerous changes than cervical changes linked to HPV. The study also found that there was no association between pre-cancerous changes in the anal canal and a prior history of anal intercourse, but a strong association with a previous history of cervical HPV-related disease.

Currently clinical management guidelines for women with HIV recommend routine screening for pre-cancerous cervical changes, according to national guidelines. There is no consensus regarding anal screening in women with HIV.

The study recruited 319 women who agreed to anal HPV screening, of whom 171 (54% of the cohort) consented to an anal examination by a proctologist. Thirty four per cent of women had anal lesions. Low-grade lesions were diagnosed in 21% of women and high grade lesions in 13% of women. One woman was diagnosed with anal cancer. A high prevalence of HPV types associated with cancer was detected (57%). Two-thirds of women with high-risk HPV sub-types had more than one high-risk sub-type. Both low-grade lesions and high-risk HPV types were found to be more common in the anal canal than in the cervix. Thirty-six per cent of the women reported a prior history of receptive anal intercourse.

UN passes resolution supporting abortion services for conflict rape

Date: 21 October 2013
Source: AWID

The United Nations Security Council has unanimously passed a ground-breaking resolution supporting abortion services for girls and women raped in armed conflict.

Resolution 2122 compels Member States and the UN to ensure that all options are given women made pregnant by war rape, "noting the need for access to the full range of sexual and reproductive health services, including regarding pregnancies resulting from rape, without discrimination".

This provision directly responds to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's September 2013 recommendation to the Council that girls and women raped in armed conflict be ensured access to "services for safe termination of pregnancies resulting from rape, without discrimination and in accordance with international human rights and humanitarian law."

Resolution 2122 also considerably strengthens the Security Council's earlier resolutions on Women, Peace and Security by calling for stronger measures regarding women's participation in conflict and post-conflict processes such as peace talks, gender expertise in peacekeeping missions, improved information about the impact of armed conflict on women and more direct briefing to the Council on progress in these areas.

The Security Council's call for access to abortion for war rape victims stands in stark contrast with the United States' categorical ban on abortion attached to its humanitarian aid for war victims. Because the United States is the largest humanitarian aid donor in the world, its anti-abortion policy, which contains no exceptions for rape, life or incest, affects the medical care provided to women in every war zone.

Microbicides pipeline, Europe

Date: 17 October 2013
Source: Aidsmap

A symposium on development of HIV microbicides, broadly defined to include a variety of approaches to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), held at the 14th European AIDS Conference, focused on the status of microbicide research in Europe.

Some speakers suggested that microbicide research in Europe was not keeping up with research in the US and Africa. There are some compounds under development in Europe, many of them novel agents, which have the advantage of remaining active against HIV that has developed resistance to older drugs. These new compounds probably will not be used as single agents but offer potential for combination approaches.

Girls fare worse in disasters

Date: 16 October 2013
Source: IRIN

A new report dramatically illustrates how girls fare worse than the rest of the population during disasters.

The report, The State of the World's Girls 2013: In Double Jeopardy: Adolescent Girls and Disasters, produced by Plan International, argues that a combination of political, economic, social and cultural attitudes can lead to discrimination of girls during disasters.

Pre-existing inequalities and vulnerabilities are exacerbated in disasters and affect girls and women more. The report argues that the rights that are most relevant to adolescent girls - rights to protection, development through education and participation - are among the lowest priorities and often receive the least funding in the humanitarian community, because these rights are not seen as immediately life-saving, like food, water and shelter.

Research conducted in Zimbabwe, South Sudan and Mozambique indicated that boys are more likely to attend school after a disaster than are girls. Child marriage often increases in emergencies, for a variety of reasons, some of which have to do with income for parents, and earlier research cited in the report shows that fear of gender-based violence and pregnancy out-of-wedlock can motivate families in fragile states to marry-off girls at very young ages as a protective measure.

Poorly thought-out humanitarian programmes, too, increase the dangers girls face in disaster situations. In fragile countries like Somalia, lax or non-existent regulatory frameworks coupled with cultural attitudes can increase violence against women and girls.

The report calls for, among other things, greater gender-disaggregated data to better inform policy and specific initiatives to address the vulnerabilities exacerbated by gender, especially in disaster prevention and response.

The report can be downloaded here.

Nigeria scores low on child marriage and adolescent child bearing

Date: 13 October 2013
Source: Afri-Dev.Info

Newly published scorecards on girls' education, forced early marriage, under-age child bearing and maternal underline the multisectoral links between these indicators. Eight states (Kebbi, Sokoto, Bauchi, Jigawa, Yobe, Zamfara, Katsina and Gombe) have the lowest girls' education, highest female illiteracy, highest adolescent marriage, highest under-18 and under-15 child bearing - placing them in the highest risk category for maternal death and injury.

Activists have called for urgent multi-sectoral action from the President, Governors, National and State House of Assembly on girls' education, health, human and social development. They stated that if 65% of teenage boys were forced into under-age 'marriage' with women old enough to be their grandmothers, as is the case for girls in the worst performing state, there would be a national emergency.

The Nigeria scorecards are available here.


Nigeria scores low on child marriage and adolescent child bearing

Date: 13 October 2013
Source: Afri-Dev.Info

Newly published scorecards on girls' education, forced early marriage, under-age child bearing and maternal underline the multisectoral links between these indicators. Eight states (Kebbi, Sokoto, Bauchi, Jigawa, Yobe, Zamfara, Katsina and Gombe) have the lowest girls' education levels, highest female illiteracy, highest adolescent marriage, highest under-18 and under-15 child bearing - placing them in the highest risk category for maternal death and injury.

Human development and health advocates call for urgent multisectoral action from the President, Governors, National and State House of Assembly on girls education, health, human and social development. They state that if 65% of teenage boys were forced into under-age 'marriage' with women old enough to be their grandmothers, as is the case for girls in the worst performing state, there would be a national emergency.

Gender activists call on African Union to remain in the ICC

Date: 10 October 2013
Source: International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict

The International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict has issued a letter, signed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, six other Nobel laureates and civil society activists, that calls on members of the African Union to back the International Criminal Court (ICC) as a critical tool for combating rape and other forms of gender violence.

The African Union held an extraordinary summit on October 11 and 12 to consider a proposal for a united pullout from the ICC in protest at what some African states consider to be unfair singling out of African countries for trials.

Leymah Gbowee, Nobel peace laureate and Co-Chair of the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict, stated that a decision to withdraw from the ICC will be very bad news for survivors who seek justice and very good news for rapists who expect to get away with their crimes. 

 their letter, Campaign members note the critical role the ICC plays in bringing justice for rape survivors, noting that the ICC, as a court of last-resort, often represents the only opportunity rape survivors have to access justice.

Update: The summit agreed to propose that no African sitting leaders should be tried, which affects the current President and Deputy President of Kenya who are currently on trial for war crimes.

Teenager in foster care denied right to abortion, US

Date: 6 October 2013
Source: RH Reality Check

The Nebraska Supreme Court has upheld a lower court ruling handed down in July, denying a 16 year old girl an abortion. The decision, already devastating for the girl herself, has potentially blocked all access to abortion care for minors in state custody in the state.

n Nebraska, children under the age of 18 cannot get an abortion unless a doctor first obtains written consent, approved legally, of both the minor and one of her parents or a legal guardian. State law allows for parental consent to be waived in cases of a medical emergency, abuse or neglect in the home, or if the court determines that the pregnant woman is both sufficiently mature and well-informed to decide whether to have an abortion.

The girl requested a parental consent waiver to get abortion and the lower court, backed by the Supreme Court, decided that she was not mature enough to make this decision on her own. The girl, and her two younger siblings, are legal guardians of Nebraska State, following abuse by her biological parents. The children have been placed in foster care with an evangelical Christian family morally opposed to abortion, but the foster family has not yet had parental rights transferred.

The girl and her lawyer argued strongly that, were she to have the baby, she would lose her foster placement and sibling contact. Her foster parents are likely to use her pregnancy and a possible adoption to tell her siblings she was a "bad person".

Despite the fact that the girl effectively raised her younger siblings, was planning to graduate high school early and had undergone extensive counselling prior to choosing an abortion, the court decided that she was not sufficiently mature enough to make the decision to terminate the pregnancy - yet presumably thinking that she is mature enough to raise a child herself.

Child allowed gender change on official documents, Argentina

Date: 28 September 2013
Source: Advocate

In Argentina, a six-year-old girl who was assigned male at birth has won her legal battle to change her national ID card and birth certificate to reflect her accurate gender.

The girl's mother filed a request for her daughter's legal gender change last December, but was denied because of her daughter's young age. Authorities argued that a child younger than 14 lacked the maturity to make that decision. The girl's mother then petitioned Buenos Aires's mayor and Argentina's president to allow her daughter to be legally recognised as female. She told the public officials that her daughter has identified as female since she first began to speak.

Argentina's Secretary of Children, Youth, and Family has subsequently overturned that decision, citing international human rights doctrine that determined a person under 14 can legally consent to such a change.

Following that decision, the mayor of Buenos Aires approved the girl's application to change her name on her identity documents and birth certificate.

In May 2012, Argentina became the first country in in Latin America to legally recognise that gender identity is not defined by biology, but by 'the internal and individual lived experience of gender, as felt by each person.' The law allows both adults and children to change their gender identity on official documents without court approval or first having to undergo sex-reassignment surgery, a procedure now offered under the public health care system.

War rape condemnation but no support for related abortion, Canada

Date: 27 September 2013
Source: Global News

Canada's Conservative government has backed a British-led declaration at the UN this week condemning war rape. However, it has failed to articulate whether this extends to helping victims obtain abortions. Similarly, a recent speech by the Canadian foreign minister at the UN on early and forced marriage made no mention of whether the effort would include helping child brides have access to reproductive health services.

Canada's position on the subject of allowing humanitarian aid to flow to organisations that provide safe abortions has not been articulated when it comes to war rape and child brides and the foreign office provided no further detail, when asked for clarification on the subject.

This is in contrast to the British government, which has explicitly stated that its development budget can be used without exception to provide abortion care where allowed by national laws.

Three years ago, the Canadian Prime Minister stated that none of the nearly $3 billion in funding toward global maternal and child health would go towards abortions in the developing world.

Critics condemn the hypocrisy of not funding abortions in the developing world when women in Canada have access to a full range of services. Non-governmental organisations must now apply for projects with specifically outlined goals, making it even less likely that funds will flow to reproductive services or to local groups on the ground.

New bill allows men to marry adopted daughters, Iran

Date: 26 September 2013
Source: Guardian

Parliamentarians in Iran have 
just passed a bill to protect the rights of children which includes a clause that allows a man to marry his adopted daughter from the age of 13 years upwards.

Activists have expressed alarm that the bill, approved by parliament on Sunday, opens the door for the caretaker of a family to marry his or her adopted child if a court rules it is in the interests of the individual child. Iran's Guardian Council, a body of clerics and jurists which vets all parliamentary bills before the constitution and the Islamic law, has yet to issue its verdict on the controversial legislation.

An initial draft of the bill, which had completely banned marriage with adopted children, was not approved by the council and it is feared that MPs introduced the condition for marriage to satisfy the jurists and clergymen.

Girls in the Islamic republic can marry as young as 13 provided they have the permission of their father, and can be married under the age of 13 if a judge has given permission. Boys can marry after the age of 15. Marrying stepchildren is forbidden under any circumstances.

As many as 42,000 children aged between 10 and 14 were married in 2010, according to the Iranian news website Tabnak. At least 75 children under the age of 10 were wed in Tehran alone.

Activists are concerned that the council would feel safe to put its stamp of approval on the bill while the press is focusing on the visit of the Iranian president to the UN.

113 countries commit to stop rape in conflict, UN

Date: 29 September 2013
Source: AWID 

On 28 September, 113 nations agreed to support a new pledge to end rape in war. The Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, introduced by the United Kingdom, calls on UN member states to redouble their efforts to address gender-based violence in conflict.

When the UK Foreign Secretary introduced the debate, 107 countries had signed on to the Declaration. This number had risen to 113 by the close of the two and a half hour session.
This means that more than half of the UN member states have expressed support for strengthened efforts to end rape in war.

Among other things, the Declaration calls for:

- Adequate funding for sexual violence prevention and response efforts;
- Comprehensive, improved, and timely medical and psychosocial care for survivors;
- The exclusion of crimes of sexual violence from amnesty provisions in peace accords;
- The full participation of women in all decision-making processes during conflict, post-conflict, and peace time;
- Strengthened regional efforts to prevent and respond to rape in war;
- Enhanced support for conflict-affected states for national security and justice reform efforts aimed at addressing sexual violence in conflict;
- Military and police training on prevention and protection obligations;
- Improved collection and access to data and evidence of sexual violence during conflict;
- Support and protect civil society's efforts to document cases of rape in war; and
- The development of an International Protocol on the documentation and investigation of sexual violence in conflict.

The full text of the Declaration can be downloaded here.

The challenge now is to ensure that member states carry out the commitments to combatting rape – and supporting survivors of rape in war with all necessary services and support, including safe abortion and post-abortion care.


UK government pledge 1 billion pounds to Global Fund

Date: 26 September 2013
Source: Huffington Post

The UK government has announced that it will contribute GBP1 billion to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for the next three years. 

The announcement has surprised many, who were not expecting the UK to pledge the full amount asked for. By more than doubling its previous contributions, the UK is sending a very strong message to other donors that the Global Fund is worth investing in.

The Global Fund's target for this replenishment, US$ 15 billion, could reach 85% of people in need of HIV, TB and malaria interventions (when combined with other global resources).

The commitment does come with strings attached. The UK promise will only be realised on the condition that the Global Fund reaches its full target. Australia, Germany, Japan and Canada have not yet confirmed their pledges. There will be a special pledging meeting in the US in December and the pressure is on for all nations to commit to their pledge.

Restrictions to abortion fail to pass parliament, Poland

Date: 27 September 2013
Source: ASTRA

A draft civic bill banning abortion access in case of fetal malformation was rejected in Parliament today at its first reading. After a fierce debate that began yesterday, the bill went to a vote. It was rejected by
233 votes to 182 votes, with six abstentions.

The final outcome is comforting although it is highly likely that a similar bill will be proposed again. The failed civic bill gained 400,000 public signatures in its support. In 2011, a civic bill that aimed to fully liberalise the current law on abortion failed to collect the 100,000 signatures necessary for the bill to be debated.

Drop in Greek birth rate due to austerity

Date: 18 September 2013
Source: Guardian

The number of live births registered in Greece has dropped by almost 15% in the past four years. This is a drop that is unparalleled in Europe. It has been caused by the austerity and unemployment in Greece, according to a senior government official from the Ministry of Health.

Stringent cuts imposed on Athens in return for Euros 240 billion in rescue funds from the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank, have resulted in the country's health budget being slashed by close to 40%. State funds for medication have been axed by almost half, from five to two billion Euros. Greece's unemployment rate of nearly 28% means that growing numbers are no longer covered by free healthcare and thousands of private insurance holders have shifted to state-sponsored schemes.

There has been a drop in prenatal screening. Earlier this year, the National School of Public Health said stillbirths had increased by 21.5% from 3.31 per 1,000 in 2008 to 4.01 per 1,000 in 2011, attributing the rise to the growing rate of unemployment among women and the inability to access healthcare.

The collapse of medical services has also affected Greece's large migrant community. At hospitals in Athens, which have been worst hit by the crisis, social workers say growing numbers of uninsured migrant mothers are failing to register children at birth for fear of being forced to pay delivery rates that at Euros 600 and 1,200 for caesarians, few can afford with a growing population of undeclared children.

Global Day of Action for Safe and Legal Abortion, 28 September

Date: 26 September 2013
Source: International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion

Global Day of Action for Safe and Legal Abortion, 28 September

Last year, the first year of the Global Day of Action for Safe and Legal Abortion, building on the Latin American and Caribbean Campaña 28 Septiembre and the International Day of Action for Decriminalization of Abortion Campaign, led to activities being organised in 51 countries around the world. This year promises to be just as big, if not bigger.

Events are being organised around the world. Some events are listed below. See the www.september28.org website for a list of countries, by region for more information.

Cameroon - social media campaign, in-clinic survey.
Nigeria – One Million Women Rising dance, to launch public events.
Uganda - school drumming exhibition, poems, music and street marching in several districts
Jamaica - a stand-in to protest harsh sentencing of women who have abortions.
El Salvador - press conferences and events around women’s prisons where there are many women who have been wrongly convicted to 30 years in prison for manslaughter or aggravated, not abortion.
Georgia - public meeting with young people and students on the importance of sexual and reproductive health, contraception and safe abortion.
Ireland - a march for choice through Dublin.

See these
advocacy and campaigning resources, with many more on the website:

Abortion in the criminal law: a report exposing the role of health professionals, the police, the courts and imprisonment internationally, a report which excerpts and summarises existing research, including what has emerged in the media from many countries. It is intended to serve as an inspiration to others to do similar research and take action against the many punitive ways women who have had abortions and bona fide abortion providers are being treated. The report can be downloaded here.

The september28.org website hosts a Virtual Mural for Abortion Rights, which was developed collaboratively with contributions from around the world. This file can be viewed on the website and downloaded for use in local mobilisations.

A Manifesto - Our Bodies, our Future! - calls for an end to discrimination of women and girls, demands government to provide the right to safe and legal abortion, and pushes for the recognition of abortion rights within the new development agenda. The Manifesto is available in English and French. Soon the Spanish version will be available for circulation.

Sexual exploitation of boys, Afghanistan

Date: 18 September 2013
Source: IRIN

Sexual exploitation of boys, in particular the practice of 'bacha bazi' (literally boy play) in which boys are 'owned' for dancing and sex, remains one of the least talked about abuses in Afghanistan.

It is an age-old custom, banned by the Taliban when they were in power, but now undergoing a resurgence, in the absence of rule of law and with a culture of impunity.

Boys are usually enticed or abducted when they are still children and held as property by an 'owner'. Sexual abuse is very common. Victims are generally extremely reluctant to report abuse for fear of stigma, honour killings or reprisals. In some cases, the boys - not the perpetrators - are charged with homosexuality or other crimes. The glamour and money associated with bacha bazi, and the focus on dancing, hides undercurrents of sexual violence and paedophilia.

Campaigners say they repeatedly come across cases of exploitation but the perpetrators have little awareness of child rights, or that they are involved in coercion and sexual violence. In this conservative country, where homosexuality is taboo, there may also be less willingness to acknowledge sexual exploitation of boys than of women and girls.

The UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, told the UN General Assembly that laws should be passed, campaigns must be waged and perpetrators should be held accountable and punished.

World Contraception Day - call for postpartum contraception

Date: 23 September 2013
Source: World Health Organization

Collective Action for Postpartum Family Planning

26 September is World Contraception Day. To mark the occasion, international agencies have called for collective action by all programmes that reach postpartum women during the first year following a birth to integrate postpartum contraceptive counselling and services into their programmes.

Postpartum women are the group of women with the greatest unmet need for contraceptive services. Not only do pregnancies during this period hold the greatest risk for mother and baby. The first 12 months after childbirth also present the greatest opportunities in terms of number of contacts with health care services.

The statement on actors to raise awareness of the needs of postpartum women, use every opportunity of contact with health care providers to provide contraceptive counselling and services, organise services efficiently so that women have time to learn and make decisions and services, such as birthing units or immunisations sessions, have all the necessary equipment, supplies and trained staff to provide contraceptives, including long acting and/or permanent methods. This includes maximising community-based care, for adolescent girls and women who do not use health services and expanding the range of options.

The full statement is available in English and French.


Global HIV new infections down by one third

Date: 23 September 2013
Source: UNAIDS

New data on HIV shows that new infections among adults and children have dropped by one third since 2001. New HIV infections among children have reduced by over half (52%) in the same time frame and AIDS-related deaths have also dropped by 30% since the peak in 2005 as access to antiretroviral treatment expands.

By the end of 2012, some 9.7 million people in low- and middle-income countries were accessing antiretroviral therapy, an increase of nearly 20% since 2011.

There is also progress on funding sources. Despite a flattening in donor funding for HIV, which has remained around the same as 2008 levels, domestic spending on HIV has increased, accounting for 53% of global HIV resources in 2012.

However, the report also finds that progress has been slow in ensuring the respect of human rights, securing access to HIV services for people most at risk of HIV infection, particularly people who use drugs, and in preventing violence against women and girls.

The report is available online and to download here.


Family Protection Bill passed, Papua New Guinea

Date: 19 September 2013
Source: Islands Business

Domestic violence has been made an offence, under the new Family Protection Bill, which has just been passed into law in Papua New Guinea. The bill was passed unanimously.

Until the arrival of this bill, victims of domestic violence were only able to get interim protection orders issued by a district court with no legislative backing. Women at risk of violence have often found themselves in situations where interim protection orders are not enforceable.

Homophobia, transphobia and hate crimes, Europe

Date: 23 September 2013
Source: Amnesty International

A new briefing from Amnesty International highlights the areas that European authorities must improve in order to effectively tackle hate crimes on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. The briefing provides recommendations for authorities on how to fill gaps in legislation, address flaws in investigations and prosecutions and provide effective support for victims of such crimes. The recommendations are formed by case studies that illustrate the challenges and possible solutions and provides information on homophobic and transphobic hate crimes in European countries.

The briefing can be downloaded here in English, French, Spanish, Greek and Bulgarian.


40 years after Roe vs. Wade, US

Date: 23 September 2013
Source: Contraception

In 1972, 100 leaders in obstetrics and gynaecology published a compelling statement that recognised the legalisation of abortion in several states and anticipated the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v Wade.

Forty years later, 100 professors examine their predecessors' statement in light of medical advances and legal changes, and suggest a further course of action for obstetrician gynaecologists. Despite medical progress, they note political regression that their predecessors did not anticipate and whose effects will threaten, not improve, women's health and already obstruct physicians' evidence-based and patient-centred practices.

The 100 professors, including two of the original signers, join the 100 of 1972 in affirming their academic responsibilities to use evidence-based information and fulfil their ethical practitioner commitments when teaching future practitioners, counselling and providing contraceptive and termination care to women and informing legislators who propose abortion laws.

The statement is available to view here:

USA: A statement on abortion by 100 professors of obstetrics: 40 years later, by One Hundred Professors of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Contraception 2013;88:568-76.


India's first LGBT radio station launched

Date: 11 September 2013
Source: Pink News

The first ever LGBT community radio station has been launched in Bangalore, India which aims to create awareness and acceptance about alternate sexualities and to bridge the gap between various sexualities in the country.

Qradio is an online radio station that voices the advocacy, activism and lifestyles of India’s two million strong LGBT community.

The radio can be heard through the online network, radiowalla.in.

Polish abortion bill under consideration

Date: 4 September 2013
Source: Federa – Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning

A civic bill proposing to ban abortion in case of fetal malformation has made its way back to the Polish Parliament. The civic bill collected over 400 000 signatures of support. The Parliament will now have 90 days to work on the draft legislative bill proposed by the 'Stop Abortion' civic initiative.

wo years ago a draft bill banning abortion totally was rejected at second reading. The new proposed bill has many supporters in the conservative wing of the ruling party, the Civic Platform.

Current law in Poland allows abortion only in cases of rape or incest, threat to the woman's health and fetal malformation. Official government numbers show that there were only 669 abortions in 2011, illustrating how difficult it is to access a legal abortion. According to results of a recent poll, at least one-quarter to one third of women in Poland have had an abortion at least once illegally or abroad.

Event: International Day of Action for Women's Right to Safe Abortion

Date: 13 September 2013
Source: International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion

28 September 2013: International Day of Action for the Decriminalisation of Abortion

Reproductive Health Matters marks the event with a meeting:

The consequences of criminal law on abortion: UK and internationally

6.30-8.45pm, 26th September 2013, London, LIFT, 45 White Lion St, London N1 9PW.


Investigation of abortion providers (sex selection and form filling), England - Peter Greenhouse, NHS Sexual Health Consultant
Court cases in Scotland (conscientious objection) and England (Sarah Catt) - Elizabeth Prochaska, Barrister, Matrix Chambers
New abortion guidelines, Northern Ireland - Goretti Horgan, Northern Ireland Alliance for Choice
Investigation, prosecution and imprisonment of women and abortion providers internationally - Marge Berer, Editor, Reproductive Health Matters

Plus speakers from the floor and discussion

Global female condom day, 16 September

Date: 13 September 2013
Source: Universal Access to Female Condoms Joint Programme (Condoms4All)

Female Condom Day is being celebrated on 16 September.

The Universal Access to Female Condoms Joint Programme has produced a product update for September, which provides the latest trends in female condoms. The update gives information about all WHO/UNFPA pre-qualified female condoms, with photographs, basic information on design and features, names of manufacturers, their regulatory status and countries of distribution.

Approximately 190 million female condoms have been procured and distributed through donor funding since 2000. This does not include purchases made through government funding and in private sector markets.

There are now two female condoms that are approved for bulk procurement by UN agencies and a further two female condoms are currently being considered in functionality studies. The results of this study will be submitted for WHO prequalification. Manufacturers of other female condom products are preparing to submit applications for WHO prequalification in 2013.

The full product update can be downloaded here.


New publication: Mainstreaming emergency contraception

Date: 13 September 2013
Source: Population Council

A new publication, Mainstreaming Emergency Contraception in Developing Countries: A Toolkit for Policymakers and Service Providers, provides guidance on how to improve overall awareness of emergency contraception and strengthen the quality of emergency contraceptive services in both the public and private sectors. It builds on experiences from an initiative in Kenya, starting in 2006, which mainstreamed emergency contraception into health services.

The primary target groups for the toolkit are policymakers and health care providers. It can also serve as a resource for trainers (for both pre-service and in-service students), researchers, reproductive health programme managers and technical advisors, advocates, lay community members, media and donors.

The toolkit can be used in countries where emergency contraception is not currently available, as well as in contexts where the intention is to expand or mainstream access to existing services. The toolkit is generic and could be adapted by countries, institutions and individual health care providers wishing to mainstream emergency contraception services in their respective settings.

The toolkit can be downloaded here.


High levels of child marriage, Pakistan and Afghanistan

Date: 12 September 2013
Source: Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (AFPPD)

Child marriage remains a huge challenge in South Asia, highlighted in two recently launched reports, from Pakistan and Afghanistan.

According to a research study from Shirkat Gah, a Pakistani non-governmental organisation, approximately half of Pakistani women are married before 18 years of age and 9% of girls begin childbearing between 15 to 19 years. The study in two districts found that the average age of marriage for girls was between 12 to 14 years. Adolescents suffered due to the lack of youth friendly services for reproductive health issues.

In a briefing paper on child marriage and domestic violence in Afghanistan, Human Rights Watch highlights the health and economic consequences of marriage under age 18 and violence against women and girls. Human Rights Watch calls on Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, who is barred by term limits from running in the April 2014 presidential election, to fully enforce the 2009 Law on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (the EVAW Law) a priority for his last year in office. The law imposed tough new penalties for abuse of women, including making child marriage and forced marriage crimes under Afghan law for the first time.

Child marriage remains common in Afghanistan, increasing the likelihood of early pregnancy, which heightens the risk of death and injury in childbirth.

The briefing paper, Afghanistan: Ending child marriage and domestic violence, can be downloaded here.


Call for Yemen to set 18 as minimum marriage age

Date: 11 September 2013
Source: Human Rights Watch

Yemen's current political transition and drafting process for a new constitution offer a unique opportunity for the Yemeni government to enact laws protecting the rights of girls, and in particular by setting 18 as the minimum age for marriage by law. The transition period, which began after Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped down from the presidency under popular pressure in February 2012, will culminate with presidential and parliamentary elections in February 2014.

In early September, a story emerged about an 8-year-old girl who bled to death on her wedding night after she was raped by her new husband, who is in his 40s. Since then, activists across the region have been discussing on various social media platforms how to combat the practice of child marriage.

There is no legal minimum age for girls to marry in Yemen and the only legal protection for girls is a prohibition on sexual intercourse until the age of puberty. National data from 2006 shows that approximately 14% of girls in Yemen are married before age 15, and 52% are married before age 18.

Activists are calling on Members of the Rights and Freedoms Committee in the country’s National Dialogue Conference to recommend prohibiting child marriage during its final plenary session in September 2013 and, if this is not included in the new constitution, parliament should pass a law setting the minimum age at 18. They are also calling on the Friends of Yemen, the group of states and intergovernmental institutions donating billions in aid to Yemen, to consider increasing support for programs that boost girls' and women's access to education, reproductive health information and services, and protection from domestic violence. There is a big donor meeting on Yemen at the end of September.

Nearly one in four men in Asia-Pacific admit to rape

Date: 10 September 2013
Source: IRIN

Nearly one in four men surveyed in the Asia-Pacific region admitted raping a woman or girl, according to the region's first multi-country study on the prevalence of rape and partner violence and the reasons behind it.

The study, conducted by Partners4Prevention, a UN joint regional programme on violence against women, interviewed around 10,000 men and 3,100 women in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Papua New Guinea between 2010 and 2013.

Responses in Papua New Guinea showed the highest rate of violence against women in the region, with 62% of the men interviewed there indicating they had raped a woman. Some men reported experiencing rape by other men as adults, with rates ranging from 2% in the Indonesian cities of Jayapura and Jakarta, up to 8% in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea.

The majority of men cited in the study who perpetrated rape, especially marital rape, did not report any legal consequences. Marital rape was the most common form of rape, according to the study, but is not criminalised in many of the countries studied. Gang rape was the least common form of rape admitted by respondents.

The most common motivation perpetrators gave for rape was a sense of sexual entitlement (73%). More than half said it was for entertainment (53%), while alcohol, often assumed to be a common trigger for violence, was the least common response.

Men who had themselves been abused, raped or otherwise sexually coerced were more likely to commit rape than those who were not. Past violence toward a partner, having paid for sex or having had many sexual partners were all associated with increased likelihood of raping a non-partner.

The summary study and full report are available, with more press and briefing information on the report available here.


No additional protection for vertical HIV transmission from intravenous zidovudine

Date: 9 September 2013
Source: aidsmap news

New research has found that intravenous AZT does not provide extra protection against vertical transmission in mothers with undetectable viral load. Analysis of the French Perinatal Cohort study (ANRS-EPF), comprising over 11,000 women with HIV, on ART and not breastfeeding, who delivered at 90 centres throughout France between 1997 and 2010, found that, for the majority of women (77%) with well-controlled viral load (at or under 400 copies/ml) at delivery and without obstetrical risk factors (premature rupture of membranes, preterm delivery, fever or bleeding) intravenous zidovudine was not significantly associated with a lower risk of transmission.

These findings support recent changes in French and US guidelines to no longer recommend systematic intravenous zidovudine during labour and delivery when viral load is low and no obstetrical risk factors exist.

Urban slum dwelling women at highest risk of domestic violence, Bangladesh

Date: 5 September 2013
Source: IRIN 

A new report on domestic violence finds that women living in the slums in Dhaka face a higher risk of domestic violence than women in other parts of the country.

In a 2012 survey of around 4,500 women and 1,600 men living in 19 of the Dhaka’s slums, 85% of the women reported their husbands restricted their access to healthcare, while 21% reported being physically abused by their husbands during pregnancy. Nearly one out of four women reported suffering injuries from spouse-inflicted violence in the year before the survey was conducted. Domestic violence becomes harder to address when women are dependent on men for shelter and basic survival. The survey was conducted by icddr,b and Population Council.

Bangladesh's Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act, which was adopted in 2010, remains unenforced, mainly due to lack of awareness and women's fear of reporting.

In a recent visit to Bangladesh, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Rashida Manjoo, noted that the absence of effective implementation of existing laws was the rule rather than the exception in cases of violence against women. Manjoo has called on the Bangladesh government to take more steps to comply with the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which the country ratified in 1984.

Microbicides for transgender HIV prevention programming

Date: 4 September 2013
Source: Microbicide Trials Network

A recently published summary report of a meeting on rectal microbicides for HIV prevention offers a technical update on current rectal microbicide research. The report considers strategies to encourage greater involvement of transgender communities in rectal microbicide research moving forward. It highlights how important it is to not assume that transgender men and women are part of the men who have sex with men or lesbian research community.

he full report can be downloaded here, with additional resources on microbicide research that is of relevance to transgender communities.


Uganda rejects HIV prevention tool on moral grounds

Date: 3 September 2013
Source: IRIN

The Ugandan government has dismissed an emerging prevention protocol demonstrated to be effective in a trial conducted partly in Uganda, and which has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. Activists are calling on the government to rethink this strategy.

The protocol in question is a form of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) involving a daily dose of two antiretroviral drugs - marketed as Truvada - taken by an HIV-negative person who is in a sexual relationship with an HIV-positive partner.

A spokesperson for the Ugandan Ministry of Health has said that public misunderstanding of the protocol could encourage "reckless sex". The spokesman reported that a technical committee on HIV has not recommended the use of PrEP among HIV-negative people because it is 'morally unfit, not right and incorrect to put people who are HIV-negative on treatment, when we have not been able to enrol those who are HIV-positive on it'.

Ugandan activists have called on the government to rethink its decision, especially in light of the fact that the country's HIV prevalence has risen from 6.4% to 7.3% over the past five years.

New law criminalises domestic violence, Saudi Arabia

Date: 30 August 2013
Source: Crinmail

Saudi Arabia has adopted the country's first law to 
make domestic violence a criminal offence. Under the new Law on Protection from Abuse, women, children and domestic workers are protected against "all forms of abuse" that take place in the home, including physical, psychological and sexual violence, exploitation and neglect. 

A victim of abuse will no longer have to be accompanied by a male relative to file a complaint at a police station, abuse survivors must be offered shelter and the necessary social, psychological and medical aid and those who report the abuse, including witnesses, have the right to remain anonymous.

no legislation prescribed how judges should act in cases of domestic violence, with rulings varying according to individual judges' interpretations of what actions could be considered a crime under Islamic law.

Activists have welcomed the new law, but highlight a number of significant omissions. The law does not specify which agencies will be responsible for implementing the law, which instead just refers to "competent" authorities. It also fails to explicitly define marital rape as a criminal offence, which leaves open the risk that police officers and judges may not consider certain acts criminal. The law also does not address discriminatory institutions like the male guardianship system and the current worker sponsorship regulations, which respectively grant male family members and employers power over their female relatives or domestic workers. These institutions can be significant barriers to reporting abuse.

Sexual violence in humanitarian camps, Somalia

Date: 30 August 2013
Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation  

Women and children living in camps for internally displaced people (IDP) in Somalia face the constant threat of rape and sexual violence, according to Amnesty International.

ccording to figures recorded by the United Nations, there were at least 1,700 cases of rape in IDP settlements in the capital Mogadishu in 2012 alone. Nearly a third of survivors are children. In 70% of cases, perpetrators are reported to be armed men dressed in security forces uniforms.

Fear of being stigmatised and a lack of confidence in the will or ability of the authorities to investigate cases of sexual violence stop most of the victims from reporting abuses to the police, according to Amnesty International. Those who report the violence to the police are often met with inaction and even further abuse and stigmatisation.

HPV vaccine wears off quickly in HIV-positive women

Date: 21 August 2013
Source: Family Practice News

Women with HIV probably need a booster shot of HPV vaccine within 2 years to maintain efficacy, according to a Canadian study of quadrivalent HPV vaccine (Gardasil) in 136 HIV-positive women.

he study found that antibody response to the vaccine is strong enough at 2 years to protect about 90% of HIV-negative women against HPV, but only 63% of women living with HIV were protected 18 months after receiving the vaccine.

Cervical specimens from the women were negative for HPV DNA and their blood was negative for HPV antibodies both at screening and 3 months later when they received the vaccine. However, there have been nine HPV infections, of types targeted by the vaccine, in the first 18 months, including two persistent infections. There was no noticeable correlation between high viral load and new infections.

Intimate partner violence barrier to female-controlled HIV prevention, South Africa and Zimbabwe

Date: 27 August 2013
Source: aidsmap

Women who experience violence from their male partner are less likely to use condoms or diaphragms, according to findings from a longitudinal study involving 4,505 women conducted in South Africa and Zimbabwe between 2003 and 2006.

The authors believe the association between partner violence and not using a diaphragm could have implications for research into microbicides and other forms of HIV prevention under female control.

Participants received either diaphragms, lubricant and condoms or condoms alone. Data on women’s experiences of intimate partner violence and adherence to diaphragm and condom use were analysed. Overall, more than half (55%) of the women reported intimate partner violence during at least one visit in the two years following the start of the study. Women who did not regularly used condoms experienced some form of intimate partner violence and there experiencing intimate partner violence also increased diaphragm non-adherence.

US court allows case against anti-gay religious leader to proceed

Date: 15 August 2013
Source: AWID  

A US federal judge has ruled that a case against prominent US anti-gay extremist, brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) on behalf of Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG), can proceed. The defendant, Scott Lively, requested to dismiss the lawsuit, but the judge ruled that persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is a crime against humanity and that the fundamental human rights of LGBTI people are protected under international law.

The lawsuit alleges that Lively's actions over the past decade, in collaboration with key Ugandan government officials and religious leaders, are responsible for depriving LGBTI Ugandans of their fundamental human rights based solely on their identity, which is the definition of persecution under international law and is deemed a crime against humanity.

Lively helped bring about the introduction of Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill and has also been active in countries like Russia.

Germany first European country to recognise 'undetermined' sex

Date: 18 August 2013
Source: AWID

On 1 November 2013, Germany will become the first country in Europe to join a small group of nations which recognise a third or 'undetermined' sex when registering births. A new German law, to come into force in November, states that babies born in Germany without clear gender-determining physical characteristics will be able to be registered without gender on their birth certificates.

The change is being seen as the country's first legal acknowledgement that it is possible for a human being to be neither male or female - which could have far-reaching consequences in many legal areas.

While transsexuals - people born of one gender who feel they belong to the other and wish to be recognised as such - are already legally recognised in Germany, hermaphrodites - those with both male and female genitalia - have always been forcibly registered as one or other gender at birth.

The German decision to recognise a third gender was based on a recommendation by the constitutional court, which sees legal recognition of a person's experienced and lived gender as a personal human right.

People of "undetermined" sex will be allowed at any point throughout their lives to identify themselves as one or other gender and go back to register the change on their birth certificates. Alternatively, they may also choose to keep their gender undefined.

Call for expanded access to post-abortion care, Pakistan

Date: 24 August 2013
Source: The Nation

A report on post-abortion care in Pakistan highlights the need for expanded access to high quality family planning services, including promoting safer post-abortion care and building capacity among healthcare providers to help achieve these goals.

The report, Post-Abortion Care in Pakistan: A National Study, highlights the ongoing gaps in the quality of post-abortion care following unsafe abortion procedures, societal stigmas and inequities in the healthcare system, burden of post-abortion complications and the significant role of private and public sectors in ensuring access to care.

The study finds that in 2012, nearly 700,000 women in Pakistan went to health facilities for treatment of complications resulting from spontaneous abortions or induced abortions using unsafe methods or with the assistance of an unskilled provider. While safe procedures for post-abortion care were found to be more widely used in 2012 than they were in 2002, health facilities still rely on unnecessarily invasive procedures such as dilation and curettage. Many facilities lack adequate equipment and supplies to provide quality care for complications and a majority are not equipped to provide around-the-clock services to manage severe complications.

The full report can be viewed here.


Disability, Sexuality and Rights Online Institute

Date: 30 August 2013
Source: CREA

3rd Disability, Sexuality and Rights Online Institute, CREA
4 November - 15 December 2013

CREA's Disability, Sexuality, and Rights Online Institute is a six-week long online course, looking at why sexual and disability justices matter to us all, with or without disabilities.

Independent activists and practitioners in development, sexuality, health, media, and rights organisations worldwide are encouraged to apply. Twenty-five participants will be selected, based on demonstrated interest in disability and sexuality, and applicability to their work. People with disabilities are encouraged to apply for the Institute. The course has been designed and tested to be accessible to people with visual and hearing impairments.

The course is conducted completely online in English. It takes up 6-10 hours per week.

Participants are required to pay a registration fee of US$60 to contribute towards course expenses. Fee waiver is available on request for a very small percentage of participants on need basis (please refer to the application form).

pplications are due by 30 September 2013.

To apply online, click here.


High rates of anal HPV infection among young gay men

Date: 28 August 2013
Source: aidsmap

New US research shows that prevalence and incidence of anal human papillomavirus (HPV) are high among young gay men.

The study involved 94 gay men aged between 16 and 30 years in Seattle, who were tested for HPV over a one year period. Overall, 70% of men had anal HPV infection detected at some point during the study. HPV 16 and/or HPV 18 - the HPV types most associated with anal cancer - were detected in 37% of study participants.

The investigators believe their research shows the importance of vaccinating young gay men before they become sexually active. However, none of the men were infected with all four HPV types covered by the quadrivalent vaccine Gardasil, showing that immunisation would still be worthwhile for young gay men who are sexually experienced.

Widespread abortion threatens women's lives, Kenya

Date: 25 August 2013
Source: Guttmacher Institute 

An estimated 465,000 abortions took place in Kenya in 2012, nearly all clandestine and unsafe procedures, according to a new study conducted by the African Population and Health Research Center, the Guttmacher Institute and Ipas, in conjunction with the Kenyan Ministry of Health.

Nearly 120,000 Kenyan women were treated at health facilities for complications arising from unsafe abortions. Nearly three-quarters of them suffered moderate to severe injuries including sepsis, shock or organ failure.

More information can be found in the fact sheet, policy brief and full report.


Roe vs. Wade 40 years on

Date: 30 August 2013
Source: American Journal of Public Health 

In commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the American Journal of Public Health has selected  a collection of articles and other materials* that bring together the most current resources on abortion and reproductive rights.

The collection reviews the current state of play with respect to provision of abortion services in the United States and provides global trends and snapshots of the experience of countries where abortion is legal but not accessible, where abortion is accessible but not legal and therefore not regulated, and where government efforts to roll back abortion are taking place.

* Published in January 2013

Proposal for virginity testing of female pupils, Indonesia

Date: 21 August 2013
Source: Guardian

A local plan to make female high school students undergo mandatory virginity tests has been met with outrage from activists and refuted by national education specialists, who argue that it discriminates against women and violates their human rights.

The proposal comes from a local education chief in Prabumulih district, south Sumatra,. The test would require female senior school students aged 16 to 19 to have their hymen examined every year until graduation. Boys would undergo no investigation into whether they had had sex.  The education chief proposes using the city budget to begin tests early next year, if politicians approve the proposal.

he plan has met with support from some local politicians. This is the third plan of its kind in Indonesia
, where similar drafts were proposed in West Java in 2007 and in Sumatra in 2010, but dropped after a public outcry.

Local and national MPs, activists, rights groups and even the local Islamic advisory council have all denounced Rasyid's plan as potentially denying female students the universal right to education, in addition to targeting girls for an act that may not have even been consensual, such as sexual assault. Indonesia's education and culture minister has condemned the plan.

Tackling the rape kit backlog, US

Date: 26 August 2013
Source: Guardian  

Evidence relating to thousands of rape cases has been neglected for years in Detroit, US. In 2009, the local assistant prosecutor reported finding a warehouse of old police department evidence, including more than 11,000 rape kits - a sexual assault kit used to take and preserve forensic evidence through DNA swabs following an allegation of rape.

Kym Worthy, the county's chief prosecutor, contacted the then police chief. Following his lack of interest, a reporter picked up the story and others became involved. A team of volunteers began cataloguing the rape kits. It took six to nine months to build a database of the 11,304 kits, trying to match the kits with any police records there may have been. The team has received a federal grant of $1.5 million to continue the work and has enlisted the support of various state departments, universities and private sector entities to begin to solve the crimes. Since 2009, 1,600 rape kits have been investigated, 37 serial rapists have been identified and 13 cases have been brought against suspects. Worthy is now pushing for more time and resources as the current grant runs out in September 2013.

Police cite lack of time and money as the reasons why so many kits are disregarded, but Worthy believes that institutional attitudes in the police force also contributed to so many cases being ignored.

New publication: Sexuality, culture and politics in South America

Date: 27 August 2013
Source: AWID 

This collection of articles, translated from Portuguese and Spanish into English, explores the values, practices, knowledge, moralities and politics of sexuality in a variety of local contexts. Topics include sexual politics and rights, sexual identities and communities, eroticism, pornography and sexual consumerism, sexual health and well-being, intersectional approaches to sexual cultures and behaviour, sexual knowledge, and sexuality research methodologies in Latin America.

The 40 chapters can be individually downloaded here.


Ugandan campaign focuses on female condom

Date: 22 August 2013
Source: IRIN

A multimedia campaign in Uganda hopes to encourage more young people to use condoms and to raise the profile of the female condom. The multimedia campaign, If it's not on, it's not safe is run by local health group Uganda Health Marketing Group with funding from UNFPA.

High-risk sex is common in Uganda but male and female condom use is fairly erratic. HIV prevalence has risen from 6.4% in 2005 to 7.3% in 2012, making effective HIV prevention campaigns more urgent than ever.

Supply chain problems have led to regular nationwide male condom shortages. Only half of the 240 million condoms needed annually are received through the public sector.

This campaign differs from previous ones, by placing the female condom at the front and centre of this campaign. The campaign portrays women as having the power to say that she has the condom too, so the man cannot use excuses to avoid safe sex. Since the campaign began in June, more than 10,000 female condoms and 360,000 male condoms have been distributed free of charge, with another 120,000 condoms sold.

Previous female condoms have failed due to complaints from women that it was noisy and because of cost. A new female condom was introduced in 2009 but research in 2011 shows that myths and misconceptions were the biggest hindrance to female condom uptake, with only a small minority of those interviewed ever having seen or used the condom.

HIV activists have welcomed the campaign, but some warn that other HIV prevention methods must receive continuing attention also. Any campaign to boost female and male condom use must be met with a significant improvement in their supply, in order to ensure consistent availability and use.

Rape survivors denied safe and legal abortion, Ecuador

Date: 23 August 2013
Source: Human Rights Watch

Ecuador's restrictive abortion laws put the health and sometimes the lives of rape victims in danger, according to a recently launched Human Rights Watch report.

Official data show that complications from abortion, legal and illegal, killed at least 10 women or girls in Ecuador in 2011. The number of women or girls who died from unsafe and illegal abortions may be higher.

Ecuador's criminal code limits women's and girls' reproductive rights by prohibiting abortion with few exceptions, even in the case of pregnancies that result from sexual violence. The criminal code imposes penalties, including prison terms ranging from one to five years, for women and girls who obtain abortions. Medical professionals who provide them are subject to harsher penalties. These penalties drive some women and girls to have illegal and unsafe abortions.

The National Assembly should ensure that all women and girls who have been victims of rape can get comprehensive health services, including abortion if requested, according to the Human Rights Watch report. The National Assembly should also modernise the language in the criminal code by removing an offensive and vague exemption from punishment for abortion for "idiot and demented" women and eliminating penalties for all voluntary abortions, including in cases of pregnancies stemming from rape.

The National Assembly is expected to debate major changes to the criminal code imminently. It is unclear whether a proposal from a 2012 assembly discussion of lifting penalties for abortion in all rape cases will move forward.

The full report, Rape victims as criminals: illegal abortion after rape in Ecuador, can be downloaded here.


Hopes for new female contraceptive, Australia

Date: 23 August 2013
Source: The Age

Research into a new female contraception that simultaneously paralyses sperm and protects from sexually transmitted diseases has shown encouraging results in Australia.

The compound, which may eventually take the form of a sponge or vaginal ring to be inserted two or three days before sexual intercourse, is unique in that it is activated only on contact with semen, according to lead researcher, Professor John Aitken.

So far the compound has worked in a test tube with no toxic effects and has been shown to successfully stop chlamydia transmission.

The invention is groundbreaking in that the compound does not kill sperm but targets what enables it to swim, and is therefore much safer for women than current spermicides such as Nonoxynol-9.

Chelsea Manning and transgender rights

Date: 23 August 2013
Source: paper-bird.net

Bradley Manning, sentenced to 35 years in military prison for leaking military information wishes to be called Chelsea Manning, recognised as a female and referred to by her new name from now on.

Progressive media should respect Chelsea Manning's preferred gender identity, rather than demanding that Manning accept the male identity assigned to her.

Trans inmates are among the worst abused in sexual violence in US custody. Chelsea Manning has asked for hormone therapy, which a spokesperson at the prison she is at has confirmed will not be provided. Some courts have begun to mandate giving such care to trans prisoners in some state institutions, but the decisions are still on appeal.

Chelsea Manning has asked for mail from her supporters. She can be written to at:

Bradley E. Manning
1300 N. Warehouse Road
Fort Leavenworth, Kansas

It is a system requirement that the envelopes must read 'Bradley Manning' for them to be delivered. In the inside text, though, letters should address her as Chelsea.

Challenge to government legitimised female genital mutilation, Indonesia

Date: 12 August 2013
Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation and Equality Now

The United Nations Human Rights Committee (OHCHR) has called on Indonesia to stop its legitimisation of female genital mutilation. The criticism was made in the Committee's recent observations on the state of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Indonesia's Ministry of Health introduced a regulation in November 2010 that permits the practice of female genital mutilation and authorises medical professionals to perform it. Efforts to overturn the legislation have been unsuccessful so far and human rights groups in Indonesia fear an increase in female genital mutilation due to this regulation.

The Indonesian government says that it is better that medically trained people carry out the procedure to avoid parents resorting to traditional circumcisers who might endanger their daughters' health.

Equality Now and the Indonesian NGO Kalyanamitra have launched a campaign to call on the government to stop 'medicalised FGM', calling for letters to be sent to the Indonesian Ministry of Health and health professionals' associations. Click here for more information.

HIV prevention must factor in social and cultural issues

Date: 6 August 2013
Source: aidsmap news 

Researchers at the 2nd International Conference for the Social Sciences and Humanities in HIV, held in Paris, have stressed the need for public health officials, donors, epidemiologists, researchers and clinicians need to factor in the relevance of the social and the cultural if they are to see biomedical HIV prevention strategies, such as treatment as prevention and pre-exposure prophylaxis, succeed in real-world settings.

Research in Malawi has explored in depth why couples opt for HIV self-testing and what it may mean for their relationships. The research found that people opted for self-testing for a number of reasons, including risk behaviour, mistrust within the couple, and a desire to either confirm an earlier HIV test result or check the effectiveness of local 'faith healing'. Men generally had a harder time accepting the need to practice safer sex than women. Women continued to be coerced into unsafe sex because of social norms regarding definitions of a good wife. A larger study into the relationship between gender-based violence and self-testing involving 300 participants is ongoing. Read more here.

Canadian research presented at the conference reported that women with HIV feel 'under surveillance' during pregnancy and early motherhood. Women are subject to questioning, monitoring and surveillance of their choices during pregnancy, childbirth and the early stages of motherhood. This pressure comes from state health providers, but also social pressures for women of all ethnicities to breastfeed. Read more here.

A number of speakers at the conference highlighted the cultural factors that are inhibiting medical male circumcision campaigns across southern Africa. Researchers report that campaigns in Swaziland, Botswana and Malawi are failing due to concerns from men, communities and countries about whether medical male circumcision is appropriate for them. Insufficient attention has been paid to the social meaning of circumcision in different settings. Read more here.


Missed opportunities for HIV-positive women to have vaginal deliveries, Europe

Date: 1 August 2013
Source: aidsmap news

Recent European research has found that there are missed opportunities for HIV-positive pregnant women with a suppressed viral load to give birth vaginally.

Guidelines in Europe recommend or permit a vaginal delivery when a woman has an undetectable or very low viral load. However, investigators found that over a third of women with viral suppression and no contraindications continue to have a caesarean section. The research found that, although vaginal delivery increased since guidelines were changed over the last ten years from 17 to 52%, in the years following the introduction of the guidelines caesarean section was the mode of delivery for 55% of women with an undetectable viral load. In a third of cases there was a factor indicating the need for this mode of delivery. However, in 35% of cases the woman could have had a vaginal delivery.

US woman charged with feticide is free

Date: 6 August 2013
Source: National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW)

Bei Bei Shuai - an Indiana woman who was charged with feticide and murder for attempting suicide – has finally been freed, from a murder trial, from the electronic GPS shackle that has tracked her every move since her release on bail from jail and free from an unjust and legally unauthorised prosecution.

Faced with enormous public pressure, including more than 100,000 emails through Change.org from people in Indiana and around the world demanding that all charges be dropped, outside the jail where she has been held and in the prosecutor's office and other major demonstrations across the US, the prosecutor offered Bei Bei Shuai a plea agreement. This agreement would drop the feticide and murder charges and allow her to avoid a lengthy trial.

Bei Bei Shuai pled guilty to the Class B misdemeanor of "criminal recklessness". She was immediately freed. The official sentence of 178 days in jail was already far exceeded by the year she spent incarcerated without bail, plus the more than 365 days on bail during which there were severe limitations on her freedom.

National Advocates for Pregnant Women praise the many individuals and institutions who supported Ms Shaui, but most of all Ms Shuai herself for her courage and persistence in challenging the cruel and unjust persecution.

Youth transforming the AIDS response

Date: 12 August 2013
Source: Crowd Out AIDS

Youth activists and organisations have come together to develop a platform to help us do just that: connect, organize and expand the HIV youth movement.
These 25 youth-led and youth serving organisations have, together, decided on five themes where they have committed to focusing their collective energy:

Integrate HIV into Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) services and policies
Increase access to evidence-informed prevention and treatment
Remove laws that prevent young people from accessing services
Resources for young people and HIV are allocated based on need and evidence
Ensure HIV remains a priority in the post-2015 development agenda

This commitment is the PACT for social transformations in the AIDS response. Members are calling on all interested activists and groups to join them.

If you are a youth-led or youth-service community, national, regional or global organization and want to take part in building a stronger HIV youth movement over the coming years – click
here to sign up.

If you want to find out more about the launch meeting in May, click
here for the full meeting report.

Crowd Out AIDS
want a stronger HIV response that addresses the real needs of all young people.
This is the beginning of a reinvigorated and organised movement striving more effective HIV responses.


Women protest virginity inspections, Georgia

Date: 1 August 2013

A recent television news report in Georgia revealed that Georgia's National Forensics Bureau was performing as many as 200 "virginity inspections" a year. The report has led to social media protests. Women gathered outside the forensics bureau to stage a protest.

The Forensics Bureau posted a statement on its website, after the report, saying it performed virginity tests only in the case of court-ordered rape and abuse allegations. It denied issuing certificates for brides and other young women. This information contradicts with what bureau employees reported on the programme.

Opponents of the virginity inspections say that the Georgian government, which is a signatory to the UN convention to end discrimination against women, should not permit any of its bodies to perform the controversial virginity tests.

Gender-based violence and HIV services, Papua New Guinea

Date: 14 July 2013
Source: UNDP

An assessment on institutional readiness to respond to gender-based violence and HIV in Papua New Guinea has just been launched by the Papua New Guinea National AIDS Council Secretariat and UNDP.

report assesses the country's readiness to deliver gender-based violence, HIV and legal services in an integrated fashion, to address the dual challenges of GBV and HIV.

Work on the assessment began with identifying indicators to assess the health, justice and social sectors to evaluate effective delivery of services. Indicators were developed on scope of services, protocols, standards, access to services, knowledge, training, staffing, funding, physical facilities, data collection, security, management and coordination. These were used to assess hospital-based centres, family support centres, HIV counselling and testing centres, police stations, community police units, district courts, village courts, safe havens, counselling services, NGOs, CBOs and faith-based organisations providing community education on GBV and/or HIV.

The report, Rapid Assessment of Institutional Readiness to Deliver Gender-Based Violence and HIV Services in Five Provinces of Papua New Guinea, is available free for download here.


Call for HPV vaccination for gay men, UK

Date: 31 July 2013
Source: aidsmap

Some senior British sexual health doctors believe that there is a strong case for extending human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination to include gay men aged 26 and younger. Vaccination campaigns in the UK have prioritised school-age girls. Despite having high rates of HPV-related anal disease, vaccination is not currently recommended for gay men in the UK.

Researchers believe that there is a strong argument for  Studies involving HIV-negative gay men show that the vaccine produced a good immune response and was effective at preventing infection with high-risk HPV strains. Research has also shown that no more than 13% of gay men are infected with the HPV types associated with the highest risk of cancerous cell changes, but up to 3% of men became infected with these strains each year. The HPV vaccine can produce a strong immune response in HIV-positive gay men - the group with the highest risk of anal cancer. US research has shown that the vaccination of younger gay men would be cost-effective.

UN launches global LGBTI campaign

Date: 8 August 2013
Source: CRIN 

The UN has launched a 12-month public education campaign designed to raise awareness of homophobic and transphobic violence and discrimination, and to foster respect for the human rights of LGBT people.

The Free & Equal campaign aims speed up a change in attitudes towards LGBT people by challenging negative stereotypes and debunking common misconceptions. The campaign website offers a wide range of materials, from fact sheets and articles to short videos, graphics and testimonies of LGBT people themselves and their families, and will continue to produce new content over the course of the coming 12 months.

US abortion ban limits support to women raped in conflict, Central African Republic

Date: 7 August 2013
Source: Guardian 

Recent humanitarian commitments from
the UN, EU and UK, have increased aid reaching the conflict-torn Central African Republic. However, there are concerns that women who have become pregnant from rape will not be able to benefit.

In June 2006, the Central African Republic’s national assembly amended its abortion law to permit abortion in case of rape. 
However, the US, a major donor of humanitarian aid to Central African Republic, has a policy that dictates funds allocated for women raped in conflict carry a prohibition on the provision of abortion services. This means organisations that receive funding from the US in Central African Republic cannot use their US funds to provide abortion services. Where US funds are not segregated from those of other donors, US restrictions apply to all other funds as well.

The direct consequence of the abortion ban attached to US humanitarian aid is that girls and women impregnated by rape continue to be denied terminations in donor-funded hospitals, even though such procedures are permissible under Central African Republic law.

Action Kit for 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence

Date: 1 August 2013
Source: Center for Women's Global Leadership

The Center for Women’s Global Leadership has launched the 2013 English version of the 16 Days Campaign Take Action Kit materials. The materials are now available on the CWGL 16 Days website.

Click here to request a hard copy of the Kit, which will be sent out shortly.

French and Spanish translations of the entire Take Action Kit will be available soon also.

The Theme Announcement is available in over 25 languages with more forthcoming. If you are interested in volunteering to translate any of the Take Action Kit documents into another language, please contact CWGL at 16days@cwgl.rutgers.edu.

Please post your Campaign initiatives to the online 16 Days Campaign Calendar where you can share your planned events with other participants and use the
online discussion forum to share information and resources, and discuss strategies to end gender-based violence. To participate in the forum, click on any of the "Join" or "Join now" buttons near the top of the page to create a free profile.

Join the Campaign on Twitter (@16DaysCampaign) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/16DaysCampaign).

Call for adolescents to contribute experiences on health, World Health Organization

Date: 19 July 2013
Source: World Health Organization

WHO is developing a report that will outline recent research and the growing consensus on the importance of adolescent health and the achievements of the health sector in improving and maintaining the health of the world’s 1.2 billion adolescents. The report will be released in 2014.

A website has been created through which adolescents and people working to improve their health can make input into the report by:

- Taking a survey about their perspectives on health and health services
- Entering a photo competition
- Sharing their story
- Being creative (sharing poems, drawings etc.)

There is also a separate survey for health workers working with adolescents on the same website.

The website is open for inputs from 19 July to 15 September 2013 - click here to go to the website.

WHO is also looking for good examples of organisations that are working closely with adolescents in a participatory manner. If you have examples of the two last matters, they would be very interested in hearing from you by email: adohealth2014@gmail.com and use the header 'NGO'.

Supreme Court representative describes contraceptives as poison, Philipppines

Date: 24 July 2013
Source: Mark Merueñas, GMA News

The Philippines Supreme Court's Associate Justice, Roberto Abad, has described hormonal contraceptives as poison, as the Philippines Supreme Court resumes debate on the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law (RH Law).

There are currently 14 petitions questioning the constitutionality of the RH Law. The Supreme Court's 15 magistrates started hearing oral arguments against the law early this month.

The majority of the justices voted to delay indefinitely the implementation of the law while it hears opposing arguments. During the second round of oral arguments on the law, Abad read portions of an information sheet for a contraceptive with a warning about its use once a woman is pregnant. The magistrate stated that this means a child can be harmed, adding that "contraceptives attack healthy ovaries to make them dysfunctional. Court needs only common sense not medical experts to know this" and asserted that hormonal contraceptives are "poison".

Update: The Supreme Court oral hearings are due to resume on 13 August.


Moldova adopts anti-gay law

Date: 31 July 2013
Source: AWID

Lawmakers in Chisinau have passed a law that gay rights advocates say mirrors similar legislation adopted in Russia and Lithuania.
Activists say that they learned about the new law only after it was officially published on July 12, the date the measure came into effect. The new law is an amendment to the Contravention Code that specifies fines of up to 8,000 leu (about $625) for "the distribution of public information aimed at the propagation of prostitution, paedophilia, pornography, or of any other [intimate] relations [other] than those related to marriage or family."

The revelation that the measure was passed on May 23 and signed into law by President Nicolae Timofti on July 5 has surprised observers who see it as running counter to the ruling coalition's drive toward closer relations with the European Union. Chisinau hopes to sign an Association Agreement with the EU in November. In June, the Council of Europe found that such laws are "incompatible" with the values of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Human and gay rights groups have begun working with lawmakers and others to have the amendment repealed. They have sent notification about the measure to international rights organisations, the European Commission, and diplomatic missions in Moldova. They plan to organise a roundtable discussion of the situation with the participation of parliament deputies.

India's acid attack ruling must go further

Date: 18 July 2013
Source: KumKum Dasgupta, Guardian 

The Indian government has published guidelines to regulate the retail sale of acids, following relentless pressure and criticism from the supreme court. The case was first raised by Laxmi, a woman burned by acid by a man whom she had refused to marry. Laxmi filed a public interest litigation and sought a ban on the sale of the toxic liquid, citing increasing numbers of attacks on women.

The government said this week it would treat acid as a poison and apply the Poison Act 1919 to regulate its sale. The reclassification means that shops will need a licence to sell the substance, buyers will have to submit a photo identity card and it must not be sold to under 18s. The responsibility for implementation of the law lies with state governments. Acids are cheap and easily available in general stores across India.

There are no official figures on acid attacks in the country but it is estimated that there are up to 1,000 a year. In the past six months, 92 such incidents were reported to New Delhi's Women in Distress helpline, set up by the local government.

Laxmi welcomes the draft rules but calls for more focus on rehabilitation. Laxmi, who works as a project co-ordinator at Stop Acid Attacks, a New Delhi-based organisation that supports survivors, has undergone seven reconstructive operations at an estimated total cost of Rs 30 lakh (£34,000). She hopes to have further surgery before a final cosmetic operation.

Activists are now calling for a curb on retail sale of acids. A further public interest litigation will be filed by activists shortly, calling for free treatment for survivors, establishment of a rehabilitation and compensation scheme and an increase in the minimum sentence for acid attacks to life imprisonment. In Bangladesh, perpetrators of such attacks can face the death penalty, and the sale of acid is regulated. The country experienced a decline in acid attacks between 2002 and 2009, while India has seen an increase.


Libya aims to make rape in armed conflict a war crime

Date: 5 July 2013
Source: John Hooper, The Guardian 

The testimony of a woman who was sexually tortured under the Gaddafi regime is proving a catalyst for political change in Libya. In the final days of the overthrow of Gaddafi, some men seeking their children found cells full of naked women, next to a torture chamber. The number of women affected ran into the hundreds, according to Atigha, the deputy president of the general national congress. A bill has been drafted and will shortly be put to a vote in the General National Congress.

It has yet to be decided whether those affected would be entitled to a war pension. But it has been agreed that the women should get lump-sum compensation from the state, with compensation set on a case by case basis, taking into consideration whether a pregnancy resulted from the rape and the severity of the injuries suffered by the victim.

The turning point for the bill came at a conference in Tripoli in May, where two NGOs had arranged for one of the freed women to be present. Defying the taboos of Libyan society, she stood up and told her story. She, with her two sisters, were arrested and sexually tortured for nine months. By the time the young woman had finished her account, the Libyan minister of justice and several other men present were in tears. She turned to the minister and asked him: "What will you do for us?"

The idea that the survivors of rape might be thought of as anything but a source of disgrace was a drastic break with the past, and helped the bill being pushed by the NGO, Observatory on Gender in Crisis, to get the government's backing.

Real-time insights into gender-based violence in Egypt

Date: 5 July 2013
Source: Institute of Development Studies

The Institute of Development Studies has launched a new interactive online resource as part of its Empowerment of Women and Girls research programme, which provides timely insights into the collective forms of activism taking place in Egypt that are attempting to monitor and tackle gender-based violence.

The resource provides details about the actors who are playing a crucial role in predicting and monitoring instances of sexual assault. Through their engagement with the media, the groups have also raised the profile of gender-based violence and how it is being used and targeted to threaten and repress Egyptian citizens.

The resource also features first hand experiences from individuals who have experienced sexual assault while protesting and who discussed these incidents at a workshop held in Egypt as part of the wider research programme.

IDS has also published a free report, Politically motivated sexual assault and the law in violent transitions: a case study from Egypt, which reviews evidence on the distinguishing features of politically motivated sexual violence, considers the need for redress for male victims who are currently not considered in law and outlines the calls for the revision of the criminal code to be more effective as a tool for addressing sexual violence.


Gradual fall in female genital mutilation in Africa

Date: 26 July 2013
Source: AWID

A recent assessment, published by UNICEF, has found a gradual but significant decline in more than half of the 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East where female genital mutilation is concentrated. In Egypt, for example, where more women have been cut than in any other nation, survey data showed that 81% of 15-19 year olds had undergone the practice, compared with 96% of women in their late 40s.

The report's authors stress that the tradition still has a tenacious hold in many places. Overall, UNICEF estimates that more than 125 million girls and women have undergone the practice and that 30 million girls are at risk of it over the coming decade. However, the report is cautiously optimistic that the slow declines may foreshadow more generational change. In almost half of the 29 countries, young women were less likely to support the practice than older women.

The report assessed the practice among all age groups based on household survey data from 74 surveys done in 29 countries over two decades. Countries with the highest percentages of women include Egypt, Somalia, Guinea and Djibouti all at over 90% of women, Eritrea and Mali at 89% and Sierra Leone and Sudan at 88%. The steepest declines in the prevalence of the practice, also known as female genital mutilation, have occurred in Kenya, one of Africa’s most dynamic and developed nations, and in the Central African Republic, one of its poorest and least developed.

Researchers say the prevalence of the practice in these two countries began to fall four or five decades ago. Whilst Kenya has had laws and policies stretching back to the early 1900s, it is not clear why rates dropped in the Central African Republic from 43% in the mid-1990s to 24% in 2010.

The full report can be downloaded here.


Steep rise in HIV rates among men who have sex with men, Thailand

Date: 19 July 2013
Source: IRIN

In Thailand, HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men (MSM) has risen sharply, from 17% in 2003 to 29% in 2011, according to a new study from Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health and the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The study surveyed almost 4,800 MSM clients who entered the clinic for testing from 2005 to 2011. It is estimated that Bangkok has an MSM population of 300,000 to 400,000.

The situation has been described as a real public health emergency by the director of an HIV and sexually transmitted disease (STD) research programme at the Silom Community Clinic, located near Bangkok's gay and bisexual entertainment district.

This year, Thailand's National AIDS Management Centre has made MSM interventions the top priority, after finding that MSM accounted for 41% of all new HIV infections in 2012. The Thai government has begun to redirect funds towards MSM interventions. In 2009, less than 1% of HIV prevention resources went to MSM programmes. Funding reached 8% in 2011, according to UNAIDS, although external donors still finance 90% of HIV prevention services for MSM and other at-risk groups. The government is also debating whether to distribute antiretroviral drugs for pre-exposure prophylaxis in at-risk groups.

Interviews and focus-group discussions with young men revealed potential risk factors for HIV, including group sex, inconsistent condom use, being introduced to multiple sex partners by older MSM, and experimental drug use that can result in poor judgment during sex, whilst less than 43% of all MSM surveyed in the clinical study had a previous history of HIV testing.

One possible reason for the lack of HIV testing and awareness is the reluctance to teach sex education in public schools, advocates say.

Forced HIV testing, Greece

Date: 4 July 2013
Source: Human Rights Watch

The Greek health minister, on the day after he took office, has reintroduced a regulation on the transmission of infectious diseases that was first introduced in April 2012 and then repealed in April 2013. Health Regulation No. GY/39A states that mandatory health examinations will be required, as well as isolation and compulsory treatment, for diseases of public health importance. The regulation gives police the authority to assist in enforcing isolation, restriction quarantine, hospitalisation and treatment.

During the year it was in force, the police used the regulation to detain people, especially those suspected of being sex workers, drug users, or undocumented migrants, for forced testing for HIV or other infectious diseases. The regulation violates human rights, stigmatises vulnerable groups and has proved counterproductive to protecting public health.

The initial introduction of the regulation in April 2012 resulted in the roundup of dozens of women alleged to be sex workers, who were then forced to take HIV tests. Those found to be HIV positive were arrested and charged with causing intentional grievous bodily harm, a felony, or attempted bodily harm, for allegedly having unprotected sex with customers while HIV positive. The police and media outlets published and broadcast the women's personal data, photographs, and information from their medical records of their HIV-positive status. Many of the women arrested during the 2012 crackdown were detained pending trial for months before they were finally acquitted by the courts, who found no strong evidence for the charges. The final five were released in March 2013 from pre-trial detention after being acquitted.

Malala Yousafzai calls for education for all girls at UN

Date: 12 July 2013
Source: BBC

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban, has told the UN that books and pens scare extremists, as she urged education for all. Speaking on her 16th birthday, Malala said efforts to silence her had failed. The speech at the UN headquarters in New York was her first public address since last October's incident in Pakistan's north-western Swat valley.

Malala has been credited with bringing the issue of women's education to global attention. A quarter of young women around the world have not completed primary school. There were huge cheers when Malala Yousefzai took to the podium. Amid several standing ovations, Malala told the UN on Friday that the Taliban's attack had only made her more resolute.

Malala said she was fighting for the rights of women because "they are the ones who suffer the most". She called on politicians to take urgent action to ensure every child has the right to go to school.

A video of her full speech can be heard here.

Abortion legalised for first time, Ireland

Date: 12 July 2013
Source: Irish Times

Lawmakers in the Republic of Ireland have voted to legalise abortion under certain conditions for the first time. The government won the final vote on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 by 127 votes to 31. The Bill authorises a termination when doctors deem that a woman is at risk of taking her life. The vote now needs to be endorsed in parliament’s upper house endorsement, the Seanad and this will be discussed later today.

The Minister for Health has confirmed that the criminal sanction for procuring an abortion will be reduced from penal servitude for life to a maximum of 14 years under the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.

The vote follows years of campaigning and finally came to a head following the case of the death of Savita Halappanavar, who died in hospital after she was refused an abortion.

Members of Fine Gael, the party in government, who voted against the bill have been automatically expelled, including one minister.

Risk of preterm birth significantly decreased with medical abortion

Date: 9 July 2013
Source: LA Times

A new study has found that the risk of preterm birth for women who have previously had an abortion has been significantly reduced by the increasing use of medical abortion and cervical preparation. 

The study looked at 732,719 first births by women in Scotland between 1980 and 2008 and found that during the early 1980s, women who had one abortion or more had a higher rate of preterm births (at or before 24 weeks) during later pregnancies. There was a steady drop in that risk over the next 15 to 20 years. The study concludes that by the year 2000, Scottish women with a history of abortion were no longer more likely to give birth before 37 weeks gestation.

The research has huge significance as a growing number of states in the US move to place new restrictions on medical abortions to terminate pregnancy during the first trimester. Proponents argue that the measures are necessary to improve patients' safety.

The study suggests that a history of surgical abortion with cervical dilation may, in some cases, put a woman at greater danger of giving birth prematurely in subsequent pregnancies. Among the Scottish women who gave birth to their first child between 1980 and 1983, those who had a previous abortion boosted their risk of giving birth prematurely by 18%, with an additional 18% risk for each subsequent abortion. For those with a history of three or more abortions, the risks of neonatal death were nearly tripled.

However, abortion methods changed during this period and, although the study could not review abortion method directly to preterm birth, amongst Scottish women who had not given birth, surgical abortions without use of cervical pre-treatment decreased from 31% to 0.4% from 1992-2008 and the proportion of medical abortions increased from 18% to 68% over the same time. The researchers surmise that the mechanical dilation of a woman's cervix in advance of surgical abortion was more likely to result in cervical trauma that could compromise her ability to carry a subsequent pregnancy to term.

The full article can be viewed and downloaded here.

Oliver-Williams C, Fleming M, Monteath K, et al. Changes in association between previous therapeutic abortion and preterm birth in Scotland, 1980 to 2008: a historical cohort study. PLoS Medicine 2013 10(7):e1001481. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001481

Call for petition for legalisation of therapeutic abortion, Chile

Date: 12 July 2013
Source: Avaaz and Guardian

The case of a pregnant 11-year old girl, who was raped in Chile by her mother's partner, has ignited national debate in Chile. The president, Sebastián Pinera, who supports a total ban on abortion, has gone on television praising the girl’s 'depth and maturity', after she said in a TV interview that she wants to give birth to the baby.

The girl was repeatedly raped over the course of two years by her mother's partner, who has been arrested and has confessed to the abuse. Her mother shocked Chileans when she defended him, saying the relationship was consensual. The case was brought to police by the pregnant child's maternal grandmother. The girl said on TV that "It will be like having a doll in my arms".

Pinera said his government was concerned about protecting the girl's health. But experts said the girl's life is at risk and she is not sufficiently prepared to take a decision about her pregnancy. A forensic psychologist, Giorgio Agostini, says that the young age of the girl suggests she would lack the mental and emotional capacity to discern the implications of the pregnancy. What the president is saying does not get close to the psychological truth of an 11-year-old-girl and his statement is not based on any scientific reasoning to support it.

In Child, abortion is totally illegal with no exceptions. The Chilean Senate rejected three bills last year that would have eased the absolute ban on abortions. One of the bills would have permitted abortion if two doctors said it was needed because of risks to a mother's life or other medical reasons, such as a fetus with low chances of survival. Another one of the measures that was rejected would have allowed abortion in the event of rape.

Click here to sign a petition in support of the legalisation of abortion in Chile. The petition seeks to bring forward the two citizen's bills that have already been presented, to decriminalise therapeutic abortion in Chile.


Guttmacher Institute President steps down

Date: 11 July 2013
Source: Guttmacher Institute

Dr Sharon Camp, President and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute, will be stepping down on 15 July 2013, the Board has announced.

Sharon`s time at Guttmacher has left a profound mark on the organisation and all those who have been fortunate enough to work with her over her remarkable 40-year career. She is leaving earlier than anticipated, due to health concerns. Sharon has led the Institute through its evolution into the leading think tank on sexual and reproductive health and rights, with a combination of rigorous research, incisive policy analysis and strategic communications. Sharon has continually challenged the staff to find new and better ways to reach influential audiences, whether by finding answers to important questions or by developing new platforms for the dissemination of information. She is commended for her commitment not only to the public face of the Institute, but to its staff, constantly seeking to raise the visibility of Guttmacher experts and promoting professional development at all levels.

During her tenure, the Institute has conducted research projects around the globe and in the US, in almost all cases carried out and disseminated in partnership with national institutions, in keeping with Sharon`s commitment to ensuring in-country ownership of research studies and building the capacity of local scholars and advocates.

Boost for fistula treatment in Liberia

Date: 10 July 2013
Source: IRIN News

Doctors and nurses at 48 health clinics in Liberia have been trained to treat fistula. While only six doctors in the country are able to perform the surgery, 65 professional nurses have been trained to train colleagues in fistula management in rural health clinics. Some 300 trainees are currently enrolled.

Since the launch of the Liberia Fistula Program in 2007, a government scheme supported by international network Zonta International and UNFPA, doctors have treated 1,026 fistula cases. All treatment is now free. The majority of patients have been impoverished girls and women aged 11-20.

The programme also includes awareness and mobilisation, encouraging women to come forward and encouraging Liberians to practice family planning and seek assistance from a trained health worker when giving birth. Public health messages have gone out in 25 local dialects. They try to break down common myths, including that fistula is caused by witchcraft and cannot be treated medically.

According to the most recent situational analysis on fistula (2006), more than half of long-term fistula sufferers are abandoned by their husbands or partners. Many women continue to be rejected by their communities, even once they have been treated. There is now recognition of the need to add a rehabilitation and reintegration component to the programme.

For more information on life after fistula surgery, see Kisa AM, Nyamongo AK. Still living with fistula: an exploratory study of the experience of women with obstetric fistula following corrective surgery in West Pokot, Kenya in
Reproductive Health Matters, 40.

Global policy and clinical guidelines on violence against women

Date: 20 June 2013
Source: World Health Organization

A new report, released by WHO in partnership with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the South African Medical Research Council, shows that intimate partner violence is the most common type of violence against women, affecting 30% of women worldwide.

The report, Global and regional estimates of violence against women: Prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence, represents the first systematic study of global data on the prevalence of violence against women - both by partners and non-partners. Some 35% of all women will experience either intimate partner or non-partner violence.

The study highlights the need for all sectors to engage in eliminating tolerance for violence against women and better support for women who experience it. New WHO guidelines, launched with the report, aim to help countries improve their health sector’s capacity to respond to violence against women.

In recognition of this challenge, new WHO clinical and policy guidelines stress the importance of training all levels of health workers to recognise when women may be at risk of partner violence and to know how to provide an appropriate response. WHO has begun to partner with ministries of health, non-governmental organisations and other United Nations agencies to disseminate the guidelines and support their adaptation and use in South East Asia.

The report can be downloaded here and the clinical and policy guidelines here.

Croatia suspends sexuality education in schools after church opposition

Date: 24 May 2013
Source: Huffington Post

The Croatian Constitutional Court has suspended all sexuality education classes in public schools. These classes were introduced by the Prime Minister in February in order to raise sexual health awareness among Croatian youth. The Catholic Church strongly opposed this programme and, with church backing, claimed that lack of parental authorisation of this programme was in contradiction to the constitution.

The Prime Minister, Zoran Milanovic, has announced that he will abide by the ruling, but will continue to fight for sexuality education classes, despite strong opposition from conservative groups. A survey of parents found that more than half believed that sex education is necessary.

Growing abortion restrictions but some progress on choice, US

Date: 8 July 2013
Source: Guttmacher Institute

A new update from the Guttmacher shows that the assault on abortion choice continues. In the first six months of 2013, states adopted 43 restrictions on access to abortion, the second-highest number ever at the midyear mark and as many as were enacted in all of 2012.

However, this year is notable also for positive action on other reproductive health issues in a handful of states, with important new provisions enacted to expand access to comprehensive sex education, expedited partner treatment for STIs and emergency contraception for women who have been sexually assaulted.

In March, the Arkansas legislature overrode a veto to ban abortions occurring more than 12 weeks after a woman's last menstrual period. In May, a federal judge temporarily blocked enforcement of the law. Later in March, North Dakota enacted a ban on abortions occurring after a fetal heartbeat is detected. A legal challenge has been filed, but the law is scheduled to go into effect in August.

There is a growing move on bans on abortion later in pregnancy, with legislation to ban nearly all abortions performed at or beyond 20 weeks post-fertilisation introduced in ten states and at 18 weeks post-fertilisation in Arizona. Other states have introduced restrictions including targeted regulation of abortion providers, designed to discourage medical professionals from providing abortion and make it impossible for clinics to remain open, restrictions on the transfer of patients needing emergency care, imposition of surgical-level standards of care for medical abortion providers, banning of telemedicine and other funding restrictions. There are more states with requirements for women to have an ultrasound, long waiting periods and the right for medical providers to withhold information about a woman’s pregnancy if it might lead her to consider abortion. Family planning is becoming increasingly restricted, through budget cuts and bans on funding of family planning (Ohio and Oklahoma).

However, there is some good news. Colorado and Illinois enacted laws aimed at improving sex education for adolescents, requiring that all sex education provided in the state to be scientifically proven to delay sexual debut, reduce adolescents' number of sexual partners and sexual frequency, or increase their contraceptive use. Nebraska enacted a law that allows medical providers to prescribe or dispense a drug for treatment of certain sexually transmitted infections for a patient's partner without first seeing the partner. Hawaii enacted a measure requiring hospitals treating women who have been sexually assaulted to provide them with medically accurate and unbiased information on emergency contraception, and to give them the medication upon request. Hawaii is the 17th state, along with the District of Columbia, to require that a woman be given information about emergency contraception and the 13th state (including the District of Columbia) to require that she be given the medication on request.

Obstacles to improved maternal health care in Timor-Leste

Date: 8 July 2013
Source: IRIN News

Timor-Leste has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in the world, third highest in Asia. Greater efforts are now needed to tackle the many challenges women face in accessing health care, according to UNFPA.

Thirty per cent of women give birth with a skilled birth attendant present. A further 18% of women are assisted by a traditional birth attendant and nearly half, (49%) are assisted by untrained relatives or friends.
Seventy per cent of the country’s 1.1 million inhabitants live in remote areas. Timor-Leste has one of the highest fertility rates in the world with each woman having on average 5.9 children.

Although there are enough health workers to meet the international minimum standard set by WHO, there are gaps in their quality and competency and a shortage of trained doctors.

With support from AusAID, the Ministry of Health is also developing a better reach of services to isolated and rural areas through mobile health clinics. These clinics travel to more than 400 villages to provide prenatal and postnatal care for women and babies, immunisation for children, family planning support, treatment and prevention of common diseases and infection and information on nutrition and hygiene.

Brutal sexual assaults in Egypt

Date: 3 July 2013
Source: Nazra for Feminist Studies 

Feminist organizations have documented 101 cases of sexual assault in and around Tahrir Square since June 28.

In a joint statement issued on 3 July, Egyptian feminist organisations and groups have condemned the reactions of the Egyptian authorities, represented in the office of the presidency and the Ministry of Health before the army actions of 3-4 July.

Feminist organisations, including Nazra for Feminist Studies, as well as intervention groups against sexual violence, including Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment and Tahrir Bodyguard, documented 26 incidents of sexual assaults on 3 July in the vicinity of Tahrir Square. This follows 46 cases of violent sexual assault and rape in the vicinity of the Square on 30 June, 12 another 28 June and 17 cases in the demonstrations that took place on 1 July.

This unprecedented level of sexual assaults is not only attributed to the recorded large number of incidents, but also to the severity of the attacks, which have been more brutal than the attacks that took place in January 2013.

The sexual attacks that took place in the past few days were preceded by earlier incidents of sexual violence which indicated grim forebodings several months ago. In November 2012, gang rapes were committed amidst disregard from official and unofficial bodies. The severity of attacks increased during the demonstrations that marked the second anniversary of the revolution on January 25th 2013, during which 19 cases of gang rapes and sexual assault were documented in Tahrir Square and its vicinity. The assaults in November 2012 and January 2013 targeted women demonstrators, passersby and female volunteers in field groups intervening in situations of sexual assault and rape.

The organisations and groups involved deplore the fact that investigations into the documented cases of gang rapes have not taken place. The official reaction, represented in the statements of the Human Rights Committee of the Shura Council (endowed with legislative powers) blamed the women for their presence in the spaces of demonstrations. According to members of the Human Rights Committee, some
women are "100 percent" responsible for being raped by being involved "in such circumstances".

A source in the Ministry of Health additionally violated the medical professional code of ethics and the privacy of survivors of sexual assault by making press statements to the Freedom and Justice Party online portal, in which the Ministry revealed personal information of a survivor and information on her medical condition.

For more information, follow this link for the full statement from the following organisations:

Nazra for Feminist Studies.
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.
El Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence.
New Woman Foundation.
Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment.
Tahrir Bodyguard.
Women and Memory Forum.

New training tool - ethical case studies in obstetrics and gynaecology

Date: 2 July 2013
Source: reprohealthlaw

FIGO announce the launch of a bioethics training curriculum for medical students and junior practitioners in obstetrics and gynaecology.

The resource includes a brief overview of basic bioethical principles, followed by 27 case studies through which students can apply the principles to propose ethical responses. Case studies cover diverse issues such as adolescent sex and confidentiality, anencephaly and late-term abortion, caesarean section on request, female genital cutting / mutilation, human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination, involuntary female sterilisation, social sex selection and task shifting and maternal mortality. There are many more, plus background contextual information and an instructors’ guide.

This curriculum can be used freely in order to stimulate means of ethical analysis, reflection and decision-making. The toolkit can be viewed
online here through FIGO.

The curriculum has been developed by Dr. Bernard Dickens and expert colleagues on the Committee on Ethical Aspects of Human Reproduction and Women's Health, of the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO). The Ethics Committee would be pleased to collaborate with any FIGO member society or any medical school department of obstetrics and gynaecology that wants to use the materials and case studies in an ethics training programme.

For further information, please contact Dr. Bernard Dickens by email: Bernard.dickens@utoronto.ca

UK ban on embryo sex selection unjustifiable, according to ethicists

Date: 1 July 2013
Source: Keele University

As Europe`s leading fertility specialists gather at a conference in London this weekend, a new publication from leading medical ethicists finds no justification to support the UK’s legal ban on sex selection before pregnancy for `social` reasons.

Overall, the ethicists found that new techniques to choose the sex of future children would be ethical to offer in the UK, based solely on parents` preference to have a child of a particular sex. The in vitro techniques are used at the embryonic stage or earlier, and at present are only legally permitted for use in the UK to avoid the birth of babies with medical problems such as sex-linked inherited disorders.

The paper argues that no population-level sex ratio imbalance would occur if sex selection using fertility treatments were permitted for non-medical reasons, within a strong regulatory framework. No ethical distinction was found between providing `family balancing` (sex selection to ensure that a new sibling is of the opposite sex to existing children), or sex selection for an only child, the firstborn, or for every child in a family, including selecting all the children to be of the same sex.

Sexism was not found to be inherent in the wish to choose the sex of a baby. Some requests reflect a high value placed on each gender being represented within a family. Other requests may stem from sexism or gender stereotyping, but these attitudes in themselves do not pose such risks to children that sex selection should be prohibited.

The authors concluded that, in the UK, it would not be right for `social` sex selection treatments to be funded by the taxpayer. Proper regulation would be also required to minimise any harmful effects of treatments carried out for non-medical reasons.

British couples with the resources to do so are reported to be travelling overseas for costly sex-selection treatments involving IVF and embryo testing, or novel sperm ‘sorting’ techniques, although no official record is kept of their numbers. These cross-border treatments may pose obstacles to the follow up of the resulting children`s health. In some circumstances, they might involve fewer clinical or legal safeguards than would be in place if patients were able to access equivalent treatments in the UK.

Further attempts to restrict abortion in Central and Eastern Europe

Date: 1 July 2013
Source: ASTRA

In June, the Government of Macedonia adopted a law which severely restricts abortion after ten weeks and places a number of humiliating administrative procedures on women seeking an abortion. Under the proposed changes, women seeking an abortion beyond the tenth week of pregnancy will have to file requests for abortions to the Health Ministry and moreover will be obliged to undergo a mandatory pre-abortion counselling and waiting period of three days after the pre-abortion counselling. The partner of the woman will be informed about the procedure and the doctor is also expected to submit a written confirmation. The law took only two weeks from initial drafting to adoption. There have been no consultations with the civil society and the opposition parties were absent from the debate and vote.

In late May the Lithuanian Parliament secured an abortion ban bill, proposed by the Electoral Action of Poles. It will now go to the parliamentary Committees on Human Rights, Health Affairs and Legal Affairs for further considerations.

The Council of Serbian Orthodox church announced its support for a religious doctors` initiative to ban state abortions, other than for medical reasons. The Serbian Health Minister has stated that termination of pregnancy in Serbia was regulated by law, and the rules of the medical profession and there are currently no grounds for changing the current legislation.

Attacks on LGBTI rights defenders, Cameroon

Date: 1 July 2013
Source: Human Rights Watch

Cameroonian and international human rights organisations have condemned recent suspicious break-ins at three human rights defenders’ offices, including organisations working with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community.

In the most recent attack, unidentified assailants set fire to the Alternatives-Cameroun office in Douala. Earlier, assailants broke into the Yaoundé office of a prominent human rights lawyer, Michel Togué, stealing confidential information and earlier a burglary took place at the Douala headquarters of the Central African Human Rights Defenders Network. The two most recent attacks targeted groups supporting the rights of LGBTI people, leading activists to attribute homophobic motives to the perpetrators.

The most recent victim, Alternatives-Cameroun, is among the oldest existing LGBTI organisation in the country. It provides HIV testing and counselling services, and advocates for equal rights. The executive director has condemned "selective disinterest in enforcing the law and holding perpetrators accountable."

Cameroon prosecutes more people for consensual same-sex conduct than almost any other country in the world, with dozens of such prosecutions since 2010 and alleged torture of those arrested on "homosexuality" charges.

Call for compulsory sex education to support LGBTI students, UK

Date: 10 June 2013
Source: Pink News

The government opposition party's Shadow Home Secretary and Shadow Minister for Equalities, has called on the government to make Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education a statutory requirement in order to address the health challenges faced by LGBT students.

The senior Labour MP stressed how stronger sex and relationship education, which included provision for LGBT students, could dramatically help in the fight against homophobic bullying and poor rates of sexual health in the LGBT community.

Research by gay rights charity Stonewall published in 2012 showed one in sixteen gay and bisexual men aged 16 to 24 attempted to take their own life in the previous year - a figure far higher than for their heterosexual counterparts. Gay and bisexual men are also more likely to self-harm, catch sexually transmitted infections and have depression compared to their straight peers.

Currently Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) Education in England is a non-statutory subject. The government minister for family reports that teachers are best placed to understand the needs of their pupils and do not need additional central prescription. But a poll found in May that 86% of parents believe sex education lessons should be compulsory in secondary schools.

US Supreme Court rules human genes may not be patented

Date: 13 June 2013
Source: New York Times

The US Supreme Court unanimously ruled that isolated human genes may not be patented. The case concerned patents held by Myriad Genetics, a Utah company, on genes that correlate with increased risk of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.

The patents were challenged by scientists and doctors who said their research and ability to help patients had been frustrated by the high costs charged for tests using genes that have been patented.

The genes at issue in the court hearing had received public attention after the actress Angelina Jolie revealed in May that she had had a preventive double mastectomy after learning that she had inherited a faulty copy of a gene that put her at high risk for breast cancer. The price of the test, often more than $3,000, was partly a product of Myriad's patent, putting it out of reach for some women. The company filed patent infringement suits against others who conducted testing based on the gene. The price of the test is expected to fall because of Thursday's decision.

The court's ruling will also shape the course of scientific research and medical testing in other fields, and it may alter the willingness of businesses to invest in the expensive work of isolating and understanding genetic material.

The court stated that "a naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated."

UN Security Council passes resolution on sexual violence in armed conflict

Date: 26 June 2013
Source: AWID

The United Nations Security Council has unanimously passed Resolution 2106 addressing sexual violence in armed conflict.

Significantly, for the first time, a Security Council Resolution explicitly calls for UN entities and donor countries to provide "non-discriminatory and comprehensive health services, including sexual and reproductive health."

In order for the medical care provided to girls and women impregnated from war rape to truly be comprehensive and non-discriminatory, it must include the option of safe abortion. The language on the need to provide non-discriminatory medical care, including by donor states, follows from the Secretary-General`s 2013 Report on sexual violence in conflict to the Council, which called for the inclusion of safe abortion services to be included as an integral part of care to victims of war rape.

Lithuanian parliament backs bill to ban abortion

Date: 11 June 2013
Source: AWID

Lithuania`s Seimas (Parliament) has given its initial backing to a proposed abortion ban bill after 46 MPs voted in favour, 19 were against and 25 abstained.

The bill was backed by members of the Homeland Union - Lithuanian Christian Democrats, Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania, Labour Party and individual members of other political groups. Only members of the Liberal Movement political groups unanimously voted against the bill.

The bill will now go to the parliamentary Committees on Human Rights, Health Affairs and Legal Affairs for further considerations and will be sent back to the Seimas during the autumn session.

Under the bill proposed by the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania, an abortion would be possible only if it poses threat to the life or health of the woman or it was the result of criminal acts. In such cases, an abortion would be performed only up to 12 weeks.

New HIV guidelines recommend earlier treatment initiation

Date: 30 June 2013
Source: aidsmap news

The World Health Organization has issued new HIV treatment guidelines that recommend offering antiretroviral therapy to all HIV-positive people at CD4 counts below 500 cells/mm3.

WHO estimate that initiation of antiretroviral therapy at a CD4 count below 500 could avert an additional three million deaths and prevent 3.5 million more new HIV infections between 2013 and 2025 if the guidance is widely implemented. Although the earlier treatment initiation recommendations follow systematic reviews which show that this is the best threshold at which to initiate ARVs, the vast majority of people initiating ARVs globally are doing so at a CD4 count below 100 cells/mm3.

WHO estimates that as a result of the new guidance 25.9 million people will now be eligible for ARVs. An additional 9.2 million people have become eligible compared to the criteria used in the previous 2010 guidance.

Other key new recommendations include the use of viral load testing as the preferred approach to monitoring the success of ART and diagnosing treatment failure, in addition to clinical and CD4 monitoring of people receiving ART (as opposed to CD4 testing) and community-based HIV testing and counselling and HIV testing of adolescents to diagnose people with HIV earlier and link them to care and treatment.

The new guidelines also recommend antiretroviral therapy to all children with HIV under 5 years of age and to all children over the age of five with a CD4 cell count below 500. Women with HIV who are pregnant or breastfeeding are recommended to start treatment irrespective of CD4 cell count. Although the guidelines state that women may discontinue treatment after breastfeeding has ceased if they are not eligible for treatment, WHO also recommends that because it is simpler to manage, all women should stay on treatment once they have started.

The new guidelines also recommend antiretroviral therapy for all people living with HIV who are in a sexual relationship where one partner has HIV and the other does not.

UNAIDS estimates that the increase in the number of people treated as a result of these recommendations could be met within the projected 2015 global budget of USD 22 to 24 billion for HIV treatment and care.

Advocacy groups representing people living with HIV welcomed the new guidelines but also expressed some concerns about how they will be implemented, calling on governments to invest in provision of the equipment needed to use these guidelines and to address existing disparities in access to treatment.

The guidelines are available here.

European parliament passes resolution on coerced sterilisation

Date: 28 June 2013
Source: European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has adopted two ground-breaking Resolutions relevant to sexual and reproductive health and rights. Both Reports were adopted by the majority of the Assembly.

Resolution 1945 (2013): Resolution Putting an end to coerced sterilisations and castrations. For the first time, the Assembly urged for a total ban on coerced sterilisation or castration in any way for any reason. At present a small, but significant, number of sterilisations and castrations can be considered 'coerced'. These are mainly directed against transgender people, Roma women and convicted sex offenders. The Assembly urged for adequate redress for victims of recent (and future) coerced sterilisation or castration, including the protection and rehabilitation of victims, the prosecution of offenders, and financial compensation.

Resolution 1948 (2013) and Recommendation 2021 (2013) were also passed. These resolutions strongly condemn legislation on "prohibiting "homosexual propaganda" in Russia and the draft law in Ukraine. Parliamentarians confirmed that these laws and draft laws, which go against the freedom of expression and the prohibition of discrimination on account of sexual orientation and gender identity, risk legitimising the prejudice and hostility which is present in society and fuelling a climate of hatred against LGBTIs.

Texas abortion bill blocked by Senator's filibuster

Date: 26 June 2013
Source: BBC

Democratic state Senator Wendy Davis spoke for more than 10 hours, in a stalling speech known as a filibuster, at the state capitol, to block a bill that would shut most of the abortion clinics in the state.

Republicans then scrambled to pass the bill, but the vote was ruled too late for a midnight deadline. The proposed bill, which had already been passed by the Texas House of Representatives, sought to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and require all pregnancy terminations to take place in surgical centres, which would mean that only five of Texas' 42 abortion clinics would be able to remain in operation.

Twelve states have already passed 20-week bans. Courts have blocked bans in Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia and Idaho. In March, North Dakota banned abortion after a foetal heartbeat is detected, which can be at six weeks. The US House of Representatives has passed a bill to limit abortions to the first 20 weeks, but it will not be passed by the Senate which has a Democrat majority.

Decriminalisation of therapeutic abortion, Dominican Republic

Date: 25 June 2013
Source: International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion

The Chamber of Deputies in the Dominican Republic has decriminalised therapeutic abortion. Currently, abortion is forbidden under any circumstances.

This will be further submitted for approval to the Senate. Activists are not sure how this will be received, but this news is the first opportunity for progress and, as such, can be celebrated.

Female genital mutilation helpline launched, UK

Date: 24 June 2013
Source: Guardian

The National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children in the UK has launched a 24-hour helpline aimed at women or girls, or family and friends, seeking advice and support around female genital mutilation.

Research undertaken by the organisation reveals that more than 70 women and girls in Britain seek treatment every month after undergoing female genital mutilation. The actual number subjected to the illegal practice is likely to be far higher. The helpline was launched after finding that more than 1,700 victims were referred to specialist clinics in the past two years. The research gathered data from the 6 clinics in England which specialise in helping girls and women who have undergone female genital mutilation, as well as other clinics that have treated girls who have undergone female genital mutilation

The helpline will be staffed by child protection advisers, trained by specialists from the NGO, Equality Now, and advocacy group, Daughters of Eve. Equality Now have called this move a sea change. "For the first time in this country we are giving a voice to the young people from these communities who have not been able to speak out. The government, the police and health professionals have been frightened and this is bringing it out into the open at last."

The helpline can be contacted in the UK on 0800 028 3550 FREE or at fgmhelp@nspcc.org.uk.

EU foreign policy now protects LGBTI human rights

Date: 24 June 2013
Source: ILGA Europe

The Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union has officially adopted new guidelines to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons. The document legally binds all European Union and Member States to progress on human rights of LGBTI people in dealings with non-EU countries and at international fora.

Guidelines To Promote and Protect the Enjoyment of All Human Rights by lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) Persons prioritises actions around combatting discriminatory laws and policies, LGBTI-phobic violence, and the promotion of equality and non-discrimination.

The Guidelines are the first ever EU policy document explicitly referring to intersex people.

Evelyne Paradis, Executive Director of ILGA-Europe, said that it was a truly significant development. They hope that with bilateral cooperation and sufficient funding, the Guidelines will contribute to the improvement of the human rights situation of LGBTI people outside the EU.

Sexual abuse against boys and girls in Afghanistan

Date: 21 June 2013
Source: IRIN News

Child casualties in Afghanistan have jumped by 28% from last year - the number of child casualties in the first four months of 2013 was 414.

Of all the violations against children in Afghanistan, sexual violence remains one of the most under-reported abuses. The sexual abuse of boys and girls is a crime under Afghan law but continues to be tolerated. In particular, the sexual abuse of boys continues to be tolerated, especially when it takes place in association with armed groups where families of the children involved have no real

Space-age technology to reduce maternal deaths

Date: 21 June 2013
Source: IRIN

Space-age technology, neoprene (the same material used for wet suits) and Velcro have gone into an experimental garment health experts hope can treat postpartum haemorrhage, the leading cause of maternal mortality worldwide.

A non-pneumatic anti-shock garment - also called a lifewrap - is a half-body suit that is strapped onto a woman’s lower legs and abdomen to slow bleeding and prevent shock due to blood loss. The lifewrap compresses the blood vessels in the lower part of the body, reversing shock by increasing oxygen to the heart, lungs and brain. Pressure on the abdomen should also decrease the radius of the blood vessels and reduce overall bleeding.

The lifewrap would stablise a woman to allow more time for her transfer to a health facility for surgery or blood transfusion.

Clinical trials and studies on the use of the lifewrap were conducted by the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) in Nigeria, Egypt, Zambia, Zimbabwe and India from 2004-2012. During that period, it was noted that use of the lifewrap decreased maternal death by up to half. Research and development of the wrap has been pursued jointly by UNFPA, Pathfinder International, UCSF, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and PATH. PATH, who are involved in trialling the garment, say that initial results are promising, when used alongside other postpartum haemorrhage interventions.

The lifewrap can be used up to 40 times and washed by hand with regular laundry detergent after each use. From an original cost of US$300 per garment, negotiations with manufacturers have driven down the cost to nearly $65.

SILCS diaphragm receives regulatory approval, Europe

Date: 20 June 2013

The SILCS diaphragm, a single-size and affordable contraceptive barrier method, has been approved by European regulatory bodies. This means that the diaphragm will now carry a CE marking, allowing the product to be sold throughout Europe.


US Supreme Court declares 'prostitution pledge' unconstitutional

Date: 20 June 2013
Source: www.pledgechallenge.org

The US Supreme Court has rejected the requirement that organisations receiving federal funding make an anti-prostitution pledge as a violation of the First Amendment. The decision, by six votes to two, has been welcomed by rights activists who say that the pledge prevented important programmes on HIV prevention and related sexual health and human rights work from being implemented.

Intellectual property rights agreement delayed for least developed countries

Date: 13 June 2013
Source: IRIN News

A consensus decision has been reached that will allow Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to continue to have access to affordable medical technologies for an extra eight years before they are required to implement the World Trade Organization’s Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) Agreement.

The current extension was due to expire on 1 July 2013. Least Developed Countries sought an extension at least until each individual country was no longer considered an LDC, a move resisted by developed countries, who own most intellectual property rights.

The TRIPS Agreement gives countries the right, under specific situations such as public health emergencies, to issue compulsory licences - an authorisation given by a government to a third party to produce a patented invention without the permission of the patent-holder.

The extension may provide time for countries to develop their own pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity, as India has done. More than 80% of all donor-funded HIV antiretroviral drugs used in developing countries are Indian generics, for example.

The consensus decision allows for negotiation for a further extension once the eight-year period is up. Responses are positive, although a representative of UNITAID, the international health financing mechanism, reported regrets that the exemption will expire in 2021, instead of being until a county no longer is 'least-developed'. Medecins sans Frontieres also expressed regret that pharmaceutical products are not included in this exemption. The current exemption from intellectual property rules on pharmaceutical products that expires in 2016, meaning a further period of negotiations in two years' time.

International Criminal Court rejects clergy sexual abuse case against former Pope

Date: 13 June 2013
Source: Huffington Post

The International Criminal Court has rejected a longshot request by clergy sex abuse victims to investigate former Pope Benedict XVI and Vatican cardinals for possible crimes against humanity.

The Court explained in a letter to the Center for Constitutional Rights, who are legally representing the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, that the request does not appear to fall within the jurisdiction of the court. It stated that it can only investigate "the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes." It also advised that it can only investigate claims committed after the tribunal was formed in 2002.

A senior staff attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights said they were confident it could collect enough evidence as new abuse victims come forward to press the tribunal to reconsider. The Survivors Network argue that rape, sexual violence and torture are considered crimes against humanity as described in the international treaty that spells out the court's mandate. The complaint also accuses Pope Benedict and Vatican officials of creating policies that perpetuated the damage, constituting an attack against a civilian population.

Brazil cancels sex work outreach campaign after public criticism

Date: 11 June 2013
Reuters & Network of Sex Work Projects

The Brazilian Ministry of Health has pulled an outreach campaign to urge sex workers to use condoms, after a conservative backlash from evangelical legislators in Brazil's congress.

The web campaign, to mark International Prostitute Day, used the slogan "I'm happy being a prostitute" and encouraged sex workers to not be ashamed to seek medical treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.
The campaign was published on the health ministry's website and social media but was removed two days later.

The Brazilian Network of Prostitutes has released a statement condemning the move and the subsequent sanitised campaign that was produced with no input from sex workers.

Displaced Malian women and girls turn to survival sex

Date: 5 June 2013
Source: IRIN News

In Mali, there has been a reported rise in displaced women and girls - some as young as 13 - turning to sex work to get by. Fourteen months of occupation and conflict have forced 475,000 people from their homes in the north.

A local NGO has registered 3,800 sex workers in Mopti and Sévaré but reports that the real number is much higher. UNICEF has documented a number of teenage girls engaged in survival sex, almost all were without their parents or without their husbands who they said had disappeared or been killed during the fighting.

Although no one can say for sure, many believe the number of sex workers is expected to increase with the arrival of the international peacekeeping troops. There are already 6,000 foreign soldiers in Mali, and in the coming weeks some 5,000 more will arrive to support MINUSMA, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission there.

Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies - Sexuality Institute

Date: 4 June 2013
Source: Coalition for Sexual and Bodily Rights in Muslim Societies

Apply now! 6
th Sexuality Institute, 18-24 August, Kathmandu, Nepal

The CSBR Sexuality Institute offers a holistic interdisciplinary program combining history, theory, research and politics of sexuality with applications of advocacy and fieldwork. It brings together leading sexual and reproductive rights activists, academics and researchers. The institute includes lectures, group work, round-tables, panels, site visits and film screenings, as well as a methodology to engage participants' own experiences around sexuality.

Who can participate?

The Institute will be limited to 20 participants, as it is designed as an intensive six-day participatory group training. Applications will be reviewed by the CSBR Training Committee. The language of the Institute will be English. Travel and accommodation costs for participants from the South will be covered by the Institute. All participants from the North are required to pay for full tuition and travel costs.

Eligible applicants for the Institute must:

* Have a minimum of 2 years experience working in the field of sexual and reproductive health and rights;
* Have a commitment to undertake efforts to promote sexual and bodily health and rights at national and international levels;
* Represent an organisation engaged in sexual and reproductive health and rights advocacy, research or fieldwork;
* Be fluent in English.

For more information and an application form, click here.


Chinese city plans to fine unmarried mothers

Date: 3 June 2013
Source: Associated Press

The government of Wuhan city in central Hubei, China, has published a draft updated family planning policy which it says is aimed at keeping the city's birth rate at a low level. The policy says that "the parties" will provoke a social compensation fee in cases of births that are out of wedlock or when one side knowingly has a child with someone who has a spouse.

This is the fee levied on people who break China's strict family planning policy, which restricts many urban couples to one child Hubei province, in which Wuhan is located, sets its social compensation fee as three times the average annual disposable income. It has been interpreted in state media as mainly targeting unmarried mothers and women who have affairs with married men.

The policy has drawn widespread criticism that it is discriminatory and could lead to an increase in abandoned babies. One expert comments that it is the first time that out-of-wedlock children had been expressly singled out for penalty by one of China's municipalities. It came just days after the rescue of a young unmarried mother's newborn baby from a sewer pipe in eastern China prompted discussion over the stigma that single mothers face.

Unmarried mothers already faced discrimination, including being barred from receiving maternity benefits from the government.

Salvadoran government ordered to provide access to life-saving care for Beatriz

Date: 30 May 2013
Source: RH Reality Check

On 29 May the Supreme Court in El Salvador handed down a ruling which prohibited the abortion requested by Beatriz, a young woman who suffers from life-threatening health problems and is 25 weeks pregnant with an anencephalic fetus that will likely die at birth or shortly afterward.

The Inter-American Human Rights Court, the highest human rights court in the Americas, today handed down a decision ordering the government of El Salvador to provide Beatriz with life-saving care. It ordered the state to provide the measures necessary to protect her life, health, and well-being, as well as refrain from interfering with the actions the doctors consider appropriate.

A spokesperson for the Inter-American Court explained that the case is not going through formal channels. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights asked the judges to issue an immediate order to the Salvadoran government to avoid irreparable harm to Beatriz. This is the first case on abortion that the court has considered.

The government has until June 7 to present a first report to the court on its compliance with the measures ordered. El Salvador is a member state of the Organization of American States and signed the American Convention on Human Rights, and is therefore required to comply with
this order.

HIV testing at gay venues, UK

Date: 31 May 2013
Source: University of Brighton

Mouth swabs are being taken from volunteers at gay venues in Brighton and Hove, UK, to gather new data on HIV risk patterns, prevention needs, and local prevalence as part of the European SIALON II project.

Oral HIV swabbing provides an alternative to traditional blood tests. Outreach workers from an HIV NGO, Terrence Higgins Trust, are working with gay venues in the city to collect 400 mouth swab samples and other data from men who have sex with men. The team has already collected 285 samples alongside data about men's behaviours and their perception of their own HIV status. The results will allow researchers to develop an insight into behaviour and attitudes among men who have sex with men, that could shape future prevention measures in Brighton, while identifying risk patterns and prevalence in the city.

Although the data is anonymised for the purposes of the research, men who want to access their results are able to do so using a barcode system that provides a return result within one week.

Outreach workers report that oral swabbing is proving to be an acceptable means of testing in non-traditional settings such as gay venues.

Similar research into men who have sex with men as part of the SIALON II project is to be carried out throughout the EU and other countries including Russia.

E-learning modules for midwives

Date: 30 May 2013
Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation

UNFPA have teamed up with the microchip company Intel, the WHO and JHPIEGO
, to develop midwifery multimedia e-learning modules, currently being piloted in Bangladesh and Ghana.

The new tools are interactive and include graphics and videos, making the lessons more accessible. So far, three modules
have been developed, training health care workers on how to handle conditions such as pre-eclampsia and eclampsia, post-partum haemorrhage and prolonged and obstructed labour. They also address clinical decision-making, giving instruction on proper medicine dosages and protocols and provide checklists key to managing emergency cases.

According to UNFPA and its partners, enhancing skills of frontline healthcare providers in these three areas alone would help prevent half of all maternal deaths in countries with high maternal mortality rates.

The e-learning modules can be adapted to any language. They do require a computer, electricity, computer literacy, and Internet access, though the heaviest data, such as high-definition videos, could be shipped on health centres, where workers could upload them onto their laptops or tablets.

The modules run on the skoool Healthcare Education platform, which tracks the worker`s usage.
The system records what modules are opened and how often, as well as how workers performed on the quizzes included in the training. This is saved offline and sent to operating system later, when the computer is linked to the Internet.

Unwanted pregnancies in Syria

Date: 29 May 2013

Source: IRIN News

UNFPA has estimated that some 250,000 women in Syria and in refugee settings will become pregnant by the end of 2013, despite the fact that many women do not want to become pregnant in the middle of war.

After more than two years of conflict, Syria's health care system has broken down, hospitals have been destroyed, medical personnel have fled the country, supply routes have been disrupted and, in many places, family planning tools are not readily available. Despite distributing nearly 1.5 million contraceptive pills, plus injectable contraceptives, intrauterine devices and condoms in 2012, UNFPA do not receive regular shipments and the need remains unmet.

Internally displaced persons (IDPs) face additional challenges related to family planning and unsafe sex as a result of the crowded living conditions, especially in common shelters. UNFPA estimates there will be 1.65 million women of reproductive age living as IDPs by the end of 2013.

Before the conflict, 96% of deliveries in Syria were assisted by a skilled birth attendant, but previously strong registration systems have since broken down and UNFPA suspects that maternal and neonatal deaths are on the rise. Births by Caesarean section are 3-5 times higher than in normal conditions. Women schedule them in advance to try to avoid having to rush to hospital in unpredictable and often dangerous circumstances.

Across the border, in Syrian refugee camps in Jordan, there are a record number of pregnancies being recorded. Whilst many women report wanting babies, some women said they were pressured by their in-laws to have more children to 'replace the men who have been killed'.

New caucus for reproductive health formed to increase reproductive health access

Date: 29 May 2013
Source: Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition

A new manufacturers' association has just been launched. The newly-formed Generic Manufacturers Caucus for Reproductive Health (GEM/RH) will work in collaboration with the Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition to expand the availability of quality, affordable and safe reproductive health products and medicines to women, girls and families in need.

The group, comprised of seven select generic pharmaceutical companies manufacturing throughout Asia, Africa and Europe, will support the RHSC in its focused initiatives to shape markets, reduce stockouts and help countries fulfil their RH commitments.
The Concept Foundation will serve as GEM/RH's coordination partner on behalf of the RHSC. Members include:

Cipla Limited (India)
Famy Care, Ltd. (India)
HELM AG (Germany)
Naari AG (Switzerland)
PT. Tunggal Idaman Abdi (Indonesia)
Shanghai Dahua Pharmaceuticals Co., Ltd. (China)
Zizhu Pharmaceutical (China)

Collectively, GEM/RH members distribute products in more than 50 countries spanning all seven continents and have the capacity to reach millions more women in high-need countries with reproductive health products.

In addition to its collaboration with the RHSC, the group will work with the World Health Organization and other UN agencies to address challenges of supplying quality-assured products to high-need countries and to partner with high-need countries to supply culturally-relevant products. GEM/RH will support the goals and activities of the UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children.

Publication: UNAIDS guidance on HIV and criminalisation

Date: 28 May 2013

Source: HIV Justice Network

UNAIDS has published updated guidance to limit the overly broad use of criminal laws to regulate and punish people living with HIV who are accused of HIV non-disclosure, exposure and/or transmission. The guidance aims to ensure that any application of criminal law in the context of HIV achieves justice and does not jeopardise public health objectives.

The guidance, Ending overly-broad criminalisation of HIV non-disclosure, exposure and transmission: Critical scientific, medical and legal considerations, builds on two years of research, evidence-building and policy dialogue, which included a number of technical papers, an expert meeting and a high level policy consultation in 2012 that gathered policy-makers, experts in HIV science, medicine and human rights and members of civil society, including people living with HIV, from around the world to discuss options and recommendations for addressing overly broad HIV criminalisation.

The new guidance reiterates previous UNAIDS and UNDP positions and recommendations from the Global Commission on HIV and the Law, to limit the application of criminal law to cases of intentional transmission (i.e. where a person knows his or her HIV-positive status, acts with the intention to transmit HIV, and does in fact transmit it) and that general - and not HIV-specific - laws should be used for these extremely rare occasions.

The guidance can be downloaded here

Increasing access to woman-controlled barrier contraceptives

Date: 25 May 2013
Source: PATH

PATH are working on developing a diaphragm that is made in one size to fit most bodies, without requiring a pelvic exam. The SILCS diaphragm is made of silicone, which will hold up to extreme temperatures and poor storage conditions common in developing countries. The single size means that there does not need to be as much time spent by health practitioners fitting the diaphragm.

The SILCS diaphragm design has been licensed to Kessel Marketing & Vertriebs GmbH of Frankfurt, German, who will manufacture and distribute the device in select markets and is preparing regulatory applications for Europe and the United States. Through a phased approach, Kessel and PATH aim to introduce the product in both developed and developing countries and are working with local partners and governments to provide a new, affordable family planning option to women globally.

Women have been involved in the design since 1994. Primary design evaluations occurred in the United States. Later studies with couples in South Africa, Thailand, and the Dominican Republic confirmed that SILCS fits women from diverse regions, is easy to insert and use and is acceptable to both partners. Men in the Dominican Republic even reported enjoying the sensation of sex more when their partners used the SILCS diaphragm.

Clinical studies have found that, when used with the spermicide Nonoxynol-9, it was as safe as a traditional diaphragm and offers similar levels of contraceptive protection. PATH and partners are conducting health system assessments in Uganda, India, and South Africa to understand how the SILCS diaphragm could be successfully integrated into existing family planning or commercial channels. The assessments also will help us understand how women want to obtain this new diaphragm - whether through clinics or outside the clinic system.

Contraceptive demand in poorest countries remains unmet

Date: 17 May 2013

Source: Guttmacher Institute

A new study by the Guttmacher Institute finds that women in the poorest countries who want to avoid pregnancy are three times as likely to have an unmet need for modern methods as women in higher-income developing countries. The study, Trends in Contraceptive Need and Use in Developing Countries in 2003, 2008, 2012: An Analysis of National Surveys, found that the total number of women wanting to avoid pregnancy and in need of contraception increased from 716 million to 867 million, with growth concentrated among women in the 69 poorest countries where modern method use was already very low. Roughly three-quarters of the 222 million women in developing countries who want to avoid a pregnancy but are not using a modern method now live in the poorest countries, compared with 67% in 2003. Women in the poorest countries who want to avoid pregnancy are one-third as likely to be using a modern method as those living in higher-income developing countries.

Whilst overall modern contraceptive use increased between 2003 and 2012 from 71% to 74% among women wanting to avoid pregnancy, this progress varied significantly. Regions such as East Africa, Southern Africa, Southeast Asia, Central America and South America all showed increase. But virtually no progress was made in the regions with the lowest rates of use. In Central Africa, contraceptive use increased only from 17% to 19% and in West Africa from 22% to 26%.

In order to make substantial and sustainable progress, improving the quality of services must become a priority. This includes providing adequate follow-up care, facilitating informed choice among methods, increasing public education and addressing the needs of young people for quality information and services.

The report is available online here and will appear shortly in The Lancet.

Gay men lack health service access due to blackmail, violence and stigma across the world

Date: 1 May 2013
Source: aidsmap news

The Global Forum for MSM and HIV has released an analysis of its 2012 Global Men's Health and Rights Study, concentrating on young men under 30 who have sex with men (MSM). This follows the full report, released in December 2012.

The two studies highlight that across the world men who have sex with men face high levels of homophobia, stigma and discrimination, which are significantly associated with difficulties in accessing condoms and lubricant, HIV and STI testing, and HIV treatment.

The youth report shows that in most ways access to HIV and sexual health services, poverty and poor housing levels, and experience of homophobia and violence are worse for young men who have sex with men than for older ones.

Globally, the average access to HIV treatment was 30%, but only 14% in young men under 30 (who may need it less if they have acquired HIV more recently). In all cases, young people under had poorer access to HIV resources but especially to HIV testing, where only 24% said they had easy access compared to 40% of respondents in general.

In the focus groups, the most common theme was that the most frequently cited negative consequence of homophobia and the criminalisation of sex between men is not violence, but blackmail and extortion. A large number of men mentioned having to pay blackmailers or having to pay extortionate rent, as the price for being allowed to live free from violence or legal persecution. Other negative outcomes were high levels of depression and anxiety and discrimination from healthcare staff.

The reports can be accessed here:

The Global Forum for MSM and HIV. Access to HIV Prevention and Treatment for Men Who Have Sex with Men: Findings from the 2012 Global Men's Health and Rights Study (GMHR). 2012.

The Global Forum for MSM and HIV. Young Men Who Have Sex with Men: Health,access, & HIV. Data from the 2012 Global Men's Health & Rights (GMHR) Survey. 2013.

Publication: Date on young people's sexual and reproductive health

Date: 15 May 2013
Source: Guttmacher Institute

A new publication from the Guttmacher Institute and the International Planned Parenthood Federation - Demystifying Data: A Guide to Using Evidence to Improve Young People's Sexual Health and Rights - is designed to make accessible and contextualise of data on adolescent sexual health and rights in 30 countries, and to provide guidance on how to apply the data to advocacy, education and service provision efforts.

The guide is designed as a resource for youth advocates, sexuality educators and service providers as well as others working to advance the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people around the world.

The publication includes 70 key indicators on issues such as sexual activity and marriage; contraceptive knowledge, use and need; childbearing; sexuality education in schools; adolescents' ability to advocate for and ensure their own sexual health; and societal norms and gender equality. The guide also presents information on the best ways to reach young people by providing information about their level of school attendance and exposure to different forms of media. Each indicator is defined and discussed in terms of how it can be employed in advocacy, service provision and sexuality education contexts.

The data featured in the guide come from nationally representative Demographic and Health Surveys for 30 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean and Europe.

Click here to download the guide and for links to access to accompanying resources.

El Salvador - Beatriz still denied abortion

Date: 11 May 2013
Source: Aljazeera

Beatriz, the 22 year old El Salvadorean, is still waiting for her government to take action to save her life.

She is currently in hospital suffering from early-stage kidney failure, caused by her lupus, while pregnant with a fetus with anencephaly and whose life is unviable, according to expert medical opinion. Her doctors say that, with every day that passes, the risk to her life increases. The authorities have not yet responded to the appeal from her doctors to grant permission for her to have an abortion. El Salvador's Minister of Health, Maria Isabel Rodriguez, and her legal adviser have also written to the Supreme Court supporting the medical and constitutional basis of Beatriz's case

Last week the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court ordered a range of psychological and physical tests to be carried out on Beatriz by the Institute of Legal Medicine. The ILM opinion contradicted all previous assessments and recommended Beatriz continue with the pregnancy, yet four of the participating doctors had already expressed an opinion against Beatriz being allowed a therapeutic abortion. Her lawyers submitted an application to the Supreme Court on May 8, urging them to reject the ILM opinion on the grounds of bias and flawed process. Beatriz's lawyer says that this is the end, legal possibilities have been exhausted.

More signatures are needed

Please sign these petitions and increase the public pressure on the government:



Please write immediately in Spanish or your own language:

Urging the authorities to comply immediately with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights instruction of 29 April and provide Beatriz with the necessary medical treatment, in accordance with her wishes and as recommended by her doctors, in order to save her life;

Urging them to ensure immediately that health professionals are able to give Beatriz the treatment she needs, without any risk of criminal prosecution;

Urging them to decriminalise abortion in all circumstances and ensure women and girls have safe and legal access to abortion services necessary to preserve their life or health, or if they are pregnant as a result of rape.


Mauricio Funes
Presidente de la República de El Salvador
Alameda Dr. Manuel Enrique Araujo, No. 5500
San Salvador, El Salvador
Fax: +503 2243 6860

Salutation: Dear President/ Estimado Sr. Presidente

Attorney General
Luís Martínez
Fiscal General de la República
Fiscalía General de la República
Calle Cortez Blanco Poniente, #20, Urbanización Madre Selva 3, Antiguo Cuscatlán, La Libertad.
San Salvador, El Salvador
Fax: +503 2246 4950
Email: fiscalgeneral@fgr.gob.sv

Salutation: Dear Attorney General/ Estimado Sr. Fiscal

and copies to:

The Citizens' Group for the Decriminalisation of Therapeutic, Ethical and Eugenic Abortion
Fax: +503 2226 0356 (say "tono de fax")
Email: agrupacionporladespenalizacion@gmail.com

Also please send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country.

International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, 17 May

Date: 17 May 2013

Source: United Nations

17 May 2013 is the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia.

There is a huge need for this day to be recognized. 78 countries criminalise same-sex sexual activity, according to the UNDP-led Global Commission on HIV and the Law. Penalties range from jail sentences to execution. In those Caribbean countries where homosexuality is criminalized, almost one in four men who have sex with men is HIV-positive, compared to one in fifteen in countries where it is not illegal.

UN officials have launched statements highlighting the impact of homophobic and transphobic violence and discrimination worldwide. A statement from Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, can be viewed here and a 2-minute video from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights can be viewed here in many languages.

Plight of LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers

Date: 7 May 2013
Source: IRIN News 

Attention is being paid to the obstacles being faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI) refugees and asylum seekers in a recent edition of the Forced Migration Review.

Although international conventions recognise asylum claims based on sexual orientation and gender identity, LGBTI still experience discrimination ranging from disbelief to criminalisation. For example, Human Rights Watch reports that any gay Iranians are fleeing, frequently to Turkey, due to the state-sponsored persecution they face at home, while thousands of LGBTI people have sought international protection in Europe in recent years on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Few countries keep LGBTI-specific data, but Norway and Belgium, which both track asylum decisions based on sexual orientation and gender identity, have shown a steady increase of claims in recent years.

The multiple document checks migrants might encounter can be particularly difficult for transgender or gender-variant people. This can lead to humiliation or exclusion to people whose gender identity or expression is different from what is indicated by their documents as they travel through airports or arrive in camps for asylum seekers.

UNHCR's guidelines for claims to refugee status based on sexual orientation and gender identity take the step of acknowledging that "sexual orientation and gender identity are broad concepts which create space for self-identification" which may "continue to evolve across a person's lifetime". Yet this is often not acknowledged by authorities.

LGBTI report lack of safety and security amongst refugee camps. Sexual abuse is common, but often goes unreported because the right questions are not being asked and because sexual violence survivors are reluctant to report events that will disclose their sexual orientation to legal authorities.

There are some emerging examples of programmes that meet LGBTI needs. The International Organization for Migration is implementing a safe space project for refugees at its four US Refugee Admissions Program Resettlement Support Centers, designed to support LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers.

Services for survivors of sexual abuse, Syria

Date: 8 May 2013

UNFPA's executive director has called for more to be done to ensure the health and wellbeing of women and children affected by the Syrian conflict, on a recent visit to a refugee camp in Turkey.

Despite facilities such as gas, electricity, sanitation and security, there is still a significant gap -  psychosocial support for survivors of sexual violence. Surveys of refugees in Jordan and Lebanon consistently cite sexual violence as a primary reason for fleeing the country.

UNFPA and the Turkish Ministry of Family and Social Policy have designed a pilot programme to prepare and train 24 health care workers to conduct preliminary psychological assessment and treatment in the camps. The programme will also provide general public education on sexual and gender-based violence. The new training will begin within a couple weeks, with services likely to be up and running within two months.

Meanwhile, as the fighting in Syria rages on, refugees continue to pour over the border, with some 7,000 new arrivals registering each day across the region. UNHCR warns that the number of Syrian refugees in the region could surpass four million by the end of the year.


Prices cut for HPV vaccines

Date: 9 May 2013
Source: New York Times

The two companies that make HPV vaccines have announced a cut in the vaccine to the world's poorest countries to below $5 per dose. The lower prices - $4.50 for Merck's Gardasil vaccine and $4.60 for GlaxoSmithKline's Cervarix - were negotiated through the GAVI Alliance.

The low price will initially apply to a few million doses for demonstration projects in Kenya, Ghana, Laos, Madagascar and elsewhere, but GAVI announce a wish to reach 30 million girls in 40 countries receiving the vaccine at that price or less by 2020.

Whilst the news has generated excitement, some activists argue that the prices should be even lower, given the huge profits reaped by the pharmaceutical companies. GAVI described the new prices as a ceiling and expect them to go down as lower-cost vaccine producers in countries such as India and China enter the field.

Ireland produces bill on abortion with no change for women

Date: 8 May 2013
Source: RHM Blog

In the wake of the tragic and preventable death of Savita Halappanavar, Irish politicians promised that the government would "not become the seventh to neglect and ignore the issue of the Supreme Court ruling abortion on the X Case." Six months later, the cabinet has proposed a bill it says will not change the law on abortion.

The regulations state two grounds for allowing an abortion: the serious risk of death for the woman from "physical illness" and the risk of death from "self-destruction" (suicide) and still requires two doctors to approve the process. The Irish Government is expected to pass the bill in July after three public hearings at the end of May.

Read more on this from RHM's editor.

Publication: Living with HIV, diversity, inequality and rights

Date: 1 May 2013
Source: Ashgate Publishing

Living with HIV and Dying with AIDS: Diversity, Inequality and Human Rights in the Global Pandemic, by Lesley Doyal with Len Doyal

A new publication, 'Living with HIV and Dying with AIDS: diversity, inequality and human rights' focuses on the experiences of HIV-positive people across the world. The book draws on studies from across the social sciences to illustrate how the disease is physically manifested and psychologically internalised by individuals in diverse ways, depending on the biological, social, cultural and economic circumstances in which they find themselves.

The book seeks to provide a proper understanding of commonalities and differences amongst people living with HIV across the world, in order to better mitigate the effects of HIV and AIDS and to better appreciate the needs and rights of those affected located within the wider context of global inequalities and injustices.

The book is aimed at everyone involved in struggles to improve the well-being of those with HIV and AIDS, as well as others affected by the global health crisis.

You can read sample pages from the forthcoming book here and find out more information about ordering the publication from Ashgate Publishing.



Pressure in Philippines to ban formula milk

Date: 30 April 2013
Source: IRIN News

The Philippines is regularly hit by natural disasters, such as Typhoon Bopha last December. The government kept out infant formula donations during that emergency response, but activists are concerned the infant formula industry will succeed in pushing through legislative changes that will allow formula donations in future emergencies, making it harder to convince women in those crises to continue exclusive breastfeeding.

In 2011, after Typhoon Washi (or Sendong) hit Mindanao Island, breast-milk substitutes turned up in evacuation centres even though they are banned under the country's "Milk Code". 
The Department of Health singled out infant formula maker Nestlé Philippines, issuing a cease-and-desist order requesting it to stop donating milk products to typhoon survivors. Nestlé has insisted that it is not them, but "kind-hearted private individuals and organisations" who donated products of their own will. Yet the company is now part of a formula interest group called the Paediatric Nutrition Association of the Philippines (IPNAP) which is trying to change the Milk Code. One of the proposals is to allow unrestricted donations of breast-milk substitutes during crises.

Activists have rallied to fight what they characterize as the diluting and weakening of the current Milk Code.

The proposed Milk Code changes are pending review. Parliament is on recess until 1 July and the country prepares to elect new parliamentarians in elections to be held on 13 May.

El Salvador - woman denied life saving medical intervention - petition grows

Date: 3 May 2013
Source: RH Reality Check

Beatriz is a 22-year old woman and mother of a child. She has lupus and her kidney function is being steadily destroyed. She also is pregnant with an anencephalic fetus (a fetus without a brain) that has no chance of survival after birth. In the face of Beatriz's medical situation, the Maternity Hospital has advised that she is likely to die if she does not get the medical procedure that she needs.

The Prosecutor's Office has warned that if an abortion is performed they will apply the existing legislation in El Salvador that penalises all abortions as homicides. For this reason the medical personnel at the Hospital do not dare perform the abortion.

More than 45,000 people across the world are demanding that Mauricio Funes, President of El Salvador, immediately authorise doctors to perform an abortion to save Beatriz's life.

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has called on the government of El Salvador to save Beatriz's life. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued protection measures this Monday calling on the government to provide Beatriz with the necessary medical treatment within 72 hours, given the urgency of her case - yet that deadline passed on 2 May and the government has still not taken action.

Petition the El Salvadoran President and Supreme Court here.


High prevalence of oral HPV in HIV-positive gay men, Netherlands

Date: 7 May 2013
Source: aidsmap news

A recently published Dutch study shows that oral infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) is common among gay men. Prevalence was especially high among HIV-positive gay men, who were also more likely to be infected with the strains of HPV associated with a high-risk of cancers of the head and neck. The research suggests that HIV-positive men would be especially likely to benefit from HPV vaccination.

The study, of 767 gay men, 41% of whom had HIV and most of whom were on HIV treatment, was conducted between 2010 and 2011. The men provided information on smoking history - a recognised risk factor for oral cancers - and their sexual behaviour.

40% of the men tested positive for HPV but amongst HIV-positive men, 57% had HPV, compared to 27% amongst HIV-negative men. A quarter of HIV-positive men had oral infection with high-risk strains of HPV, compared to 9% prevalence in HIV-negative men. HIV-positive men were also more likely to have multiple strains of HPV (15 vs 3%) and were more likely to have HPV-16, which has been associated with an especially high risk of oral cancer. After taking into account age, smoking habits and sexual behaviour, HIV infection was associated with a twofold increase in the risk of oral HPV infection.

Reasons why teenagers choose pregnancy, UK

Date: May 2013
Source: Institute of Fiscal Studies

A new report on the risk factors associated with teenage pregnancy and on the reasons why teenage girls choose to continue with pregnancy has been launched. The report links maternity and abortion records to the education records of all girls attending government schools in England.

The report finds that teenage conceptions occur in all social groups, areas and types of school. However, there are some groups who are more likely to get pregnant and to keep the pregnancy. Girls who are eligible for free school meals and are persistently absent from school are the most strongly associated with teenage conceptions and the decision to continue with a pregnancy. Girls who have been doing worse at school are also more likely to both get pregnant and decide to continue with a pregnancy, although to a lesser extent than free school meal eligibility and persistent absence. Girls who make slower than expected progress during the early years of secondary school are significantly more likely to conceive, and to continue with the pregnancy after conception, than those who progress as expected.

The only school characteristic that is associated with pregnancy and the choice to keep the pregnancy is being in a school with lower than average overall examination results. Teenage conception and maternity rates are higher in deprived areas, even after accounting for the characteristics of girls themselves and the schools they attend. Girls living in deprived areas are also disproportionately more likely to have more than one conception before the age of 18 that results in a maternity, even after accounting for other individual and school characteristics.

Girls that conceive receive fewer exam passes at age 16 and are less likely to continue in post-compulsory education than those who do not, even for girls who choose not to continue with the pregnancy.

The authors caution that the data analysis is not causal. That is, girls did not necessarily perform poorly because they conceived. It does, however, show that more work is needed to understand whether schools could better support girls to prevent conceptions in the first place, or to continue their education following a conception.

The full report, 'Report into the feasibility of matching teenage conception data with school census data', can be viewed here.

Indian gang rape - new laws and social movement

Date: 4 April 2013
Source: Guardian

The novelist, Lavanya Sankaran, looks at the debate around the rapidly introduced law on sexual violence that was introduced in March. She argues that it is not so much the law, with its shortcomings such as a lack of recognition of marital rape, that is the challenge. It is in the implementation of the law that things fall apart. And this is where the fight against sexual violence against women is most threatened, and where the new law can lose its potential as an agent of powerful change. She argues that India has an obsession with codifying human behaviour into laws, yet makes a mockery out of following the law, by ignoring it, getting past it through bribery or getting mired in a complex legal process when the law is followed.

Sankaran argues that the real solution is through social pressure, which is far more powerful than any law. India is a society in a state of change, conflicting pressures and the confusion that comes with this. Women experience this in the most extreme ways, as they are encouraged to take up professional lives yet, at the same time, keep an eye on their traditional social duty at home.

Mindsets are impossible to legislate for or against but they can be altered, and this is where social pressure makes a difference. This has been shown in the horror shown at the tragic Delhi gang rape, with the roar of voices of women tired of harassment, angry at police and government indifference, who want better for themselves, their daughters, sisters and friends, and all the men who support them.

First trial over PIP breast implant scandal opens

Date: 24 April 2013
Source: Guardian

Jean-Claude Mas, founder of the French firm Poly Implant Prothese, has apologised for the first time to the women who have been affected by faulty implants. He and four of his senior staff are on trial in Marseille, charged with aggravated fraud. If convicted, they face up to five years' jail and a Euro 37,000 fine.

Hundreds of women are expected to attend the trial to tell of their suffering. 5,100 women are plaintiffs in the case, mostly from France but also from Argentina and Austria.

The firm, once the third biggest global supplier of breast implants, is accused of cutting costs for ten years by using illegal, homemade industrial-grade and agricultural silicone. PIP hid evidence of this during inspection visits. The lower cost materials saved the company Euro 1million a year.

Kenyan posters proclaim that 'Good Catholics use condoms'

Date: 25 April 2013
Source: Catholics for Choice 

The Condoms4Life Campaign has launched a billboard and newspaper campaign, assuring Kenyans that Catholics support the use of condoms to prevent HIV.

The campaign has been launched in the face of resistance from some religious groups to condom messaging in Kenya. In recent weeks, the Kenya Episcopal Conference has spearheaded a campaign to pull a television ad promoting HIV prevention, including the use of condoms.

As Catholics for Choice says, more than 1.6 million people are living with HIV in Kenya, and condoms are an evidence-based method for preventing the spread of HIV.

The aim of the campaign is to ensure that Catholics know that despite what the bishops say, Catholics can in good conscience use condoms. Catholics in Kenya are no different. They can take the steps to protect themselves and their partners against HIV.

Mabel Bianco, Foundation for Studies and Research on Women, awarded human rights prize, Argentina

Date: 23 April 2013
Source: Foundation for Studies and Research on Women (FEIM)

Dr. Mabel Bianco, President of FEIM, Foundation for Studies and Research on Women, has been awarded the Dignity Prize 2013, given by the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights (APDH).

In her vote of thanks, Mabel Bianco noted that "women have made great strides forward in Argentina. We achieved laws, the incorporation of CEDAW in the Constitution in 1994 for which we have worked hard, and other recent laws such as the human trafficking and violence laws, but we still have a lot to do. What lacks is political decision; laws that translate into public policies for women."

The award was created in 1995 by the APDH commission, Women and their rights, to recognise the work of those women who with their job, work or career dignify women.

Mabel Bianco is a former board member of RHM - we warmly congratulate her.

In memory of Sindi Medar-Gould

Date: 23 April 2013
Source: Baobab for Women's Human Rights

With a heavy heart and deepest sorrow, the staff of BAOBAB for Women's Human Rights announce the sudden demise of Sindi Medar Gould, the former Executive Director of BAOBAB.

Sindi Medar-Gould, a citizen of St Lucia in the Caribbean, was a great feminist, facilitator, researcher and activist for women's human rights in Nigeria and globally. She contributed a great deal to the emancipation and empowerment of women and girl children.

Sindi's last appointment was with the Women’s Learning Partnership for Rights, Development and Peace, as a Senior Consultant and Global Trainer. Sindi also worked with various women human rights organisations and movements as a consultant. She touched many lives and helped to give women a reason to live a life with hope for a better tomorrow. She will be greatly missed and remembered as a great leader.

Charlotte Bunch honoured through Human Rights Defenders Award

Date: 17 April 2013
Source: Center for Women's Global Leadership

Professor Charlotte Bunch has been honoured with a human rights award named in her honour.

The inaugural Charlotte Bunch Human Rights Defender Award has been launched and presented to three women's rights advocates - Mónica Roa from Women's Link Worldwide in Colombia, Mozn Hassan from Nazra Institute for Feminist Studies in Egypt and Stasa Zajovic from Women in Black in Serbia.

For the last 25 years, the Global Fund for Women has provided women globally with the resources necessary to make the human rights of women a reality. I am thrilled to be honored at the Gala. I see this as a tribute to women’s rights defenders everywhere and to the next generation of feminist activists who are bringing the women's movement into the 21st century," said Charlotte Bunch.

The Center for Women's Global Leadership works to advance women's rights and social justice worldwide. CWGL is a founding member of the Women's Human Rights Defenders International Coalition, an initiative created to support women human rights defenders everywhere.

Sweden adopts gender-neutral pronoun

Date: 17 April 2013
Source: www.care2.com

Swedes are shaking up their language with a new gender-neutral pronoun. The pronoun, 'hen', allows speakers and writers to refer to a person without including reference to a person's gender. This month, the pronoun made a big leap toward mainstream usage when it was added to the country's National Encyclopedia.

The majority of world languages already have gender-neutral pronouns. However, as in English, Swedish has pronouns for 'he' and 'she', but not one that refers to a person without suggesting the person's sex. Proponents of 'hen' are eager to have a single word that describes a hypothetical person rather than the awkward 'he or she'. The word is also useful when referring to someone who does not identify with a traditional gender role.

Hen (pronounced like the English word for chicken) is a modified version of the Swedish words 'han' and 'hon', which mean 'he' and 'she'.

The pronoun first emerged as a suggestion from Swedish linguists back to the 1960s. Though it has taken a while for the word to catch on, some Swedish magazines and even a children's book have now adopted it in their texts.

Despite all of the ways Sweden deconstructs notions of gender, language has been slower to catch up, still readily identifying people as either male or female. As it stands, Sweden has regulations over what parents can name their children, with most of the choices being specifically for one gender. Only 170 unisex names are permitted. Recently, activists have been pushing the government to allow parents to choose a name for their kids regardless of gender.

Attempt to reinforce traditional family at the United Nations

Date: 18 April 2013
Source: Neha Sood, Action Canada for Population and Development (ACPD)

The UN Human Rights Council's recently concluded session saw efforts by a core group of States to introduce a resolution entitled 'Protection of the Family'. Bangladesh, Egypt, Mauritania, Morocco, Qatar, Russia, Tunisia, Uganda and Zimbabwe argued that the UN human rights system's focus on individual rights has resulted in the neglect of 'the family' and its protection. The draft resolution failed to identify what 'the family' needed protection from and, as such, it lacked any human rights content.

Through formal and informal channels, a number of other States and civil society organisations expressed concern with the formulation of the resolution. This draft resolution failed to recognise that families are often a site of rights violations or to address the human rights of individual family members. It is well known that women, girls, children, the elderly, persons with disabilities, persons with mental illnesses and persons having non-conforming sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, among others, are subjected to rights violations within families. The draft resolution also failed to reflect the existence of various forms of the family such as single-parent households, child-headed households, same-sex-parented households and extended families, among others. These various forms of the family need specific types of support in order to better enable the individuals within those families to realise their human rights.

The core group, however, steadfastly refused to incorporate these concerns into the draft resolution, and it became increasingly clear that this was a ploy to cement the traditional family as a subject of human rights protection, in and of itself. This was confirmed when the core group chose to withdraw the resolution rather than risk the insertion of language making reference to the existence of various forms of the family into the text, despite the fact that this language has been acknowledged previously in several UN resolutions. They framed this as postponing consideration of the resolution to a later stage.

This initiative is a part of consistent efforts to oppose the protection and promotion of sexual and reproductive rights, particularly issues of sexual orientation and gender identity, abortion, adolescents' access to sexual and reproductive health services and comprehensive sexuality education. It may also be regarded as a reaction to the steady progress made in the international human rights system on these issues. Had this resolution passed, it would have significantly undermined efforts to advance sexual and reproductive rights at the UN; for example, through bolstering efforts to privilege the rights of parents to provide guidance to adolescents in decisions related to their sexual and reproductive lives and health over the rights of adolescents to participate in such decision-making.

The withdrawal of the draft resolution from the March session of the Human Rights Council should be seen as a victory, but the relief it provides is likely to be short-lived. It is expected that these States will seek to reintroduce the resolution at a later session of the Council this year, as well as advance their agenda in other global policy processes such as the ICPD review process, formulation of the post-2015 development agenda and sessions of the UN General Assembly, the Commission on the Status of Women and the Commission on Population and Development. The coalescing of civil society organisations concerned with advancing human rights, particularly of women, adolescents, youth, persons with disabilities and persons having non-conforming sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, to advocate against these efforts is key. Also critical is dialogue with governments to explain the harm that such an initiative can result in and the importance of fending it off.

Pakistan passes Reproductive Health Care and Rights Act 2013

Date: 18 April 2013
Source: Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development

The National Assembly of Pakistan unanimously passed the
Reproductive Healthcare and Rights Act 2013
in March. The bill, brought as a private member's bill, seeks to promote reproductive healthcare and rights in accordance with the Constitution and to fulfil international commitments made by the Government of Pakistan under the Convention on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Kyrgyzstan seeks to ban travel on women and girls

Date: 17 April 2013
Source: Child Rights Information Network

In March, the Kyrgyz Parliament discussed in March a draft bill that seeks to ban women and girls under the age of 23 from travelling abroad without parents' written consent, allegedly to protect them from sexual abuse and to "increase morality and preserve the gene pool".

The bill's author, Irgal Kadyralieva from the Social Democratic Party, says she was motivated by reports last year of Kyrgyz men in Russia raping female Kyrgyz immigrants for socialising with non-Kyrgyz men. Opponents of the proposed law say it is perverse to impose restrictions on women and girls on the basis that they are potential victims, not perpetrators of crimes. The Bishkek Feminist Collective is campaigning against the proposed law, as it says it is unconstitutional and discriminates on both sex and age grounds.

No emergency contraception for most rape victims, Mexico

Date: 9 April 2013
Source: Grupo de Información en Reproducción Elegida - GIRE (Information Group on Reproductive Choice)

A new report released by the women's reproductive rights group, GIRE, shows that women who are rape victims in Mexico have no guarantee that they will get the emergency contraception they have a right to. 

Abortion is legal throughout the country in cases of rape, and public health care facilities are obliged to offer emergency contraception within 120 hours after the rape. However, only 15 of Mexico's 32 states offer emergency contraception. Most offices of state attorneys general are not issuing authorisations granting women access to a post-rape abortion. GIRE reports that over the past five years, only 39 authorisations were issued nationwide.

The result is that many women seek clandestine abortions that put their health and lives at risk. The rate of induced abortions in 2009 is estimated at 38 out of every 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44 - 1.02 million induced abortions that year, one of the highest rates of illegal abortion in the world. And in 2010 alone, abortion caused 11% of the deaths of women in childbirth in Mexico.

Access to reproductive health is further restricted to indigenous women. Although 72.5% of Mexican women have contraceptive coverage, the level drops to 58.3% among Indian women and to 60.5% among those with little formal education.

Jara sisters freed from prison but found guilty of assault, Argentina

Date: 9 April 2013
Source: Fundación para Estudio e Investigación de la Mujer (FEIM)

Two sisters, Ailén y Marina Jara, were found guilty this week of causing serious harm to a man who was trying to sexually assault them. Women's rights groups have condemned the decision and are calling for the sentence to be totally revoked.

The sisters, aged 21 and 22, state that they were attacked by their neighbour, who was armed with a gun and intended to sexually assault them. The sisters defended themselves with a knife and were arrested for attempted murder. The girls have been detained for the past two years in a local prison. The sisters were this week unanimously found guilty, but were released given that they had already spent two years in jail.

FEIM declares that the Jara sisters were victims of both abuse by male power and also by the judicial system, which kept them imprisoned for two years before receiving sentence. FEIM has called for full implementation of Law 26.485 on the Protection of Women and calls for immediate training in the law for both judicial and security forces and monitoring of its effective implementation.

FEIM believes that the widespread support that the young women received by women's and human rights groups, who submitted evidence to the court as Amicus Curiae, had a positive effect in the decision to allow the girls to go free.

Elena Salinas, the young women's mother, declared on hearing the sentence that "we women must continue the battle, we need to use this case to learn what gender-based violence does". She called on women to continue their struggle against violence.

Petition against flogging of abused teenager, Maldives

Date: 8 April 2013
Source: Avaaz

In March, a 15-year-old rape survivor was sentenced to be whipped 100 times in public after a court decreed she should be flogged for sex out of marriage. The girl's stepfather is accused of raping her for years and murdering the baby she bore.

More than two million people have already signed the petition to prevent the flogging and to raise high profile coverage that seeks to hit the Maldives’ tourist industry. Global outrage has already forced the Maldives' president, President Waheed, to appeal the sentence in the girl's case. But extremists inside the country will try to force him to abandon further reforms if international attention fades.

The president is already on the back foot. Let's tell the Maldives that it stands to lose its reputation as a romantic tourist hot spot unless it changes its attitudes to and laws about women. Now is the time to keep up the pressure and prevent more horrifying injustice against girls and women. Sign the petition, then send this email widely:


Gambia set to ban female genital mutilation

Date: 5 April 2013
Source: Children's Rights Information Network (CRIN)

In January 2013, Gambia's seven regional leaders backed a ban on female genital mutilation, paving the way for parliament to pass a law later this year. This is the result of the efforts of many Gambians, notably Touray, Gambia's most high-profile campaigner and chief executive of the Gambia Committee on Traditional Practices (GAMCOTRAP), a women's rights organisation that works to end FGM and child marriage and promote girls' education.

Touray has not only faced death threats but also state harassment during some 25 years of activism. She has spent time in jail and until recently was on trial in a case many say was politically motivated and which, after two years of legal process, was thrown out of court because there was no evidence against her.

Whilst many African countries already have laws against female genital mutiliation, for the most part these have been poorly enforced and widely disregarded.Touray says the crucial difference with Gambia is that the law has not been imposed from above, but has grown out of a grassroots educational campaign which has won the support of religious leaders, women’s representatives, youth leaders and community elders.

Obituary, Sir Robert Edwards, IVF pioneer

Date: 11 April 2013
Source: Guardian

Sir Robert Edwards has died at the age of 87. He brought about the most significant advance in the history of infertility, with his research into in vitro fertilisation, for which he received a Nobel prize for physiology of medicine in 2010. His research was done in partnership with Patrick Steptoe, who died in 1988.

Sir Robert has been described as modest, affable, argumentative and generous. Throughout his career he threw all his energy into the study of human reproduction. This energy led to the first 'test tube baby' born by IVF in 1978. He was a prolific writer and a ground breaking promoter of public awareness of science and its role in overcoming infertility and genetic disease. He published widely about reproductive ethics. In 2000 he set up the e-journal, Reproductive BioMedicine Online, with emphasis on rapid publication and airing of controversies.

He combined his scientific achievements with a passionate belief in humanity, socialism and people's inherent common sense.

US court ruling allows over-the-counter emergency contraception for under-16s

Date: 5 April 2013
Source: New York Times

A federal judge in the US has ordered that Plan B One-Step, the most common emergency contraceptive pill used in the US, must be available over the counter for all ages, instead of requiring a prescription for girls 16 and younger.

The Food and Drug Administration moved to make the pill universally available in 2011, but the Health and Human Services Secretary overturned this move.

In his ruling, the judge concluded that the Obama administration had not made its decisions based on scientific guidelines, and that the Secretary's action was "politically motivated, scientifically unjustified and contrary to agency precedent."

The Secretary said that, at the time, she was basing her decision on science because she said the manufacturer had failed to study whether the drug was safe for girls as young as 11. But her decision was widely interpreted as political, given the re-election campaign that was ongoing at that time and the sensitivity of the abortion debate within the election campaign.

The Obama Administration has declined to comment on whether the administration will appeal the decision. The judge gave the Food and Drug Administration 30 days to lift any age and sale restrictions on Plan B One-Step and its generic versions.

Mobile phones for maternal health

Date: 1 April 2013
Source: BBC Media Action

BBC Media in Action has published a new policy briefing, 'Health on the move: Can mobile phones save lives?'. It
draws on BBC Media Action's direct experience in using mobile phones to improve health education in Bihar, India. Bihar has among the highest rates of maternal and child mortality in the country, but also one of the most rapidly expanding mobile markets. The briefing shows how, in a region where mobile phones outnumber basic goods such as water taps and toilets, the former have emerged as a simple, high-impact solution for improving the survival chances of mothers and babies.

The briefing highlights mHealth's capacity to leverage existing, basic phones to provide life-saving information to people in remote areas, designed in a way that is suitable for illiterate populations and that can be delivered in a cost-effective, financially sustainable way.

The programme took into account the fact that often women in the household do not have access to the 'primary phone' in the house, with which calls can be made, but do have access to a secondary phone which can just receive calls. Health messages and reminders for care can be provided through such services.

The publication can be downloaded here.


Woman agrees to caesarean after hospital goes to court, Ireland

Date: 9 March 2013
Source: Irish Times

This week, Waterford Regional Hospital, Ireland, made an emergency application to the High Court to compel a pregnant woman to undergo a caesarean section. The hospital made the process claiming that scans had indicated that there could be a risk for woman and baby if a natural birth was attempted.

Just minutes before the judge was due to deliver his ruling, however, a barrister for the hospital told the court that the woman had given consent for the procedure. Preparations for the caesarean section began immediately.

The reasons for the woman's refusal to consent to a caesarean were not outlined in court. The hospital said she had previously agreed to the procedure if an emergency arose over the weekend, but the hospital was seeking an order to compel her to undergo the operation.

Read RHM's blog on the issues that this news highlights here!

Bride trafficking to China could rise

Date: 19 March 2013
Source: IRIN News

The UN has reported that bride trafficking to China is set to grow, with the first reported cases emerging from Southeast Asian countries which do not border China.

In 2012, at least three suspected cases of marriage trafficking were reported from Cambodia, with hundreds more from the region. So far cases have only been known from countries bordering China  - Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam. 

In China, government figures for 2012 indicated that there were 117.78 newborn boys for every 100 newborn girls. It is estimated there will be 24 million more men than women at marrying age by 2020.

UN agrees declaration on violence against women

Date: 16 March 2013
Source: Reuters 

The UN Commission on the Status of Women has agreed upon a declaration Friday urging an end to violence against women and girls despite concerns from conservative Muslim countries and the Vatican about references to women's sexual and reproductive rights.

Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Libya, Nigeria, Sudan, Honduras and the Vatican expressed reservations about the declaration, but did not block its adoption.

While the declaration of the commission is non-binding, it does carry global weight. Activists welcome the declaration but lament the lack of recognition of violence faced by lesbians and transgender people and the exclusion of intimate partner violence. On the positive side, governments have agreed to make sure that women who have been raped can get critical health care services, like emergency contraception and safe abortion.

Earlier in the talks, Iran, Russia, the Vatican and others had threatened to derail the declaration with concerns about references such as access to emergency contraception, abortion and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. A proposed amendment by Egypt, that would have allowed states to avoid implementing the declaration if they clashed with national laws, religious or cultural values, failed.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said states now had a responsibility to turn the 2013 declaration into reality.

The full declaration of the Commission on the Status of Women can be seen here.


Philippine Supreme Court suspends reproductive health bill

Date: 20 March 2013
Source: Philippine Star

The Philippine Supreme Court has ruled by ten votes to five to suspend the new, and now long overdue, Reproductive Health Law for 120 days. This is in response to a legal challenge brought by civil society groups, many backed by Catholic bishops, who have strongly opposed the bill, on the grounds that the bill violates constitutional provisions on family life, freedom of expression and religion.

The suspension means that agencies such as the Department of Health will not be able to start implementing the law. The Department of Health had already approved the implementing rules and regulations for the law, which was scheduled for implementation from 31 March 2013.

Despite strong opposition from the Catholic Church, which espouses only natural family planning methods, Congress passed the law last December. President Aquino signed the law two days later.

Oral submissions will be presented to the Supreme Court in June.

Reproductive health advocates slammed the SC decision to stop the implementation of the law. Activists are questioning whether the Supreme Court judges have succumbed to the pressure of the Catholic Church.

Gender, Rights and Health e-learning course

Date: 20 March 2013
Source: Royal Tropical Institute

The Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) in Amsterdam is running an advanced e-learning course, aimed for experienced professionals.

Health programmes and health policies are often developed without taking into consideration the gender dimensions and rights perspective into consideration. This course equips participants with concepts, tools and analytical frameworks to analyse health programmes, policies and research from a gender and rights perspective.

The course will take place in a Virtual Learning Community - a web-based learning arrangement.

Course date: 2 September - 8 November 2013.

More information about the course can be found here.


Integrating HIV and reproductive health saves lives and money

Date: 20 March 2013
Source: International Planned Parenthood Federation

New research have been launched from the Integra Initiative, a five year programme managed by the International Planned Parenthood Federation in partnership with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Population Council. The Integra Initiative is a five-year "programme science" research initiative (2008–2012) that aims to gather evidence to determine the costs and benefits of using different models for delivering integrated HIV and sexual and reproductive health services in high and medium HIV prevalence settings.

The results show that integrating sexual and reproductive health and HIV services can improve health outcomes for clients and that integration can enhance the efficiency of health service provision depending on the context.

The programme was implemented in Kenya, Malawi and Swaziland and used an innovative measurement tool, a multi-dimensional Index, to account for the actual degree of integration at each facility over time. Findings show that integration leads to a reduction in unmet need for HIV prevention and shorter times between HIV testing among family planning clients in Kenya. The Integra intervention included mentoring and skills development for providers which led to improvements in care quality for family planning and post-natal care services in Kenya and Swaziland. The results also pinpoint specific areas where efficiency can be improved to make health service provision better value for money.

Analysis of a sample of women living with HIV showed that they have high needs for both family planning and HIV care which are better met through integrated services. One of the key areas the Integra Initiative explored is client choice. It details the need for people to have access to a range of service models so they can choose the best care setting for themselves.

The Integra Initiative findings have national and international policy implications offering opportunities to turn research into action. The research demonstrates the need for political support in making integrated services a reality for national contexts.

More information on the Initiative can be found here.


Women's rights post-2015

Date: 20 March 2013
Source: Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWNET) 

Sign onto the Women's Major Group Statement, read at the international NGO conference on ‘'Advancing the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda: Reconfirming Rights, Recognising Limits, Redefining Goals', held from 20-22 March 2013 in Bonn, Germany.

The statement calls for gender equality and women's human rights, meaningful participation of women's and social movements in development policies and programmes and a strong human rights architecture. The statement details how this must be done in an innovative, democratic and sustainable way.

The group demands a transparent and democratic process in the development of the Post 2015 agenda where feminist, human rights, environmental and social justice movements' claims are prioritised over politically and economically dominant elites and States.

Please send endorsements to: noelene@dawnnet.org and cc: noelenen@gmail.com

New online resource: Adolescent development

Date: 18 March 2013
Source: The Communication Initiative Network

The Communication Initiative and UNICEF have collaborated to develop a collection of communication-related resources on adolescent development that aims to enhance engagement and outreach with development and civil society actors engaged in programming, research, and advocacy related to adolescent development around the world.

The website includes sections on adolescent physical and mental health, with a strong emphasis on sexual and reproductive health. It
is regularly updated and provides links to a range of publications, tools and videos. It encourages users to post materials and contribute through blogs and comment.

Click here to view the website.


Contraceptive injections and HIV risk

Date: 10 March 2013

Dr Chelsea Polis of USAID has spelled out some of the public health challenges that arise given concerns about a possible increase in risk of HIV acquisition with some hormonal contraceptive methods, given the substantial uncertainties in the body of evidence and considered alongside the life-saving benefits of hormonal contraceptive use. She was presenting evidence at the 20th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI 2013).

The public health conundrum is made more difficult because the contraceptive in question - DMPA, commonly sold as Depo-Provera - is one of the only highly effective contraceptive methods that is accessible and acceptable, especially in southern and eastern Africa.

Dr Polis states that the potential risk with DMPA must be balanced against risks of maternal morbidity and mortality, infant morbidity and mortality and unsafe abortion. It must also take into account some data suggesting that pregnancy itself can raise a woman's risk of acquiring HIV.

A number of studies show oral contraceptive pills to be safe and limited data suggest that injectable depot contraceptive NET-EN (Noristerat) is safe too. But there are virtually no studies which can answer questions about implants, skin patches, vaginal rings and hormonal intrauterine devices.

Given the conflicting evidence from many studies, systematic reviews and meta-analyses are necessary to give clear guidance. A meta-analysis is underway by FHI 360, due later this year, that pool the data from 18 studies, including around 37,000 women and will look at individual patient data, rather than just each study's published results, thus improving the quality of the data, analyses and results.

Seven-fold increase in HIV treatment for pregnant and breastfeeding women, Malawi

Date: 12 March 2013
Source: aidsmap

Eighteen months ago, Malawi introduced 'Option B+' in Malawi – antiretroviral therapy for all HIV-positive, pregnant or breastfeeding women regardless of CD4 count or disease stage.

The number of women on treatment has increased by 763%, with 78% of enrolled women still in treatment twelve months later.
The number of sites integrating antiretroviral therapy into antenatal care settings has nearly doubled, from 350 to over 650, with a close to a 50% increase in coverage of HIV-infected pregnant women receiving antiretroviral therapy of any kind.

Notably, one in four women started antiretroviral therapy during the breastfeeding period. This is notable because it is the women themselves who are seeking the treatment in this case. However, there is still a need to increase the percentage of women who start treatment earlier.

Implementation of Option B+ required complete decentralisation with integration of antiretroviral therapy into all ANC settings. National guidelines were revised and then over 4,000 health care workers were trained over three months.

In addition to achieving the seven-fold increase in women starting ART, the use of single-dose nevirapine and combination prophylaxis has now been eliminated. There is approximately 50% coverage for early infant diagnosis, with plans to continue scale-up, but staff shortages are slowing plans for more extensive infant HIV testing.

European Parliament urged to consider homophobia and transphobia laws

Date: 14 March 2013
Source: European Parliament's Inter-Group on LGBT Rights

The European Parliament has adopted a resolution that calls on member states to include homophobia and transphobia in the list of grounds covered by the next version of the 2008 Framework Decision, due for review later this year.

The Framework Decision compels commits member states to action on racist and xenophobic speech and crime. It is in force for all 27 current EU member states, plus Croatia which is due to join on 1 July 2013.

The resolution, adopted on 14 March,was authored by all six main political groups. They agreed that "expressions and acts of anti-Semitism, religious intolerance, anti-Gypsyism, homophobia and transphobia" should be punished by EU law.

Ireland admits state collusion in female enslavement

Date: 5 February 2013
Source: Guardian  

Ireland has finally admitted its role in the notorious Magdalene Laundry system, which were workhouses run by nuns and where women and girls were sent, including girls from orphanages, those born out of wedlock or seen as 'morally wayward'. The laundries ran for over 70 years and over 30,000 women were sent there. Survivors of women and girls have been struggling for justice for the past ten years.

A report has now been issued, in which the Irish government admitted that there was 'significant state involvement' in how the laundries were run. However, the Iris Premier has still not given the women and their supports a full, formal, public apology and merely talked of regret about the stigma hanging over the women. Instead Kenny stated his 'regret' about the stigma hanging over the women.

Over a quarter of the women who were held in the Magdalene Laundries for whom records survived were sent in directly by the state. The state gave lucrative laundry contracts to these institutions, without complying with Fair Wage Clauses and in the absence of any compliance with Social Insurance obligations.

The Justice for the Magdalenes group is calling for a compensation scheme to include pensions, lost wages, health and housing services. The inquiry into the Magdalene scandal was prompted by a report from the UN Committee Against Torture in June 2011. It called for prosecutions where necessary and compensation to surviving women.

Publication: Tool for monitoring state reproductive rights obligations

Date: 1 March 2013
Source: Center for Reproductive Rights  

The Center for Reproductive Rights, in collaboration with UNFPA, has launched a practical tool for monitoring state obligations on a range of reproductive rights issues.

The tool outlines State obligations under international human rights law on a range of reproductive rights issues - freedom from discrimination, contraceptive information and services, safe pregnancy and childbirth, abortion and post-abortion care, comprehensive sexuality education, freedom from violence against women and HIV and AIDS.

The tool identifies key questions that human rights experts, monitoring bodies and civil society can use to assess to what extent a State is in compliance with its obligations.

tool relies on international legal standards on these issues as they currently stand, based on authoritative interpretations of major UN treaties through General Comments, individual complaints, and concluding observations, as well as standards developed through reports by Special Procedures and regional human rights bodies.

An electronic copy of the full tool can be found here.

Raped Somali woman's jail sentence overturned

Date: 7 March 2013

A rape survivor, who was arrested and sentenced to a year in jail when she reported the rape to police and to journalists, has had her sentence overturned on appeal this week.

However, a journalist who interviewed the woman has remained in prison and her alleged attackers remain at large, with no police investigation into the reported rape.

Following her successful appeal, Luli Ali Osman Barake has talked about her anger over the episode.  She has chosen to speak out using her real name in the hope that it will aid her fight for justice. Barake says that she has been raped twice - first by a gang of men in military fatigues at the internally displaced people's camp where she lives, then by the Somali judicial system. She fears that her treatment means that rape victims will stay silent.She has been supported by her husband and uncle.

The National Union of Somali Journalists has announced it will write to the president in protest at the continued imprisonment of Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, the journalist that Barake spoke to, and will launch a campaign for freedom of expression.

CEDAW criticises state interference with women's health rights, Hungary

Date: 12 March 2013
Source: United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

The concluding observations from CEDAW on Hungary's seventh and eighth periodic reports highlight concerns about recent anti-abortion support from the Hungarian government. The Committee expresses concern about campaigns that have been supported by the State party that stigmatise abortion.

The Committee also expressed concern about limited access to emergency contraceptives, criticises the newly-introduced mandatory bias counselling and a medically unnecessary three-day waiting period and expresses concern at the increasing number of health professionals who are claiming conscientious objection against abortion, in the absence of adequate regulatory framework. 

The Committee has urged the government to cease all negative interference  with women's sexual and reproductive rights, provide adequate access to family planning services and affordable contraceptives, ensure access to safe abortion without subjecting women to mandatory counselling and a medically unnecessary waiting period, establish an adequate regulatory framework for the practice of conscientious objection by health professionals and ensure that women are offered existing alternatives, and called on trained midwives to be recognised as independent professionals.

he Committee also expressed concern about the limited access to and inadequate quality of sexual and reproductive health services for women with disabilities, women with low income, Roma women, women living in rural areas and women living with HIV.

Free access to LGBT Studies, Routledge Journals

Date: 11 March 2013
Source: Taylor & Francis 

Routledge Journals is pleased to offer free access to its LGBT Studies collection in honour of the 25th National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change that took place in January.

Articles from LGBT Studies journals are available for free to read and download until 31 March 2013.

To access this collection, visit the Change 2013 webpage

Returning users will be asked to sign in using their email address and password.
New users will be asked to register by clicking the 'register' button on the login page.

National Abortion Provider Appreciation Day, 10 March

Date: 9 March 2013
Source: Advocates for Youth

National Abortion Provider Appreciation Day, 10 March -- Let's make it international!!

Every day, abortion providers stand with young people, women and their families to ensure access to safe medical care - care that one in three women will need in her lifetime.

Unfortunately, many abortion providers continue to face significant risks, including harassment, stalking, threats to family members and even violence and prison.  Despite these risks, they continue to provide care.

In 1996, March 10th was declared National Abortion Provider Appreciation Day in the USA, to honour and celebrate the people who risk so much to ensure access to safe reproductive health care.  

Advocates for Youth is honoured to stand with these brave and caring professionals and is calling on all of us to make it international.

See the Advocates for Youth website for a number of images to download and use.

HIV prevention trial not effective for young, unmarried women

Date: 4 March 2013
Source: PlusNews

A three-year clinical trial involving over 5,000 women in East and Southern Africa has found that pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is not effective at preventing HIV infection in young, unmarried women, neither in oral or vaginal tablet form.

The Vaginal and Oral Interventions to Control the Epidemic (VOICE) study aimed to test the safety, effectiveness and acceptability of three HIV-prevention methods - daily use of a vaginal gel containing antiretroviral drug tenofovir, daily use of oral tablets containing tenofovir and daily use of oral Truvada, a combination of tenofovir and another ARV, emtricitabine. In 2011, the oral tenofavir and gel methods were stopped, because they were not effective.

The trial involved HIV-negative women in South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe. But the Turvada component has now also been stopped. 5.7% of the women in enrolled in the trial acquired HIV, which was nearly twice the rate that researchers had expected when designing the study. Most participants did not use the methods daily as recommended.

Single women were the least likely to use PrEP. In the Truvada arm of the trial, the ARV was detected in the blood of only 21% of younger, single women, compared to 54% of those married and over age 25. Trial investigators are currently analysing the results to determine why the women did not use the products.

This trial has highlighted the need to design prevention options compatible with young women's reproductive and sexual health needs and desires, perceptions of personal HIV risk and their interest and ability to consistently use prevention products.

Call for concept notes, Safe Abortion Action Fund

Date: 8 March 2013
Source: Safe Abortion Action Fund 

Call for concept notes for initiatives to increase access to safe abortion services
The Safe Abortion Action Fund was established by a group of five bilateral donors in 2006 as a multi-donor funding mechanism to support in-country initiatives for increasing access to safe abortion services. 

It currently provides small flexible grants to non-governmental organisations for policy, advocacy, innovations in service delivery and research.  The initial round of funding supported 50 projects worldwide. SAAF organised a second round of funding in early 2011 and 35 projects are currently being supported.

SAAF is now organising a new call for concept notes to support projects which address the issue of promoting safe abortion and/or preventing unsafe abortion. This may include the entire spectrum of activities from service delivery to advocacy for policy change or research.

SAAF will provide grants of a maximum of $160,000 for a maximum of three years. 

The deadline for applications is 31 March 2013.

Please visit
www.ippf.org or www.saafund.org  or email info@saafund.org for more information about SAAF and to download the application guidelines and application form.


Child marriage, South Sudan

Date: 7 March 2013
Source: Human Rights Watch

A new report from Human Rights Watch calls on the government of South Sudan to increase efforts to protect girls from child marriage.

The report, 'This old man can feed us, you will marry him: Child and forced marriage in South Sudan', documents the consequences of child marriage, the near total lack of protection for victims who try to resist marriage or leave abusive marriages and the many obstacles they face in accessing mechanisms of redress. It is based on interviews with 87 girls and women in Central Equatoria, Western Equatoria, and Jonglei states, as well as with government officials, traditional leaders, health care workers, legal and women's rights experts, teachers, prison officials and representatives of nongovernmental organisations, the United Nations and donor organisations.

According to government statistics, close to half (48%) of South Sudanese girls between 15 and 19 are married, with some marrying as young as age 12. Government statistics for 2011 show that only 39% of primary school students and 30% of secondary students are female.

Few girls in South Sudan know they have the right to seek help, while girls who try to resist early and forced marriages suffer brutal consequences at the hands of their families – including verbal abuse, physical assault and sometimes murder.

The report recommends that the government clearly set 18 as the minimum age for marriage, ratify international conventions on children's and women's rights and pass comprehensive family legislation on marriage, separation, and divorce.

The report can be downloaded here. It is accompanied by a video and photographs.

Pygmy women lack reproductive health care, Congo

Date: 1 March 2013
Source: IRIN News

Indigenous women in the Republic of Congo are virtually excluded from reproductive health services, according to a 2012 study conducted by the Ministry of Health with support from UNFPA.

The study, Determinants of the Use of Reproductive Health Services by Indigenous Peoples, was conducted in four regions of Congo where most of the 43,500 indigenous people live. It found that only 37% of pregnant aboriginal women access antenatal care, compared to 94% of the general population. Only 4% of indigenous women deliver at health centres, compared to 93% of the general population. Contraceptive access is similarly limited. Whilst at least 45% of Congolese women use contraceptive methods, only one quarter of indigenous women do so.

Reasons for the gap include the lack of outreach services to the remote communities where pygmy women live. Aboriginal people make up 2% of the population, as opposed to 10% a few years ago. In 2011 the country enacted a law on promotion and protection of their rights but much more remains to be done to counter the discrimination that they face.

Children's book about same-sex families published in Russia

Date: 27 February 2013
Source: Coming Out St Petersburg

This week the Russian LGBT organisation, Coming Out, released a book for children called (Un)usual Families around Me. The book includes short stories about same-sex families, single parent families, parents with disabilities, foster or adoptive parents and parents who are divorced.

'Propaganda of homosexuality' laws, already adopted in St. Petersburg and some other regions of Russia and under consideration at national level, ban discussion with children of "traditional" and "non-traditional" families as being equal. 

In the book, same-sex parents, transgender parents and gay-friendly heterosexual and single parent families express their concern about the state policy of dividing families into "usual and unusual", "traditional and non-traditional" and claiming one is better and more valuable to society than another.

The book has already been requested from families all over Russia. However, a poll in the largest local internet forum for families with children shows that more than 40% of parents in St. Petersburg consider the book to be homosexual propaganda.

Watch the book's promotion video here.

For information, please contact Olga Lenkova, Coming Out communications manager (olga@comingoutspb.ru) or Sasha Semenova, author (sasha@comingoutspb.ru).

Call for urgent clarity on when to start HIV treatment in Africa

Date: 20 February 2013
Source: New England Journal of Medicine

A commentary in the New England Journal of Medicine sets out the urgency of agreeing on the appropriate timing of starting antiretroviral treatment for people living with HIV.

The commentary, by Drs Kevin de Cock and Wafaa El-Sadr, lays out the history of treatment and the arguments for both early and deferred treatment.

Recognition of the prevention benefit that antiretroviral treatment provides, by reducing viral load and infectiousness, has heightened the urgency of the need for this information. Whilst the preventive benefits are known, the positive and negative impacts of early treatment on people living with HIV are not yet known. Deferring treatment until clinically necessary reduceds cost but it is not yet known at what point treatment should start in Africa to reduce ill health and death.

There is strong evidence and agreement that patients with CD4 counts of less than 200 cells per cubic millimetre are at greatly increased risk for AIDS-related events and death, and therefore urgently require ART. The agreed minimum treatment initiation threshold is now 350 cells per cubic millimetre. The US National Institutes of Health is supporting a clinic trial (Strategic Timing of Antiretroviral Treatment (START) study, in which HIV-infected persons with CD4+ counts of more than 500 cells per cubic millimetre are being randomly assigned to immediate ART or deferral until the count falls to 350 cells per cubic millimetre. However, the trial is focusing on high-income settings. The dominant causes of disease and death for people with HIV are very different in Africa, mainly linked to bacterial infections and tuberculosis. Fragile health systems, health workforce shortages, weak laboratory infrastructure and fiscal constraints make the treatment and prevention arguments urgent.

The authors state that we need definitive data on which to base guidelines. The authors call for a randomised, controlled trial to be undertaken immediately to assess the risks and benefits of immediate ART versus deferral until a CD4+ count of 350 cells per cubic millimeter is reached. Such a trial should determine when to initiate ART in Africa for maximal individual health benefit.

The article is available free online here.


Routine HIV screening in the US

Date: 20 February 2013
Source: New England Journal of Medicine

After more than two decades of debate in the US about whether HIV should be routinely screened, new recommendations from the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) are shortly to be released. The new recommendations endorse the routine testing of adults and adolescents.

Between one fifth and one quarter of the estimated 1.1 million US residents living with HIV are unaware of their HIV status. In 2012, the CDC reported that 41% of Americans who first received a diagnosis of HIV infection between 2006 and 2009 had no history of HIV testing and 37% of these people received a diagnosis of AIDS within 6 months after HIV testing.

This viewpoint article on the new guidelines comments that the new guidelines finally endorse known evidence. The authors, Drs R Bayer and G Oppenheimer, argue that what now is to be seen is whether routine screening provided at no cost to patients will substantially alter the persistent inability to identify the 20-25% of US citizens with HIV infection. Failure will have measurable clinical consequences for those who enter care too late and public health consequences for the imperative to reduce HIV transmission in populations.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandates that all public and private health plans provide coverage for USPSTF-recommended preventive services without patient copayments.

The article is available free online here.

Over 100 women sterilised in one day and probe ordered, West Bengal

Date 8 February 2013
Source: Times of India

A government hospital in West Bengal, India, is facing an inquiry for conducting mass sterilisation of women in shockingly appalling conditions. Two doctors at the hospital allegedly sterilised over 100 women in one day. The hospital guidelines state no more than 25 sterilisations in one day.

Reportedly, some women were left to recuperate in the hospital's open compound while still under anaesthesia.

A probe who has been ordered by the Chief Medical Officer. The Block Medical Officer, in charge on the day, has reportedly admitted his mistake but further action is likely from the Chief Medical Officer, who has circulated guidelines to all hospitals in the area concerning minimum standards for such camps.

Legal action is being considered from human rights groups.

Post-election rape survivors sue Kenyan government

Date: 21 February 2013
Source: IRIN News

Eight survivors of sexual violence committed in the violence following Kenya's December 2007 elections are suing the government over its alleged failure to protect them or investigate the crimes committed against them. The case, which is being heard in the Nairobi High Court, comes just two weeks before the next election.
Those bringing the case to court include two male victims of sexual violence and six civil society organisations.

The current constitution compels the government to provide services such as counselling, treatment and protection to victims of sexual violence. But women's advocates say that too often these services are unavailable.

The executive director of the Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW), one of the organisations bringing the case, estimates that more than 3,000 incidents of sexual violence were committed after the 2007 election. One of the aims of the activists is to use the case to compel the government to set up a special division within the High Court to deal with cases of sexual and gender-based violence.

Lack of lubricants holds back HIV prevention

Date: 21 February 2013
Source: PlusNews

Health activists warn that poor awareness and availability of lubricants is hindering HIV prevention. Although having some lubricant has been shown to decrease the risk of condoms breaking, far less 'lube' is available than condoms, leading people to use alternative, sometimes harmful, substances during intercourse such as butter or petroleum jelly. Oil-based lubricants like these weaken latex, making the condom more likely to break.

A 2012 survey by the US-based Global Forum on MSM & HIV found that barely a quarter of the 5,000 people from 165 countries surveyed reported easy access to free lubricant. One quarter said free lubricant was completely unavailable. Less than 10% of people living in low-income countries reported easy access.

UNFPA included water-based lubricants in the procurement list of commodities available to governmental and non-governmental clients in low and middle-income countries in 2012. However, research in Burundi found that health care providers sometimes do not provide lube to patients because they consider it to be "promoting homosexual behaviour".

Studies have found that even assuming high costs for lubricant production and distribution, condom-compatible lube prevention packages that include a condom plus a safe lubricant would only amount to about 1% of the global HIV/AIDS budget for 2011 (US$134 million).

More research is needed on what people currently use and what is safe.

Special UN session on population growth planned for 2014

Date: 21 February 2013
Source: Washington Post

The UN General Assembly has announced that it will hold a special session in 2014, on the 20th anniversary of the ICPD conference, to assess progress on population growth.

Since the Cairo conference in 1994, the world's population has grown from 5.7 billion to about 7 billion with a further billion anticipated within a decade.

Kenya spearheaded the resolution and a Kenyan UN spokesperson announced that there will be no final document from the 2014 session, a move that will avoid contentious negotiations on issues such as reproductive rights for women, sex education, abortion and family planning.

Transgender acceptance advertising campaign, Washington DC

Date: 7 January 2013
Source: Political Research Advocates

A groundbreaking government-funded advertising campaign ran on 200 Washington DC-area bus shelters from September 2012 until January 2013.

The campaign features calls for respect for transgender people and features five transgender people who are calling for respect for transgender and gender non-conforming people. It came about in response to the high levels of violent crime against transgender people. The advertising campaign was accompanied by a programme to address unemployment and housing.

The campaign was low cost, but it seems to be having a high impact, with calls for interviews and media coverage, although more needs to be done with wide-reaching opposition to acceptance of transgender people.

Publication: Comprehensive plan to end violence against women

Date: 25 February 2013
Source: Oxfam

Ending violence against women: the case for a comprehensive international action plan

In March 2013, the Commission on the Status of Women will bring convene governments from across the world to discuss global progress made with regards to the elimination of violence against women in all its forms.

This Oxfam policy paper outlines a proposal for a comprehensive international action plan that addresses this issue politically, with time-bound targets and explicit accountability mechanisms.

his action plan should provide a roadmap to fast-track the implementation of existing agreements to eliminate violence against women. The plan proposes four areas and outlines key steps to take in each of these areas:

1. Develop and strengthen laws for women's rights and gender equality
2. Prioritise and reallocate financial resources to end violence against women
3. Ending violence against women needs to be top-level government business
4. Fragile states develop strategies for organising responses to violence against women in conflict settings.

The briefing paper can be downloaded here.

Dignity in pregnancy for asylum seekers, UK

Date: 25 February 2013
Source: Refugee Council and Maternity Action

A new UK campaign has been launched, calling for dignity for pregnant women seeking asylum in the UK.

The campaign builds on recent research from the Refugee Council and Maternity Action, 'When maternity doesn’t matter: dispersing pregnant women seeking asylum' which found that pregnant women arriving in the UK as asylum seekers are often moved across the country, sometimes multiple times, uprooting them from friends and family, taking them away from their health care providers and at times from the father of their baby, often against medical advice.

The campaign calls on the government to urgently review its policies to ensure that pregnant women in the asylum system, and their babies, are no longer put at risk.

Women in the UK can join the campaign here by asking UK MPs to write to the Home Secretary to review the current policy.

High cost of unsafe abortion, Uganda

Date: 25 February 2013
Source: IRIN News

Attention has been drawn to the high cost of post-abortion medical care in Uganda, with a new brief by the Kampala-based Centre for Human Rights and Development (CEHURD) and the Guttmacher Institute.

It is estimated that some 297,000 abortions are performed annually, with 85,000 women treated for complications.Post-abortion care is estimated to cost nearly US$14 million annually in Uganda, nearly $130 per patient, with uncounted emotional and other costs to the women and her family.

A recent review of the legal and policy framework in Uganda found the country's abortion laws to be inconsistent, unclear and often contradictory and this confusion is reflected in the courts and the health care regulatory bodies.

Activists and policy makers are calling for better dissemination about existing laws and policy guidelines. This has to be accompanied by better access to family planning. Currently only 30% of married women of reproductive age use any form of contraception, and only 26% of married women and 43% of sexually active unmarried women use a modern method.


Activists call on Kenya's presidential candidates to act on HIV

Date: 25 February 2013
Source: IRIN News

With just days until the Kenyan election, HIV activists are on the Kenyan presidential candidates' election campaigns, pressing them to increase their commitment to the care and treatment of people living with HIV.

The 17 activists are calling on each of the eight presidential candidates to sign a manifesto guaranteeing a scale-up of HIV-testing, the elimination of mother-to-child transmission, and accelerated rollout of HIV treatment.

Kenya faces a funding gap for its HIV programmes estimated at $1.67 billion. And although the country has steadily increased the number of people on treatment, more than 100,000 HIV-positive Kenyans who need the drugs have no access to them.

Yet the presidential candidates have largely been silent on the issue. Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta's Jubilee Coalition mentions HIV patients as part of the plan for universal healthcare and Prime Minister Raila Odinga's Coalition for Reforms and Democracy does not mention HIV at all.

The activism is showing results. At a recent rally by Odinga in Bomet, activists stood around the speaker's platform with hand-drawn posters, threatening to interrupt the rally if HIV was not mentioned within the first half of his speech. He responded by promising free antiretroviral therapy to all HIV-positive Kenyans and pledging to increase the health budget to 15%. A similar tactic at a Kenyatta campaign two days later was not successful but activists are continuing their pressure. A Kenyatta campaign spokesperson said the team is preparing a detailed HIV response plan.

German bishops allow emergency contraception for rape

Date: 21 February 2013
Source: Associated Press

The German Catholic Church has announced that Roman Catholic-run hospitals can prescribe limited emergency contraception to rape victims, following heavy publicity last year in which two hospitals refused to treat a woman who had been raped. 

The German Catholic Bishops Conference made the announcement, reportedly having consulted with the Vatican. The announcement clarified that post-rape care can include prescription of the morning-after pill but also stated that medical and pharmaceutical methods which result in the death of an embryo still may not be used. The statement did not specify any timeframe within which the morning-after pill can be prescribed.


Commission on sexual crimes submits report to Indian government

Date: 2 February 2013
Source: The Hindu and Kafila

A three-member commission, assigned to review laws for sexual crimes and headed by former Chief Justice of India, Justice JS Verma, has identified 'failure of governance' as the root cause for sexual crime. The report criticises the government, the police and the public for its apathy, and has recommended dramatic changes.

The report proposes imprisonment for rape, ranging from seven years to life and a minimum of life in cases of gang rape. Minimum sentences are also recommended for other sexual offences, including voyeurism, stalking to acid attacks and trafficking. The report also addresses areas such as police responsibility to register and respond to reported rape or attempted rape. It calls for recognition of sexual assault on men and proposes a special procedure for protecting persons with disabilities from rape.

The report has now been rushed into a government ordnance in response to the massive protests against rape and sexual violence following the brutal gang rape of a student in December 2012. According to preliminary reports, the ordnance, which will be signed into law by the President of India before Parliament meets, does not meet the list of recommendations made by the Justice Verma Committee. The report does not address some of the key demands of Indian activists, including recognition of marital rape.

The full text of the Justice Verma Committee report can be viewed here.


Publication: Getting women's unpaid care onto the development agenda

Date: 8 February 2013
Source: Institute of Development Studies

A new publication, 'Getting Unpaid Care onto Development Agendas', has been published by the Institute of Development Studies.

The policy briefing highlights how, despite substantial and credible global evidence on the quantity and importance of unpaid care work, care continues to be neglected in development policy and programming.

The briefing explores the reasons why and gives recommendations to policy makers, practitioners and activists who are seeking to get care onto development agendas how to name, frame, claim and programme care.

The publication can be downloaded for free here.

Cervical cancer a major threat to Zimbabwean women

Date: 8 February 2013
Source: Plus News

In Zimbabwe, cervical cancer is now the most common cancer among women, particularly those living with HIV. Activists are urging the government to step up efforts to prevent deaths from cervical cancer.

According to the Zimbabwe National Cancer Registry, cervical cancer affects about 30 percent of women in the country. About 1,900 women are diagnosed with the disease every year in Zimbabwe and 1,300 women die of cervical  cancer.

In October last year, the government registered a vaccine for the prevention of HPV and reported that by early this year the new vaccine would be available for women in the country. However, lack of funding has prevented the plan being implemented.

A number of public health institutions run free cervical cancer tests using visual inspection with ascetic acid and cervicography, but there are not enough health workers or staff to conduct the tests. Women have been forced to wait for up to a month to get screened and some women who had been screened and found to have cervical cancer have been waiting for up to three months for treatment.

US court asserts rights of pregnant women who use drugs

Date: 7 February 2013
Source: National Advocates for Pregnant Women

New Jersey's Supreme Court has unanimously asserted that the state could not use child protection laws to control pregnant women and that positive drug tests on pregnant women and newborns do not alone establish neglect.

The decision was made in a case brought by New Jersey’s state child protection agency, the Division of Child Protection and Permanency, against a mother who gave birth to a healthy baby in 2007 but who screened positively for cocaine, as did her newborn child. The state brought a case of neglect against the mother and the case was upheld by lower courts. The courts declared that New Jersey's neglect law could not only be used in such cases but also in the context of pregnancy.

The appeal was taken to the New Jersey Supreme Court by the National Advocates for Pregnant Women and legal experts representing 50 national and international medical, public health, and child welfare organisations, experts and advocates.

The case argued that the courts had relied on popular misconceptions about drugs, pregnant women, and child welfare that lack any foundation in evidence-based, peer-reviewed research. The Supreme Court
rejected New Jersey State's reliance on what was described as scientifically discredited, factually incorrect statements about drug use in pregnancy.

Female genital mutilation 'is not about religion'

Date: 7 February 2013
Source: Inter Press Service

6 February was the United Nations' annual Day of Zero Tolerance for female genital mutilation. An estimated 140 million women and girls are living with female genital mutilation.

Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA Director, gave an interview on the global fight against female genital mutilation. He stressed that female genital mutilation is a cultural and not a religious practice. Initiatives that focus on promoting community dialogue focus on educating the community about the harmful effects of female genital mutilation. In 1,775 communities across Africa, leaders representing religious and community leaders and elderly women practitioners have publicly declared their commitment to end female genital mutilation.

UNICEF data from 2012 shows that younger women and girls have lower rates of female genital mutilation than their older counterparts. 34 African countries now have laws that penalise female genital mutilation.

The full interview can be heard here.

Abortion education is failing young people, UK

Date: 4 February 2013
Source: Education For Choice A new report highlights the current state of abortion education in schools in England and Wales. Education for Choice carried out surveys of schools and young people and audited teaching materials. Some good examples are found and these are highlighted. The survey also uncovered widespread evidence of bad practice, ranging from avoiding the issue of abortion or inviting in anti-abortion groups who provide misinformation about abortion, reinforce stigma associated with abortion or breached diversity policies when addressing homosexuality and family life.

Recommendations seek to promote good practice to ensure that all young people are able to participate in good quality, evidence-based education about pregnancy and abortion.

View here for full report and summary.

Sex workers' research on anti trafficking, Thailand

Date: 3 February 2013
Source: Empower Foundation 

A new publication, 'Hit & Run: sex workers' research on anti-trafficking in Thailand', vividly describes the impact of anti trafficking policy and practice on sex worker’s human rights. It is a powerful group of stories told by sex workers themselves.

"If this was a story of man setting out on an adventure to find a treasure and slay a dragon to make his family rich and safe, he would be the hero. But I am not a man. I am a woman and so the story changes. I cannot be the family provider. I cannot be setting out on an adventure. I am not brave and daring. I am not resourceful and strong. Instead I am called illegal, disease spreader, prostitute, criminal or trafficking victim."

The book tells stories about the challenges women face when they move as sex workers. The stories talk of the dangers and the opportunites faced by women and the lack of human rights that women experience when given "protection" under the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

The research was conducted by
206 Thai and migrant female sex workers from Laos, Burma, China and Cambodia. These women led the research consultations, interviewing, giving expert testimony, investigating and undertaking the analysis and preliminary documentation.

The publication raises a light on the violence experienced from border controls and anti-trafficking policies and lays out a set of clear recommendations for the royal Thai government and entertainment industry that would lead to greater respect of sex workers' rights.

The full publication can be downloaded in English here.

Moving from protection to freedom for Indian women

Date: 1 February 2013
Source: Reproductive Health Matters

A guest blog on RHM’s website, by Pooja Badarinath from CREA, lauds the fact that the huge outpouring of outrage and anger about the recent brutal gang-rape of a 23-year-old girl in Delhi, India, has been overwhelmingly affirmative for women's rights.

But she also questions some of the unfeminist demands that are being made, that focus on enhanced punishment or death penalty rather than questioning the current legal framework that does not clearly recognise rape within marriage. She also questions global media coverage, which she argues portray rape as a problem that happens only in countries such as India.

The blog provides many examples of how Indian activists are acting on violence against women through advocacy, trainings, publications, messages, campaigns, research, protests, discussions and events. Pooja Badarinath calls on all activists to keep the struggle going and build on the current momentum.

UK government commits to legal right to abortion after conflict rape

Date: 20 January 2013
Source: Global Justice Center

In a speech in the House of Lords, a UK government spokesperson has acknowledged that girls and women raped in armed conflict have absolute legal rights to comprehensive medical care, including abortions when medically necessary, under the Geneva Conventions. 

The UK follows Norway as the second country in calling to ensure abortions are part of medical treatment for women raped in war. The statement confirms that international humanitarian law, not national abortion laws, is the legal standard to be followed when treating victims of war rape. The UK government has officially asked the US government to reinterpret the Helms Amendment abortion restrictions put on foreign aid to allow for abortions for women raped in armed conflict and has affirmed that all recipients of UK humanitarian aid funding must use that funding in compliance with international humanitarian law, where applicable.

The full transcript of the debate can be accessed here.

Tackling maternal death, Ethiopia

Date: 31 January 2013
Source: IRIN

Each year, in Ethiopia, an estimated 25,000 women die of complications during childbirth, and another 500,000 suffer long-term disabilities from pregnancy and childbirth complications, according to UNFPA.

Ethiopia is one of five countries that together account for half of the world's maternal deaths. In 2011, the country recorded 676 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births, up from 673 in 2005. Ethiopia intends to bring this down to 267 by 2015.

There is progress. The number of deliveries attended by a skilled provider rose from 6% in 2005 to 10% in 2011. The government has established measures to curb maternal deaths, such as the use of a scorecard to measure the effectiveness of the health system for mothers and children and a health extension programme, which has trained 30,000 lay extension health workers. Yet there remains an urgent need to extend access to skilled delivery in rural areas, where 83% of the population lives.

Family planning on the rise but still low, Malawi

Date: 31 January 2013
Source: IRIN

A recent study from the African Institute for Development Policy and Population Action International shows that the average number of children that a woman has in Malawi is 5.8 children, only a slight decline from 40 years ago, when the average was 7.2 children per woman.

Malawi's population grew from 3 million in 1950 to 15 million in 2010, and is projected to reach 50 million by 2050. The authors warn that rapid population growth is increasing food insecurity,
environmental degradation and deep poverty.

However, new initiatives are tackling this. President Joyce Banda launched an initiative on Maternal Health and Safe Motherhood in 2012, which aims to achieve universal access to reproductive health services. USAID reports that the percentage of Malawian women and their partners using contraception rose from 7% in 1992 to 42% in 2010.

Challenges remain, including huge urban and rural differences, traditional taboos and lack of resources to either access family planning or to give women the economic independence to act on their own choices.

Russian parliament passes draft bill criminalising homosexuality

Date: 29 January 2013
Source: AWID 

On 25 January 2013, the lower chamber of the Russian Parliament voted, by an overwhelming majority of 388 to 1, in a favour of a bill which would insert the 'propaganda of homosexuality among minors' as an administrative offence.

Activists such as Front Line Defenders have issued appeals on this proposed legislation, in light of the impact that it will have on the work of LGBTI rights groups, if approved in its current form at the final reading. LGBTI rights defenders were physically and verbally assaulted during peaceful demonstrations opposing the bill.

The bill will be now considered for amendments during second and third readings, but since it has already been approved at the first reading, there is no possibility that the bill may be withdrawn.

The bill was adopted despite much opposition, including from the Prime Minister who spoke publicly against its adoption.

While the bill has not yet been signed into law, Front Line Defenders has learned of cases where local authorities have banned public events organised by LGBTI rights groups, including a Pride Event at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games, which were banned by the local courts who said they would "threaten the national security of the Russian Federation".

Morocco to change law allowing marriage by rapists

Date: 25 January 2013

Source: Al Jazeera English

The Moroccan government has said it plans to change a law that allows rapists to avoid charges if they marry their victims. The move comes nearly a year after 16-year-old girl committed suicide after being forced to marry her alleged rapist.

Last March, a 16 year old killed herself to get out of an abuse marriage to a 23-year-old she said had raped her. Her parents and a judge had pushed through the marriage to protect the family honour. The incident sparked an outcry in Morocco and calls for the law to be changed.

The current penal code allows those convicted of "corruption" or "kidnapping" of a minor to go free if they marry their victim. The practice has been encouraged by judges to spare family shame.

The move has been welcomed by women's rights activists, but activists highlight continued flaws in the law, such as the fact that the law distinguishes between "rape resulting in deflowering and just plain rape" and does not recognise rape within marriage or consensual sex outside of marriage between adults. Recent government statistics reported reported that half of attacks against women occur within conjugal relations.

Indian court orders right of pregnant women to access medical abortion

Date: 19 January 2013
Source: Human Rights Law Network

The High Court of Madhya Pradesh has issued an order allowing pregnant female prisoner to exercise her reproductive rights under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act. The woman had been sold into prostitution by her husband and after months of rape, she became pregnant. The Court ruled that it was not right to force a victim of violent rape or forced sex to give birth to a child of a rapist. This sets an important precedent for similar circumstances by affirming rape victims' right to lawful termination of pregnancy.

Successful HIV treatment is as effective as condom use for prevention, new UK guidance

Date: 23 January 2013
Source: aidsmap 

A new position statement from the British HIV Association and the Department of Health's Expert Advisory Group on AIDS provides guidance for health professionals on the use of HIV treatment by people with HIV to reduce the risk of transmission.

The statement argues that transmission of HIV through vaginal sex is significantly reduced when an HIV-positive person is taking effective antiretroviral therapy and states that successful ART use by the person who is HIV positive is as effective as consistent condom use in limiting viral transmission. The guidance outlines the necessary conditions, including no sexually transmitted infections in either partner and viral load testing every three to four months.

The statement recognises that published research is assumed to relate primarily to vaginal intercourse, but that it is assumed that anal intercourse would have a low risk also, provided the same conditions stated are met.

The statement can be downloaded here.

Ghana's abortion rates remain stubbornly high

Date: 30 January 2013
Source: Guttmacher Institute

A newly released study, by the Guttmacher Institute, finds that a woman's socioeconomic status largely determines how safe her abortion will be. The study found that while middle- and upper-income women in urban areas are more likely than other women to obtain an abortion, women who are young, poor or without support of a partner are at greatest risk of having an unsafe abortion and experiencing injury or death.

Using data from the 2007 Ghana Maternal Health Survey, the study finds that wealthier women were three times more likely to have a safe procedure than poorer women. They also found that women who had financial support from their partners were more likely to have a safe procedure. A majority of women whose partner paid for some or all of the expenses had a safe abortion (67%), while a minority of women whose partners did not contribute (44%) did so.

Adolescents were almost three quarters less likely to have a safe procedure than women in their 30s and 60% less likely to do so than women in their 20s.

The researchers noted other important factors that lead women to obtain unsafe procedures, such as a limited number of qualified abortion providers and lack of awareness of Ghana's fairly liberal abortion law. In order to reduce the incidence of unsafe abortion and its harmful consequences, efforts must be made to destigmatise the procedure and educate women and the general population about the legal status of abortion in Ghana.

The abstract of the report, published in the December 2012 issue of Studies in Family Planning, is available here.

Cambodia sends man to prison for acid attack on former wife

Date: 30 January 2013
Source: IRIN

A man has been sentenced to five years in prison for intentional violence using acid and ordered him to pay 10 million riel ($2,500) after he threw battery acid on her face, chest and back when she told him she planned to remarry. He was the first person prosecuted under Cambodia's acid control law, adopted in December 2011, and received the maximum sentence for the crime.

The Cambodian Acid Survivors Charity has called the ruling a landmark case. But they call for more robust implementation of the law. Key aspects of the law have yet to be put in place or adequately enforced, such as a clause that will regulate the purchase and transportation of acid, which is cheap and readily available throughout Cambodia. Observers also say sections of the law that stipulate free treatment at health centres and state-owned health institutions, and legal support from the state for acid attack victims, have also not been put into practice.

Swazi traditional leaders declare child marriage acceptable

Date: 29 January 2013
Source: IRIN

Despite the outlawing of child marriages declared by the Deputy Prime Minister several months ago, Swaziland's traditional leadership recently declared that such unions are acceptable under customary law. The most senior traditional leader reported that he had not been advised that child marriage was abolished. His statements followed the arrest of a local soccer star for the rape of a 14 year-old girl. The accused stated that the girl was his bride, and that their families had agreed to the marriage. The traditional leader endorsed this traditional family agreement. Activists condemn the statement.

The new statutory law, passed by parliament, has been rendered powerless by the superiority of Swazi Law and Custom if a man chooses to marry in a traditional ceremony. The law appears now to apply only to "Westernised" Swazis who wed in civil ceremonies before a magistrate after having acquired a marriage licence. 

Announcement: Call for African applicants for the DHS Fellows programme

Date: 15 January 2013
Source: ICF International

ICF International is launching the 2013 DHS Fellows programme. The programme is designed to increase capacity to use DHS data within universities in developing countries.

This year the programme is focused on universities in nine African countries: Burkina Faso, Ghana, Malawi, Namibia, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The programme objectives are:

- To teach fellows to analyse DHS datasets, produce result tables, and conduct research with DHS data;

- To strengthen skills that fellows will use to integrate DHS data in teaching;

- To increase the ability of fellows to build the capacity for using DHS data at their home universities.

ICF strongly encourages faculty members in relevant departments who are interested in research in the areas of population, health, and nutrition within a socio-economic development and/or gender context using quantitative methods to apply.

Applications are accepted until February 11 2013.

For more details on application procedure and eligibility, please this web page.

Forced birth control for Ethiopian jews, Israel

Date: 28 January 2013
Source: IRIN  

The director of Israel's Ministry of Health has issued a formal directive instructing that gynaecologists should not inject women with Depo-Provera without their knowledge or consent. This follows a claim from around 30 recently-immigrated Ethiopian Jewish women who said they had been told that they would not be allowed into the country without receiving the contraceptive drug.

A 2010 research report by from women's rights activists found that 57% of women who had received the drug in Israel are Ethiopian Jews, although they account for less than 2% of the overall population. A Miinistry of Health spokesperson stated that the ministry has begun investigating the matter, following the report.

The findings highlight the inequalities faced by Ethiopian-Israels. Over half of Ethiopian-Israeli families live below the poverty line, compared to 16% nationally.

Questioning expanded HIV treatment for pregnant women

Date: 26 January 2013
Source: Lancet

A recent commentary in the Lancet challenges the push from international agencies for countries to adopt Option B+ - the HIV treatment regimen that proposes that all pregnant women start in triple antiretroviral therapy irrespective of CD4 cell count and continue for life.

The authors cite ethical, medical safety, programme feasibility and economic concerns. They argue that, whilst it may be appropriate to act urgently, countries should have a clear decision-making process, based on the local situation, resources, priorities, and evidence, with guidance but not pressure from international agencies.

Ethically, they argue that it is not clear whether pregnant women should receive treatment for reasons other than their own medical condition. Whilst the evidence for ‘treatment as prevention’ is strong, there is no evidence that pregnant women are at higher risk of transmitting HIV to HIV-negative partners than all other sexually active adults. Option B+ does not reduce transmission to the infant to a greater extent than other current PMTCT options. There is a risk of household and community tension due to different treatment access and there is still insufficient knowledge about long-term benefits and risks to both woman and child.

Medically, questions need to be asked about the balance between maternal health and potential increase in drug resistance. Programme concerns include the impact on already strained health systems such as potential disruption of HIV treatment programmes, diversion of resources from non-HIV treatment and care and adherence concerns. There are still questions about whether Option B+ is cost effective for prevention of maternal transmission and to sexual partners.

Flood of law suits in US challenge birth control provision

Date: 26 January 2013
Source: New York Times

More than 45 lawsuits have now been filed in federal courts challenging the contraceptive coverage requirement of the Affordable Care Act. Most come from religiously-affiliated institutions and remain largely suspended while the government tries to offer a compromise. More than a dozen suits are from private employers ranging from a pizza mogul to produce transporters who say the government is forcing them to violate core tenets of their personal faith.

Commentators expect that this is likely to end up the Supreme Courts because of the number of cases and strong differences in decision between different circuit courts.

AWID film - Women's Rights 2012

Significant Moments for Women's Rights in 2012

This film produced by AWID provides a month by month selection of significant moments for women's rights in 2012.

It starts with the case of the fifteen year old child-bride in Afghanistan, brutally tortured by her husband and his family for refusing to go into prostitution - a case which caused a global outcry.

It ends with the shooting to death of Rosa Helena Bernal Pinto who had dedicated her life to human rights work and community activism.

Concern over growing use of infant formula additives

Date: 25 January 2013
Source: IRIN News

Concern is rising amongst health campaigners about a growth in infant formulas containing DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and ARA (arachidonic acid).

Both DHA and ARA are polyunsaturated fatty acids are found in human breast milk. In their natural form they help eye and brain development. Infant formula manufacturers have been adding them to infant fomul since 1997, aggressively marketing them in many countries. However, the World Health Organization and a Cochrane review have shown that ARA and DHA, when used as additives, do not improve infants' development.

According to the US Food and Drug Administration, DHA and ARA boost the cost of formula by 6-31%. There is no data yet on how much these ingredients are increasing elsewhere but ARA and DHA are now added to most brands sold globally.

There is a real concern that the current codes on marketing of infant formula are not being implemented. The baby food market is actively working to increase consumption. For example, the Singapore-based Asia Pacific Infant and Young Child Nutrition Association is presented as an NGO, but its membership includes seven infant-formula industry companies. In 2004, just two years after DHA and ARA were introduced in the US, government surveys showed the percentage of people who believed formula and breast milk were "equally healthy" had suddenly doubled.

Concern over unsafe abortions, Papua New Guinea

Date: 25 January 2013
Source: IRIN 

The number of unsafe abortions in Papua New Guinea is rising, according to health researchers. A recent six-month study (not yet online) from the Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research found that, of 120 reported miscarriages in one hospital in six months, nearly one quarter were induced abortions.

The majority of patients were school or university students. Most induced abortions took place using prescription-only tablets purchased through healthcare workers or at a pharmacy. Other women reported using traditional herbs and physical means, including strenuous exercise, inserting a stick into the vagina and tying a rope around the abdomen.

The main reasons for abortion cited by the women was fear of shaming their family, to continue education or because they were still breastfeeding another child.Sepsis due to unsafe abortion is a leading cause of maternal mortality.

Abortion is illegal in Papua New Guinea unless two doctors agree a woman's life may be at risk.

Detention of journalists reporting rape, Somalia

Date: 24 January 2013
Source: IRIN News

Gender-based violence - widespread but invisible in Somalia - has received greater focus than usual recently.

An article published in December 2012, accusing several state security officers of rape, led to the detention of as many as five journalists and one survivor, all of them as a result of their complaints or investigations and none on suspicion of having perpetrated rape.

Earlier in December a soldier was executed for rape. The government has stated that this shows that incidents of rape by men in in uniform are on the decline in Somalia and that the problem there would soon come to an end.

However, this claim has not convinced activists and humanitarian agencies working on civil protection in Somalia. According to anecdotal evidence from humanitarian workers in the country, reports of rape in Mogadishu are on the rise, but it is not clear if this is because there are more incidents of rape or whether more cases are being reported.

Women and girls living in settlements for internally displaced people are particularly vulnerable due to their unsafe living conditions and exposure to sexual exploitation when attempting to access goods and services.

In January, the UN Special Representation on Sexual Violence in Conflict said that the approach taken by the Somali police does not serve the interest of justice, it only serves to criminalise victims and undermine freedom of expression for the press.

Publication: Violence against women in Latin America and the Caribbean

Date: 23 January 2013
Source: Pan American Health Organization 

A new resource: Violence against women In Latin America and the Caribbean: a comparative analysis of population-based data from 12 countries

This report presents a comparative analysis of data from interviews with more than 180,000 women in Bolivia, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Peru.

This is the first time that nationally representative data have been analysed and presented in a single comparative format that allows a snapshot of what is known about violence against women in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The analysis shows that between 41% and 82% of women who were abused by their partner experienced a physical injury. Despite this, between 28% and 64% did not seek help or speak to anyone about their experience of violence. Between 10% and 27% of women in these countries reported having experienced sexual violence in their lifetime, either by partners or by other perpetrators, but usually by men whom they already knew.

The report also highlights the intersections between violence against women and violence against children. Across the 12 countries studied, women who were beaten in childhood reported experiencing partner violence in adulthood at significantly higher rates than those who did not suffer violence in childhood.

The report is a collaboration between the Pan American Health Organization PAHO/WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC , with technical input from MEASURE DHS, ICF International. The report can be downloaded in English here and will be available in Spanish shortly.

Maternal deaths drop sharply, Congo

Date: 21 January 2013
Source: IRIN News

Maternal deaths have dropped by 45% in Congo over the past seven years, according to the 2012 Demographic and Health Survey. The rate declined from 781 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2005 to 426 deaths per 100,000 live births at the end of 2012.

The Ministry of Health credits the successes to free Caesarean sections, the fight against obstetric fistula and the establishment of a national panel called the Observatory on Maternal and Newborn Mortality. A strengthened family planning system is reportedly accountable for reducing maternal mortality by nearly 30%.

Child mortality has also decreased, from 117 child deaths per 1,000 live births in 2005 to 68 per 1,000 live births in 2012.

Congo still has to fulfil its commitment of allocating 15% of its budget to the health sector. Currently it is earmarking only 9 percent, according to the World Bank.

Consequences of Catholic health policy for pregnant women

Date: 14 January 2013
Source: Reproductive Health Matters

A new paper published online in our journal outlines the implications of the recent tragic death of Savita Halappanavar and that of other similar cases. Savita Halappanavar died after a miscarriage that was not fully treated in Ireland, leading to widespread debate about whether to terminate a pregnancy as emergency obstetric care, such as inevitable miscarriage, where there are severe fetal anomalies and other non-viable pregnancies. The delay in termination appears to have been caused by health workers' interpretations of Catholic health policy. Similar cases have been reported in Catholic-run hospitals in the US, in the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica and other cases in Ireland from the past.

This paper asks if refusal to terminate pregnancies because the fetus is still alive, regardless of risk to women, is the norm in Catholic maternity services and, if so, where. It argues that the governments of Ireland and of every other country with Catholic-run maternity services need to answer these questions urgently. These reports invite rigorous investigation of emergency obstetric care provided by Catholic maternity services and Catholic health professionals.

The article is available for download here.

Son preference slowing decline in population growth, India

Date: 7 January 2013
Source: Guttmacher Institute 

A new report from the Guttmacher Institute, published in the December 2012 issue of International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, finds that continued childbearing driven by son preference accounts for 7% of all births in the country. Women were more likely to stop having children if their last child had been a son rather than a daughter. The report finds a strong relationship between family size and the proportion of female children in a family.

As a result, Indian girls are likely to grow up in larger families than boys do. In such families, fewer resources are available to each child, and girls are likely to receive a smaller share of those resources than their brothers, leading to gender disparities in health, education and other outcomes.

The report argues that it is critical that government policies help families achieve their childbearing goals and argues that Indian government programmes need to reduce the preference for sons by challenging perceptions that sons are more valuable than daughters and continuing to improve women's status in society.

‘The desire for sons and excess fertility: a household-level analysis of parity progression in India', by S Chaudhuri, is available online here.


Call for best practices in application of traditional values while promoting human rights

RHM says: In October 2012, the UN Human Rights Council voted in favour of a resolution that legitimises the use of 'traditional values' to promote human rights, potentially putting reproductive and sexual health rights at risk. The information below is an important advocacy opportunity!

Date: 14 January 2013
Source: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Call for submissions to the Human Rights Council

The Human Rights Council has requested the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to collect information from States Members of the United Nations and other relevant stakeholders on best practices in the application of traditional values while promoting and protecting human rights and upholding human dignity.

This will be summarised and a summary will be submitted to the Human Rights Council before its twenty-fourth session.

The text of the resolution, which should guide the content of the inputs, is available in all UN languages from the following webpage: http://goo.gl/YzwGq

Civil society organisations are encouraged to submit a concise submission of no more than two pages before 28 February 2013 in electronic format (MS Word document or compatible) to registry@ohchr.org and puvimanasinghe@ohchr.org.

All submissions will be made available at OHCHR website.

Publication: Women, health and disability

Date: 20 January 2013
Source: Hesperian Foundation

Developed with the participation of women with disabilities in 42 countries, this guide helps women to overcome the barriers of social stigma and inadequate care to improve their general health, self-esteem, and independence.

The book covers basic and accessible information about disability - causes and myths - and adaptation of health services to be disability-friendly. Chapters give detailed but simple information for women on puberty, basic self-care, sexuality, sexual health, family planning, safe pregnancy, caring for children and ageing.

The book can be downloaded for free here. Hard copies can also be ordered via the Hesperian Foundation website.

Philippines typhoon affects maternal health

Date: 18 January 2013
ource: IRIN News

Typhoon Bopha hit the southern island of Mindanao in the Philippines on 4 December 2012. More than 6.3 million people were affected, with an estimated 2,000 dead or missing. UNFPA estimates there are 8,356 pregnant women in typhoon-affected areas in need of antenatal care, many of whom are not getting it.

Local government officials and aid agencies are going around different villages on medical missions to track and record pregnant and lactating mothers. 'Dignity kits' for pregnant and breastfeeding women, including basic hygiene equipment and additional equipment such as towel, alcohol and potty for protection against infection, are being distributed. Emergency delivery kits are being distributed to midwives. There is also a need for psychosocial and practical support for women whose livelihoods have been affected.

Indian rape prompts global reflection on sexual violence

Date: 5 January 2013
Source: Lancet

The brutal rape and murder of a 23-year-old female student from Delhi has caused outrage and anguish across India and also across the world.

Immediately after her death on 29 December, following treatment in a hospital in Singapore, there was a wave of public protext, with thousands of Indian citizens taking part in peaceful vigils to express their anger at the violence inflicted against this young student, as well as the harassment experienced daily by thousands of Indian women.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called for "a constructive course of action". But there is agreement that India has failed to address a pervasive culture of sexual violence and gender injustice. Political neglect has created a permissive environment where men can rape, beat, and kill a woman with impunity. India is a respected democracy that has delivered phenomenal economic success for its growing middle class.

The shockwaves have come from around the world and highlight not just the situation in India but globally, acknowledging that rape and other forms of violence against women and girls are a feature of all societies. Advocates call for the acknowledgement of sexual violence, creation of safe systems for preventing, reporting, and remedying acts of sexual violence and action to protect and strengthen the political and social rights of women worldwide.

HPV vaccination may reduce anal cancer risk in men living with HIV

Date: 3 January 2013
Source: aidsmap

A US study has shown that the HPV vaccine could be highly effective at preventing pre-cancerous anal cell changes in men living with HIV. The study showed that almost all cases of high-grade pre-cancerous anal cells were caused by strains of HPV that are covered by vaccines that are already licensed or are being trialled.

The study involved 363 HIV-positive gay men in San Francisco between 2009 and 2010, who were screened for the presence of pre-cancerous anal lesions
. The investigators calculated the proportion of pre-cancerous lesions due to different HPV genotypes. 59% of patients had pre-cancerous anal lesions, including 30% with high-grade lesions. Three-quarters of the men were infected with a high-risk HPV genotype, especially HPV 16. The licenced quadrivalent vaccine covered 71% of genotypes present in the highest-grade lesions. The investigational vaccine that will cover nine HPV genotypes would have provided protection against 89% of HPV genotypes in high-grade lesions.

HIV-positive gay men have a high rate of pre-cancerous anal lesions and anal cancer. There has been considerable debate about the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of vaccinating adult, HIV-positive gay men and this study adds further evidence that vaccination may be a cost-effective public health measure.

Non prescription birth control pill available in most countries

Date: 2 January 2013
Source: NY Daily News

Most women in the world can access the birth control pill without a prescription, according to a new study conducted in 147 countries by Ibis Reproductive Health and published in Contraception Journal. The study surveyed government health officials, pharmaceutical companies, family planning groups, medical providers and other experts in 147 countries and found that, of these, only 45 countries required a medical prescription. The countries are predominantly higher income countries in Western Europe, Australia, Japan and North America. While another 56 countries had laws requiring prescriptions, in practice women can access the contraception over-the-counter. 35 countries legally allow access to oral contraceptives over-the-counter and 11 countries allow over-the-counter access after screening of the woman.

The findings will assist advocates who are pushing to ease prescription requirements for the Pill in the US and elsewhere, by demonstrating the safety of women having access to this method where no prescription is required.


Vitamin A does not reduce maternal mortality - further evidence

Date: 1 January 2013
Source: Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Research from Ghana has further confirmed what is already known - that low-dose vitamin A supplements administered weekly are of no benefit in programmes to reduce mortality in women of childbearing age.

The cluster-randomised, triple-blind, placebo-controlled trial was conducted in seven districts of Brong Ahafo region, Ghana. The analysis was based on 581,870 woman-years and 2,624 deaths. Cause-specific mortality rates were found to be similar in the two study arms. All women aged 15-45 years who were capable of giving informed consent and intended to live in the trial area for at least three months were enrolled. Women were randomly assigned to receive weekly oral vitamin A or a placebo once a week. The study found that, after six months, there was no difference in the rate of maternal death of similar causes between the women who received vitamin A and those that received the placebo.

Violence against Afghan women extreme and rising

Date: 3 December 2012 & 11 December 2012
Source: AWID

Afghanistan's minister for women has said attacks on women are becoming more extreme in nature. In December two men were arrested for beheading a 14-year-old girl, apparently because one of them had his marriage proposal turned down. This follows two similar brutal murders in the previous two months.

Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission, AIHRC, recorded 4,000 incidents in April-October, 1,000 more than in the same period last year. Violence against women often relates to matters of 'honour' - perceived offences against a family's reputation, often arising out of baseless rumour.

Activist groups are cynical about the role of women's ministries, especially the Ministry of Women's Affairs, claiming that they are well funded but not active. However, the risks run in addressing women's rights was highlighted by the shooting of Laghman Province's acting head of women's affairs. This was the second time in less than six months that the person holding that post has been assassinated. The former head was killed when an improvised bomb exploded under her car - an attack attributed to the Taliban but never fully investigated.

Costa Rica's in-vitro fertilisation ban declared a human rights violation

Date: 21 December 2012
Source: Center for Reproductive Rights 

Costa Rica's longstanding ban on in-vitro fertilisation must be overturned, according to a ruling today by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The ruling declares that the ban violates the right to privacy, the right to liberty, the right to personal integrity, and the right to form a family, as recognised under international law. The court also found that obstructing access to reproductive health services violated the right to be free from discrimination.

The ruling affects not only Costa Rica, but affirms that all individuals in Latin America and the Caribbean cannot be barred from having access to in vitro fertilisation. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights is the highest human rights court in the Americas and the ruling in this case is final and binding for all 22 countries that have accepted the jurisdiction of the court.

The court ordered Costa Rica to legalise in-vitro fertilisation within the next 6 months, to regulate all aspects of in-vitro fertilisation to ensure implementation and provide free mental health services for the victims in this case. It also ordered the State to implement training on reproductive rights for judicial officials throughout the country.

The Costa Rican government has said that it will comply
with the court's decision.


Kenyan lawsuit for unlawful detention of women in maternity hospitals

Date: 7 December 2012
Source: Center for Reproductive Rights 

The Center for Reproductive Rights has filed a case before the High Court of Kenya on behalf of two poor women illegally detained in Pumwani Maternity Hospital in Nairobi for their inability to provide full payment for maternal health services they received.

The case calls for constitutional division of the High Court of Kenya to hold the hospital and also the Attorney General, Minister for Local Government, City Council of Nairobi and Minister for Medical Services, accountable for the ill treatment of the two women. It cites human rights violations under Kenya's constitution and international law.

The two women, Margaret and Maimuna, were both mistreated during their stays at the hospital. One woman was illegally detained for 12 days after giving birth and soon after returned to the hospital complaining of stomach pains, leading to an additional surgery to remove the scissors that were left in her stomach after her caesarian. The second woman was detained first for 20 days following her delivery, leading to her pneumonia and a sick child who was left uncared for full-time during her detention.

African cancer conference urges action

Date: 24 December 2012
Source: IRIN News 

Over 150 experts from seven francophone African countries have called on African governments to implement national plans to combat cancer.

The cancer conference in Dolisie, Congo, agreed that cancer should be declared a public health disease on a par with malaria, tuberculosis and sickle cell disease.

The conference cited the lack of mechanisms to map cancer and therefore plan for its prevention and treatment. An oncologist at Brazzaville's University Teaching Hospital reported that there are barely 40 oncologists in Africa.

UN General Assembly votes for universal health coverage

Date: 13 December 2012 
Source: Guardian 

The United Nations General Assembly has adopted a resolution on affordable health care. The resolution, adopted by consensus, urges member states to develop health systems that avoid significant direct payments at the point of delivery and to have a mechanism for pooling risks to avoid catastrophic healthcare spending and impoverishment.

Support for the resolution came from a wide range of countries and has been championed by the World Health Organization's director for some time. It will now be possible to hold member states to account because of the resolution. The adoption of the resolution also means that questions of equity and health systems can now be more firmly linked into the post-2015 development goals.

However, the resolution leaves open the question of how universal health care is to be funded.

The full text of the resolution can be downloaded here.


Call for abortion support, Costa Rica

Date: 20 December 2012
Source: Colectivo por el derecho a decidir (Right to Decide Collective)

Aurora is a 32-year old Costa Rican woman who was informed, when she was eight weeks pregnant with a wanted pregnancy, that the fetus has multiple severe malformations that would not allow it to survive outside the uterus. Aurora started to experience strong abdominal and back pain that prevent her from working, alongside the emotional stress of carrying a non-viable pregnancy.

On multiple occasions, Aurora has requested a therapeutic abortion.  However, the medical professionals and medical authorities in Costa Rica have repeatedly denied her this right. Article 121 of the Costa Rican Criminal Code states that abortion is not criminalised when practiced with the consent of the woman, a doctor, or an authorised obstetrician, when it is practiced to avoid danger to the life or health of the woman and cannot be avoided by other means.

Aurora is now about 25 weeks pregnant. Activists and friends of Aurora are asking you to sign a petition to show your support and to send messages to the following individuals:

Dra. Ileana Balmaceda, Presidenta Ejecutiva de la CCSS 
Dra. Daisy Corrales, Ministra de Salud  dcorrales@ministeriodesalud.go.cr
Dra. Sisy Castillo, Viceministra de Salud 
Dra. María Eugenia Villalta, Gerente Médica de la CCSS  isegura@ccss.sa.cr
Dra. Flory Morera González, Presidenta de la Asociación de Ginecología y Obstetricia de Costa Rica (AOGCR)  flomogo@hotmail.com


Dear XXX:

The press has reported in recent days on a woman who has been refused a therapeutic termination of pregnancy. This woman's pregnancy is not viable as severe malformations have been identified. 

believe that compelling this woman to carry her pregnancy to term is an act of cruelty and torture, and a violation of her human rights. Therefore, I am writing to demand that she is offered the option of a therapeutic abortion, pursuant to article 121 of the Costa Rican Penal Code. 


New resource on menstrual hygiene

Date: 19 December 2012
Source: IRIN News

A comprehensive resource on menstrual hygience has just been launched, aimed primarily at the water and sanitation sector.

The report, Menstrual hygiene matters, by Wateraid, illustrates good menstrual hygiene-related policies and interventions and provides modules and toolkits on topics such as sanitary materials, working with communities, providing sanitary facilities in schools and emergency situations and aiding girls and women in vulnerable, marginalised or special circumstances.

The report advocates for further research and focus on this issue. Although more than half of girls and women are of reproductive age, in many cultures, menstruation means seclusion or even dietary restrictions. A lack of private hygiene facilities in schools fuels absenteeism among girls and menstruation can be used to bar women from some jobs.

The report is based on research and practical examples of good menstrual hygiene practice from around the world. It provides guidance and training tools to build the competence and confidence of water, sanitation and hygiene and other sector staff to engage in menstrual hygiene and break the silence surrounding the issue.

The report can be downloaded from Wateraid's website.

War, violence and gender relations, Democratic Republic of Congo

Date: 19 December 2012
Source: AWID

Sonke Gender Justice have published a report on men's and women's practices and attitudes as they relate to gender equality, household dynamics, intimate partner violence, health and economic stress in Goma, DRC. 

The study, based on interviews with over 1,400 men and women in Goma town and surrounding rural areas including displaced persons camps and military bases, highlights the economic stress faced by men and women and the devastating impact of conflict, forced conscription and rape. Almost half of the men interviewed reported having carried out physical violence against a female partner, with higher numbers amongst men who were forced to leave their homes during the conflict. More than half of all women reported being exposed to some form of sexual violence, the majority of this outside of conflict, and about a third of men reported having carried out sexual violence.

Gender Relations, Sexual Violence And The Effects Of Conflict On Women And Men In North Kivu, Eastern Democratic Republic Of Congo is available for downloading here.


New WHO guidelines urge decriminalisation of sex work

Date: 18 December 2012
Source: PlusNews

The World Health Organization has released new guidelines on HIV prevention and treatment that recommend that countries should work towards decriminalising sex work.

In the guidelines, WHO notes then necessity of preventing and addressing violence against sex workers in partnership with sex workers and sex worker-led organisations. The guidelines recommend that "health services should be made available, accessible and acceptable to sex workers based on the principles of avoidance of stigma, non-discrimination and the right to health". 

mong the recommended interventions for sex workers are the promotion of correct and consistent condom use, offering sex workers HIV testing and counselling, offering periodic screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections to female sex workers, initiating HIV-positive sex workers on antiretroviral treatment and using WHO recommendations on harm reduction for sex workers who inject drugs.

Prevention and treatment of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections for sex workers in low- and middle-income countries can be downloaded here.

Increased risk of pre-term birth from some HIV antiretroviral drugs

Date: 18 December 2012
Source: aidsmap

Research from the United States suggests that women who take antiretroviral therapy based on a protease inhibitor (PI) during the first three months of pregnancy have an increased risk of pre-term delivery.

Of 1,869 live, HIV-negative infants born to 1,506 mothers, 346 (19%) were pre-term births (before completion of 37 weeks of pregnancy) and 55% of these were spontaneous. 37 (2%) were very pre-term births (before completion of 32 weeks of pregnancy) and 135 infants (7%) were small for gestational age. Most of the mothers (89%) used antiretroviral therapy during pregnancy, with 40% treated with anti-HIV drugs during the first trimester.

Black women, women with an income below $20,000 per year and those with a CD4 cell count below 200 cells/mm3 late in pregnancy were more likely to have pre-term births. After having taken this into account, evaluation of timing of treatment showed that use of a protease inhibitor during the first trimester increased the risk of pre-term delivery significantly and treatment with a protease inhibitor during the first three months of pregnancy also increased the risk of a spontaneous premature delivery. Protease inhibitors associated with a pre-term birth were saquinavir, ritonavir and lopinavir/ritonavir. 

Reproductive Health Bill approved in Philippines parliament

Date: 12 December 2012
Source: Catholics for Choice

The Philippines House of Representatives has voted to pass the Reproductive Health Bill (commonly known as the RH Bill) after nearly 15 years. The bill will give millions of women access to contraception. Almost a third of Filipino women have an unmet need for contraception.

Opposition had largely come from the Catholic Church, with evidence of direct lobbying from bishops to prevent passing of the bill. But opinion polls have shown a majority of citizens and Catholics in the Philippines support the government making contraception more available.

Both the House of Representatives and the Senate voted to pass the bill by large majorities. A bicameral committee will now reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bill before it goes to the president to be signed into law.


Innovative responses to HIV and sex work in Asia and the Pacific

Date: 12 December 2012
Source: UNAIDS

The newly launched publication, HIV and Sex Work Collection: Innovative Responses in Asia and the Pacific, highlights HIV and sex work programmes and advocacy across Asia and the Pacific. The case studies provide an analysis of the key lessons learned for delivering and scaling up evidence and rights-based responses.

Case studies highlight integrated sexual and reproductive health and HIV services for sex workers in Myanmar, a community care and safety net that helps sex workers living with HIV to advocate, seek and receive treatment, care and support in India, a legal and anti-violence advocacy programme in Bangladesh and many more.

The publication has been compiled by the Asia-Pacific Network of Sex Workers, with UNAIDS and UNFPA and can be downloaded here.


Infant illness hampers exclusive breastfeeding by women with HIV, Africa

Date: 7 December 2012
Source: aidsmap

A study of 1,028 women in Burkina Faso, Kenya and South Africa has found that only one third of women counselled to exclusively breast feed for six months were able to do so for at least three months. Boys and infants with fever, diarrhoea or vomiting during the first month of life were less likely to be exclusively breastfed by three months of age than other children.

The authors comment that this highlights the challenge of breastfeeding exclusively for six months, as recommended by WHO, in sub-Saharan Africa. The authors note that in this study, the women received seven comprehensive comprehensive and extensive postnatal support and counselling planned visits up to six months after giving birth and also received free formula. This level of support is feasible in routine health care.

This is the first time a link between gender (male) and lower odds of exclusive breastfeeding by three months has been reported. Anecdotal evidence from mothers in Mombasa suggested a widely held belief that boys need more energy, leading to a greater likelihood of introducing other foods early.

Bali Global Youth Forum Declaration

Date: 7 December 2012
Source: Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights

The Global Youth Forum took place in Bali, Indonesia from 4-6 December 2012 and brought together hundreds of youth, civil society and member states to identify and discuss issues and priorities facing today and tomorrow's generation of young people within the context of population and development. 

The Forum agreed on recommended actions for the outcome report of the ICPD +20 review and for the post 2015 United Nations development agenda as well as to generate a new consensus on putting youth rights at the heart of development.

Discussions focused on the five priority themes of staying healthy, comprehensive education, families, youth rights and well-being including sexuality, transition to decent work and leadership and meaningful participation.

The recommendations contained within the Final Declaration provide youth advocates with concrete tools through which they can advance for a progressive rights-based agenda both within the remaining spaces of the ICPD+20 review process and the shaping of the post-2015 development agenda.

Recommendations include a call on governments to address a range of sexual and reproductive rights through laws, policies and actions that address harmful traditional practices, provide comprehensive sexuality education and a basic package of youth-friendly health services. The Declaration includes attention to lifting cultural and religious barriers such as parental and spousal consent, and early and forced marriages and decriminalisation of abortion and access to services and education for all children, regardless of sexual orientation or legal status.

The Final Declaration can be downloaded here.


Vietnam launches campaign to reduce gender gap at birth

Date: 6 December 2012
Source: Saigon-GP Daily

Vietnam's Ministry of Health has launched an Action Month for population control, with the primary aim to reduce the gender imbalance in the country.

The campaign aims to raise public awareness of benefits of gender equality, prevent gender discrimination at birth and offer more incentives to families to avert pregnancy termination of the girl child.

According to Ministry statistics, 104 boys were born for every 100 girls in 1999, rising rapidly to 112 boys per 100 girls by 2011. Gender imbalance in the country is expected to peak at 113 boys for every 100 girls in 2015.


Couples' HIV testing and counselling increases consistent condom use, South African

Date: 5 December 2012
Source: aidsmap

HIV testing and counselling of couples quickly led to consistent condom use among serodiscordant (where one person has HIV and the other does not) couples in stable relationships in South Africa, according to recently published research.

Of the 508 people with HIV who were enrolled into the Partners in Prevention study, 71% of those just learning their HIV status reported unprotected sex, compared to a quarter who knew their status for at least a month. One month later, when all had had couples' HIV testing and counselling and so were aware of their discordant relationship, the proportion of those having unprotected sex fell dramatically, from 71 to 8%. 

Monthly counselling for the HIV-infected partner, quarterly individual or couples' HIV testing and counselling for the HIV-negative partner, and condom provision for both resulted in low levels of unprotected sex being maintained at the end of one year.

Most HIV testing and counselling efforts are targeted to individuals so leading to missed HIV prevention opportunities. Most of the couples in this study were in long-term relationships with minimal levels of intimate partner violence and the authors suggest that it would be useful to further study the impact of couples’ HIV testing and counselling within less stable as well as more violent relationships.

Exclusive breastfeeding on the rise, Kenya

Date: 4 December 2012
Source: PlusNews

Kenya passed a new law in September banning the promotion of infant formula. The law 
prohibits the promotion of complementary foods and forbids health workers from accepting gifts from formula manufacturers. It also requires formula packaging to contain breastfeeding promotion and advice on the proper use of breast milk substitutes.

A number of local companies have started to provide mothers with environments that enable them to exclusively breastfeed, with some larger companies providing rooms for expressing milk and space for children to play.

But the majority of working women face unfriendly work environments and short maternity leave periods and are forced to turn to complementary feeding much sooner than they wanted. According to the International Baby Food Action Network, there is a need for more employers to provide women with the support they need to continue breastfeeding for six months and beyond. Women face pressure from family members, especially mothers in-law. Experts express concern that the message of exclusive breastfeeding may be being seen as only relevant for women living with HIV.

Whilst exclusive breastfeeding rates are on the rise, more needs to be done to support women in their health choices.

EU lobby for sex work ban

Date: 4 December 2012
Source: BBC

More than 200 women's rights groups are calling for laws to make paying for sex a crime across the European Union. Campaigners presented key policy recommendations for legislation to Members of the European Parliament in Brussels.

The advocates, coordinated by the European Women’s Lobby, state that prostitution is a form of violence, an obstacle to gender equality and an open door for organised crime to develop. The lobby cites Sweden as a successful example, saying that street prostitution had halved there since paying for sex was outlawed a decade ago and compares this with the Netherlands, where the sector has been legalized and where they claim that there has been no significant improvement of the conditions of sex workers.

However, examples from countries such as New Zealand show a very different story. For the past six years, New Zealand has treated prostitution as a normal business. Brothels operate legally, and sex workers are subject to ordinary employment and health and safety rules.

Critics of the EU campaign, such as the UK Network of Sex Work Projects, argue that criminalising prostitution also increases the risk of rape and violence, by stigmatising and excluding sex workers and making it harder to offer accessible support services.

The Network and other sex workers rights activists have called on the Council of Europe to reject such laws and instead support initiatives and legal changes, which improve the social status and safety of sex workers and allow criminal justice authorities to focus their limited resources on violent and other crimes committed against sex workers.

The EU currently does not have the power to legislate on prostitution. But new laws designed to reduce human trafficking are set to come into force next year and could cover such an issue. The EU is currently analysing different countries' approaches and are expected to report back on their findings in 2016.

HIV transmission risk reduced with antiretroviral therapy, China

Date: 4 December 2012
Source: aidsmap 

Further 'real-world' evidence of the impact of antiretroviral therapy on the risk of transmission in heterosexual couples has been published in the Lancet. Retrospective research on 38,862 couples in China, where one of the couples has HIV, has found that the risk of HIV transmission was reduced by 26% where the HIV-infected partner was taking antiretroviral therapy when compared to couples where the HIV-positive partner remained treatment naive.

Although the impact of treatment was significantly lower than that seen in the original 'treatment as prevention' study, HPTN 052, probably because of treatment non-adherence, resistance and HIV transmission from another person, the reduction in transmission is still significant.

he World Health Organization (WHO) now advocates a policy of antiretroviral therapy regardless of CD4 cell count for all HIV-positive individuals in a heterosexual relationship.


The future Asia Pacific women want - launch

Date: 3 December 2012
Source: Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN)

The future Asia Pacific women want is the outcome statement arising from the Regional Dialogue on Sustainable Development and the Post-2015 Development Agenda, held in November in Bangkok, Thailand.

The outcome statement outlines the concerns and demands of women in the Asia-Pacific, particularly the concerns and demands of the women workers' sector and of women in conflict and post-conflict situations and the demands for women's sexual and reproductive health and rights and political agency. It calls on governments and inter-regional bodies to address social inequalities in the post-2015 development agenda.

The full statement can be viewed here.


Women, gender equality and the post-2015 agenda

Date: 2 December 2012
Source: Action Canada for Population and Development (ACPD)

UN Women recently convened an expert group meeting, with representatives from around the world, to discuss how to position gender equality in the post-2015 agenda.

One focus of the meeting was on the need for goals and indicators that are clear, simple and relevant and rooted in international commitments and based on the principles of human rights, sustainability and equality. The challenge is to ensure that these are as comprehensive as possible and that the narrative accompanying the goals to have equal or greater importance than the goals.

UN Women propose facilitating over 60 national consultations and five regional consultations shortly. Civil society groups are encouraged to raise sexual and reproductive rights and gender equality issues in as many thematic consultations as possible. Reports from all the processes are expected to feed into the report of a High-Level Panel that will report to the UN Secretary General.

UN Women are calling for a distinct goal on gender equality, as well as integrating a gender perspective in all other goals although the meeting did not reach consensus on this.

UN Women plans to set up an extranet or website with meeting participants and others, to continue the discussions. Watch this space for more information!

US global HIV strategy - mixed reactions

Date: 1 December 2012
Source: Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE) and RH Reality Check

The US government has launched their new Blueprint for Achieving an AIDS-Free Generation. The Blueprint lays out four road maps that will guide the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) - saving lives, smart investments, shared responsibility and driving results with science.

Reaction in general has been positive, with commentators highlighting the shift from an almost exclusive biomedical approach (voluntary male circumcision, prevention of mother to child transmission and treatment as prevention) to a broader approach that acknowledges gender inequality, violence, poverty, stigma and discrimination.

A key pillar of the Blueprint is the recommendation that the US government increase access to voluntary and comprehensive family planning and that linkas are made with maternal, newborn and child health.

In particular, commentators note that there is a stronger focus on adolescents and young people than in previous years and a more intentional focus on women and girls and key affected populations, including men who have sex with men (MSM), sex workers, and people who inject drugs.

Whilst this is commendable, sexual and reproductive health activists should not endorse the Blueprint wholeheartedly, without considering how important it is to ensure access to a wider range of sexual and reproductive health. A commentary by Janine Kossen in RH Reality Check, challenges some of the gaps and weaknesses in the document. Although there is greater focus on adolescents than in previous years, there is a need to ensure that the focus on strengthening programmatic commitment to and emphasis on reaching and supporting young people with HIV services is translated into action that is evidence-based. For example, the Blueprint calls for sexual health education for youth, but does not clearly spell out that this must be comprehensive, rights-based and inclusive for lesbian and gay young people. The commentary also highlights the total absence of a attention to meaningfully engaging young people and young people living with HIV in youth programmes.

CHANGE has developed a fact sheet that highlights the importance of the Blueprint. This is useful for advocating for women and girls – as an entry to advocacy for all sexual and reproductive health rights, not just family planning and maternal and child health.

Kenyan girls ask court to force police to act on rape

Date: 15 October 2012
Source: Trust Law

A group of more than 240 Kenyan girls have filed a petition in the High Court to try to force the police to investigate and prosecute rape cases they say have been ignored.

They accuse police of demanding bribes to investigate rape, refusing to record rapes unless the victims produced witnesses and claiming victims had consented.

One in five women and girls are victims of sexual violence in Kenya, according to a 2008/9 government survey. Rape is rarely reported due to stigma and a lack of faith in the police and the criminal justice system, although Kenya has strong legislation to protect children from sexual assault.

The girls have horrifying stories of being locked up in police cells after reporting rape by a police officer, refusing to investigate allegations of incest leading to pregnancy until a DNA test could be performed on the baby and many stories of gang rape of young girls.

Catholic group calls on Obama to provide condoms and family planning for HIV prevention

Date: 29 November 2012
Source: Catholics for Choice

Catholics for Choice have called on the Obama administration to include both family planning and condoms for HIV prevention in the US government's new HIV plan, PEPFAR Blueprint: Creating an AIDS-free Generation, which was launched this week.

Despite PEPFAR's recognition of the significant unmet need for voluntary family planning and reproductive health services worldwide and its call that 'voluntary family planning should be part of comprehensive quality care for persons living with HIV', the new plan inexplicably introduces a new restriction: PEPFAR funds may not be used to purchase family planning commodities.

Catholics for Choice criticises the pressure from conservative groups, often faith-based, and states that 'the real scandal is that HIV, a tiny, complicated, ever-shifting virus that has confounded researchers for decades, is proving easier to tackle than the ongoing stigma, moralising and confusion in policies ostensibly designed to help. The needs of people living with HIV & AIDS can be seen without either a microscope or scientific training' and this includes giving women and men the dignity and right to choose whether and when to have children.

Global South's adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive rights agenda

Date: 29 November 2012
Source: ASTRA  

A coalition of sexual and reproductive health and rights advocates has launched a set of fact sheets on adolescent and young people's sexual and reproductive health and rights across the global South.

The fact sheets come on the eve of the ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Youth Forum, where advocates will call on governments, UN agencies and donors to support adolescent and young people's sexual and reproductive health and rights.

The coalition includes Asian-Pacific Resource & Research Centre for Women (ARROW) in partnership with ASTRA Youth and ASTRA Central and Eastern European Women's Network for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, Latin American and Caribbean Women's Health Network (LACWHN), Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) and the World YWCA.

The global factsheet can be downloaded here and the factsheet on Eastern Europe is available here.


Unite to end violence against women campaign

Date: 25 November 2012
Source: UN Women 

International Day of Action for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

In 2008, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon launched his campaign - UniTE to End Violence against Women - to draw international attention at the highest level to the issue. 

ay NO - UNiTE supports social mobilisation around the world to drive actions and accountability on violence against women under the banner of the UNiTE campaign.

25 November has been named the International Day of Action for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It is the culmination of 16 days of activism that take place each year.

The November issue of Reproductive Health Matters, currently in press, includes Count me in! Research report on violence against disabled, lesbian, and sex-working women in Bangladesh, India, and Nepal.


Luxemburg adopts abortion on request to 12 weeks

Date: 22 November 2012
Source: L'Essentiel Online

Luxemburg's Parliament has voted to allow women the right, within the first 12 weeks, to decide for themselves whether or not to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. After 12 weeks, abortion is legal for medical reasons.

Women must have 'social' counselling and a three-day 'cooling off' period before the intervention.  Minors can request an abortion without their parent's knowledge as long as they are accompanied by an adult that they trust.

Human rights institutions called to act on reproductive rights

Date: 16 November 2012
Source: National Centre for Human Rights, Jordan

The 11th International Conference of National Human Rights Institutions took place on 4-7 November in Amman, Jordan, to discuss the human rights of women and girls. The conference concluded with the Amman Declaration and Programme of Action, including substantial reference to women's and girls' reproductive rights.

The Amman Declaration affirms that women's and girls' rights are human rights, guaranteed in all human rights treaties, yet remain violated and denied. The Declaration calls on human rights institutions to conduct inquiries into and investigate allegations of violations of women's and girls' human rights, including violations of reproductive rights.

The Amman Programme of Action calls on national human rights institutions "to protect and promote reproductive rights without any discrimination, recognising reproductive rights include the right to the highest attainable standard of sexual and reproductive health, the right of all to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children, and on matters related to their sexuality, and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, violence or coercion".

The Declaration is a key advocacy tool to engage with national human rights institutions in the promotion and protection of reproductive rights and to provide them with support for the effective implementation of this Programme of Action.

Lack of HIV treatment knowledge may increase risk of vertical transmission

Date: 16 November 2012
Source: aidsmap

Two recent studies, from Italy and the UK, suggest that some women with HIV may not have up-to-date information about vertical HIV transmission and that the risks of transmitting HIV to their child may be increased.

A recent
Italian study found that one in five women with HIV overestimated the likelihood of passing on HIV to their babies if they were on HIV antiretroviral treatment and nearly one in ten women thought that transmission from a mother with HIV to a child was more than twice as likely if they were on HIV treatment.

A study in two UK hospitals found that some women did not return for one or two years after giving birth and 37% of these women had a viral load over 100 copies/ml when they did return. The study was done, in part, to inform discussions about the possibility of relaxing breastfeeding guidelines in new UK HIV treatment guidelines for women. These guidelines did not change their recommendation of total avoidance of breastfeeding.

Half of HIV-positive gay men disagree that HIV treatment reduces infectiousness, UK

Date: 16 November 2012
Source: aidsmap

A survey of over 2,000 gay men attending clinics in the UK has found that 48% disagree that HIV treatment can make someone less infectious or makes it unnecessary to use a condom.

Although the survey found that only 15% of men had recently had unprotected sex anal intercourse with someone of negative or unknown HIV status, it discovered that that the minority of men who were not taking antiretroviral therapy were more, rather than less, likely to have unprotected sex with a partner of negative or unknown HIV status than men taking HIV treatment.

In gay men who were taking ART, those with a detectable viral load were considerably less likely to have unprotected anal intercourse with someone of unknown or HIV negative status than men with an undetectable viral load.

Beliefs about viral load and infectiousness did have an influence on safer-sex decisions, with men who did not believe that viral load reduces infectiousness being less than half as likely to have unprotected sex as men who believed that it did.

New research suggests sexual lubricants may not increase HIV risk

Date: 16 November 2012
Source: aidsmap

An evaluation of 13 sexual lubricants has found that, while many are toxic to the cells lining the vagina and anus, this does not lead to an increased rate of HIV infection in test-tube experiments.

The main reason some lubricants kill off tissue is because they contain more dissolved salts and other chemicals than the fluid inside cells - that is, they draw water out of the mucous membrane cells, drying them out and stripping them from the membrane surface. In contrast, the two gels that had the same fluid/salt balance as body fluids did not damage mucous membranes.

In the experiments, lubricants did not prevent infection but they also did not increase the risk of infection. In other words, infected cells did not produce copies of HIV any faster than usual. The research also found that cervicovaginal tissue was - contrary to what had previously been thought - just as likely to be damaged by some of the lubricants as rectal tissue.

Publication: the story of emergency contraception

Date: 16 November 2012
Source: IBIS Reproductive Health 

'Emergency contraception: The story of a global reproductive health technology' is a newly published book that examines the journey of emergency contraceptive pills in 14 different countries and contexts. It explores how this reproductive health technology is both adapted and adopted to local culture and is influenced by broader international debates. Countries include North America, Mexico, Jamaica, Chile, UK and France, Tunisia, Lebanon and Morocco, Nigeria and the Thailand-Burma border.

Details of purchase and more information on the book can be found on the book's website.


Publication: E-learning modules on preeclampsia and eclampsia

Date: 16 November 2012
Source: Oxford Perinatal and Maternal Health Institute

A free online training course is available from the Oxford Perinatal and Maternal Health Institute, Oxford University with EngenderHealth. The course is available as a basic version for healthcare professionals who want to know/revise the fundamentals and an advanced version for doctors, midwives and nurses who want to know the evidence behind the recommendations. The course is available in English (basic and advanced) and Spanish (basic)  and advanced).

Woman dies after being denied abortion, Ireland

Date: 15 November 2012
Source: Irish Times, International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion 

Savita Halappanavar was a pregnant woman who has tragically died after repeated requests for an abortion were refused by doctors. She presented at a hospital in Galway, Ireland, on 21 October while miscarrying during the 17th week of her pregnancy. Her requests were refused and she died of septicaemia one week later. Her husband reports that she asked several times over a three-day period that the pregnancy be terminated, having been told she was miscarrying and after one day in severe pain. Savita's husband reports that medical staff would not provide an abortion because a foetal heartbeat was still present. They were told at one point: "This is a Catholic country."

Ironically, the Minister for Health this week has received the report of the expert group on abortion, which was ordered by the European Court of Human Rights.

The situation of Savita Halappanavar provides the clearest possible evidence that laws that permit abortion only to save the life of a woman, such as the Irish law, are clinically unworkable and ethically unacceptable.

Savita's tragic death has caused outrage across Ireland and beyond. Activists are calling for urgent action. Vigils and protests are underway in Belfast, Cork, Galway and Dublin and protests are to take place outside the Irish Embassy in London.

Urgent call for action to protest against death of woman refused abortion in Ireland

Date: 15 November 2012
Source: International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion

Following the tragic and unnecessary death of Savita Halappanavar, a pregnant woman who died after being refused an abortion during a miscarriage, there are worldwide calls on the Irish government to amend the law.

Please sign and send the e-mail below to the following:

Taoiseach Enda Kenny (Irish Prime Minister)
cc: Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore (Irish Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs)


Copy also to the Irish Embassy in your country.

Re: Death of Savita Halappanavar in Galway

Honourable Taoiseach,

We are writing to you to express our concern about the recent death of Savita Halappanavar, who was repeatedly denied an abortion in Galway. This tragic case demonstrates once again that the prohibition of abortion in Ireland is not just undermining the autonomy of the women across the country, it is leading to unacceptable suffering and even death.

Savita Halappanavar made repeated requests for an abortion after presenting at University Hospital Galway on 21 October while miscarrying during the 17th week of her pregnancy. Her requests were refused, and she died one week later after several days in agonising pain and distress.

The situation of Savita Halappanavar provides the clearest possible evidence that laws that permit abortion only to save the life of a woman, such as the Irish law, are clinically unworkable and ethically unacceptable. There are numerous clinical situations in which a serious risk posed to a pregnant woman's health may become a risk to her life, and delaying emergency action only increases that risk. There is only one way to know if a woman's life is at risk: wait until she has died. Medical practitioners must be empowered by law to intervene on the grounds of risk to life and health, rather than wait for a situation to deteriorate.

You will be aware that the European Court of Human Rights, as well as a number of United Nations human rights bodies, have called upon the Irish government to bring its abortion law in line with international human rights standards. Had these calls been heeded before now, the death of Savita Halappanavar would have been prevented.

With the death of Savita Halappanavar, Ireland joins the ranks of countries worldwide where abortion is denied to women and leads to their deaths.

We call on your government to take urgent and decisive steps to reform the legislation that led to the death of Savita Halappanavar. Until the Irish legal system is reformed the lives, health and autonomy of women across Ireland are in jeopardy.

Yours faithfully,


Central and Eastern European NGOs call for sexual and reproductive rights

Date: 15 November 2012
Source: ASTRA

The Warsaw Call to Action is the outcome document of a meeting of 28 sexual and reproductive health and rights activists representing 17 countries of Central and Eastern Europe, which was organized by ASTRA Central and Eastern European Women’s Network for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.

The activists gathered in October in Warsaw to develop a strategy for monitoring compliance with the ICPD in 2014 and after. The Call to Action calls on governments in central and Eastern Europe, UNFPA and development partners to ensure that sexual and reproductive rights and the region of Central and Eastern Europe are meaningfully included in the ICPD+20 review process.

The Call to Action can be viewed here. To support the call, please send your endorsement to federa@astra.org.pl.

Anti-homosexuality bill could be passed before end of year, Uganda

Date: 13 November 2012 
Source: PLUS News

Uganda's parliament will pass, before Christmas, a highly controversial bill which seeks more stringent punishments for people engaging in homosexual acts and those perceived to be "promoting" homosexuality, says the speaker of the house.

The speaker made this announcement while receiving a joint petition from religious leaders, civil society and anti-gay activists who asked parliament to pass the bill as a "Christmas gift" to the country.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill has received strong international criticism. In 2011 the initial proposed bill was redrafted to remove a proposed death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality". This has been replaced with life imprisonment. The bill has a clause requiring people in authority to report homosexual activities they are aware of within 24 hours or face jail.

Activists have decried the bill, saying it is a violation of human rights and will make men who have sex with men even less willing to access health services, including HIV care.

Experts have challenged the constitutionality of the bill, claiming that it infringes on the right to privacy and freedom of expression and choice and that there are already laws on defilement, rape and indecent assault to address issues of forced sexual assault.

Age-related abortion incidence and trends

Date: 13 November 2012
Source: International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health

A recent study, by the Guttmacher Institute, reviews data from 40 countries where legal abortion is generally available to find age-specific abortion rates and percentage distributions of abortion by age between 1996 and 2003.

Abortion is more common among women in their 20s than among women of other ages and adolescents account for a smaller share of abortions than their share of the population in most of the countries surveyed.

Abortion rates among women aged 20–24 were particularly high in the United States (40 per 1,000) and in Northern European countries such as Sweden (33) and Estonia (34). Among European countries, the highest adolescent abortion rate (22 per 1,000) was found in England and Wales, followed by Sweden (21). The lowest rates were found in Germany and Slovakia (6).


Male circumcision - mixed results in East Africa

Date: 6 November
Source: Plus News and IRIN News

More than 380,000 Ugandan men have been circumcised in the last two years as part the government's HIV prevention efforts. Just over one-quarter of Ugandan men are circumcised. The target is to circumcise 4.2 million in order to halve the country's HIV incidence, which has been rising in recent years.

The government has announced plans to scale the programme up and is considering lowering the target age to 12 years, hoping to reach boys and their parents through school programmes.

owever, there has also been criticism about the slow pace of circumcision, lack of effective linkages between surgical male circumcision and other HIV services and, not least, mixed messages from government, including Uganda's president.

The challenges of a weak and under-resourced public health sector are also constraining success in neighbouring Kenya. Kenya has just over one year left to achieve its target of circumcising 1.1 million men. Some medical male circumcision programmes are piloting the use of

US study shows free birth control means fewer abortions and teen births

Date: 5 November 2012
Source: Ottawa Citizen 

A new US study has found that free birth control led to dramatically lower rates of abortions and teen births. The study, by Washington University in St. Louis, tracked more than 9,000 women in St. Louis, many of them poor or uninsured. They were given their choice of a range of contraceptive methods at no cost, including oral contraceptive pills, interuterine devices and contraceptive implants.

When price was not an issue, the vast majority of women selected contraceptive implants - the most effective contraceptive available. The effect on teen pregnancy was striking, with 6.3 births per 1,000 teenagers in the study compared to a national teenage birth rate of 34 births per 1,000 in 2010. There also were substantially lower rates of abortion, with 4.4 to 7.5 abortions per 1,000 women in the study, compared with 13.4 to 17 abortions per 1,000 women overall in the St. Louis region and almost 20 abortions per 1,000 women nationally.

If the programme were expanded, one abortion could be prevented for every 79 to 137 women given a free contraceptive choice.

The study reinforces the new health policy in which Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptives be available for free for women enrolled in most workplace insurance plans.

Training programme on sexuality and political change

Date: 1 November 2012
Source: Sexuality Policy Watch

Call for applications - sexuality and political change training programme

Sexuality Policy Watch will be hosting a training programme on sexuality research, with a focus on the linkages and gaps between sexuality research and social and policy change. Course content includes topics such as HIV, LGBT rights, laws and policies affecting transgender persons, abortion and contraception, sexuality education, and sex work.

The training program will be held in Rio de Janeiro, during the week of March 18-24, 2013.

IMPORTANT: Applicants must be fluent in English.

DEADLINE: The deadline for applications is 22 December 2012.

To learn more about the candidate’s profile and to access the application form, please, visit the training programme's webpage.

More awareness needed on post-exposure HIV prophylaxis, Spain

Date: 2 November 2012
Source: aidsmap

Only a third of gay men and one in six heterosexual people who came forward for a rapid HIV community testing programme were aware of post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), a Spanish study has found.

PEP involves starting a course of HIV therapy, usually for one month, as soon as possible after a high-risk exposure to HIV in order to prevent an infection becoming established. Studies suggest PEP can prevent at least four out of five infections if started within 48 hours of exposure.

The level of knowledge in Spain is low compared to over half of gay men knowing about PEP in the UK in 2007 and near universal knowledge amongst gay men in Australia in 2005. This is despite PEP being freely available in hospital emergency departments in Spain since 1998. There has been no public awareness campaign about PEP in Spain, in contrast to the UK and Australia, and people are only going to find out about it from a doctor when they go for an HIV test.

Knowledge of PEP in heterosexual people was largely dependent on their having been tested for HIV, with people who had more than one HIV test being twice as likely to know about it than those who had never tested. Gay men were statistically no more likely to have taken PEP than heterosexuals, although numbers are so small as to make meaningful comparisons difficult.

Free 24-hour obstetric care key to maternal mortality drop, Sierra Leone

Date: 22 November 2012
Source: IRIN News

Maternal mortality rates have dropped 61% since 1990 in Bo, Sierra Leone - in large part due to cost-free 24/7 emergency obstetric care and an efficient ambulance service and referral system.

Bo's maternal mortality rate is 351 women dying per 100,000 live births, compared to the national figure of 890 women dying per 100,000 live births. Sierra Leone has the world's fourth-highest maternal mortality rate.

The hospital, run by Medecins Sans Frontieres, offers a comprehensive emergency obstetric and neonatal package and, most importantly, provides the transport for women to get to the hospital.

The programme currently costs $9 million a year to run, so there must be significant awareness-raising of the problem of maternal mortality and support to enable the programme to become sustainable.

New EU law to protect victims of crime due to sexual orientation

Date: 1 November 2012
Source: ASTRA

The European Parliament has agreed on a new Directive on the rights guaranteed to victims of crime in the EU. It provides specific assistance and protection to people who suffered crime because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

The Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime now says victims should receive appropriate assistance and protection. This will be determined on the basis of 'the personal characteristics of the victim such as his or her age, gender and gender identity or expression, ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, health, disability, residence status, communication difficulties, relationship to or dependence on the offender and previous experience of crime.'

This is the first time EU law mentions gender expression.

EU Member States will now have three years to transpose the Directive into their national law. For more information on this law, see the European Parliament website information.

Southern African governments fail to address cervical cancer

Date: 31 October 2012
Source: IRIN News

A recent study by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) claims that governments' attempts to address cervical cancer have been inadequate. Access to cervical cancer screening services is minimal, few countries in the region have policies on the disease and treatment remains a major challenge. The report warns that failure to provide cervical cancer prevention and treatment services is a violation of fundamental rights and has led to the loss of countless lives.

Southern African countries lack clear, comprehensive national cervical cancer management guidelines and policies. Where guidance is available, it tends to be inadequate, focusing on screening, with limited guidance about other forms of prevention or treatments. The report's author, Nyasha Chingore, commends Botswana as one of the few countries with a broad, accessible cervical cancer policy. As a result, screenings have increased from 5,000 per year before 2002 to 32,000 per year in 2009.

There is significant misinformation about the disease and its treatment. During field research in Namibia, most of the young women interviewed reported being informed incorrectly by healthcare workers that contraceptives cause cervical cancer or are a risk factor for the illness. Treatment options are limited, with hysterectomy being the most prevalent form of treatment. Although it should be possible to introduce widespread vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV) - a sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical cancer - Zambia and Lesotho are the only countries in the region rolling out free HPV vaccination programmes. The cost of the vaccines has made it difficult for countries to introduce vaccination campaigns and the report calls for new policies, such as parallel importation or compulsory licensing to reduce costs.

SALC urges southern Africa governments to integrate cervical cancer screening into existing sexual and reproductive health services, to allocate adequate resources to the management of cervical cancer, and to establish cancer registries to assess the impact of cervical cancer screening programmes.


Poland must pay damages to raped girl who was denied abortion

Date: 1 November 2012
Source: ASTRA

The European Court of Human Rights has determined that Poland violated the European Convention on Human Rights when a teenage girl who was pregnant as a result of rape was denied legal abortion in several hospitals and initially faced charges of illegal intercourse.

The girl was placed in a juvenile home to separate her from her parents who allegedly encouraged her to have an abortion, she was forced to speak with a priest, and a hospital released details of the case to the media including personal information. She finally managed to undergo the procedure in a hospital 500 km away from her home.

The court held that Poland was to pay Euro 30,000 damages to the girl and additional money to cover the cost and expenses of the applicants.

Transactional sex makes women more likely to become HIV positive, South Africa

Date: 1 November 2012
Source: aidsmap

Young South African women who engage in sex or have relationships partially motivated by economic gain are more likely to become infected with HIV. The same study has previously showed that women who had a violent partner or who were relatively powerless in a relationship were more likely subsequently to acquire HIV.
The authors argue that HIV prevention programmes need to find ways to help young women to avoid gender inequity, violence and transactional relationships.

The data comes from a cohort of young women recruited to evaluate the impact of the HIV prevention programme, Stepping Stones. When a woman reported that part of her motivation for having a sexual relationship was that she expected her partner to provide cash, food, cosmetics, clothes, transport, a bed for the night or to do some handyman work, the risk of acquiring HIV was double that of other women. This finding was true even after adjusting the findings for other factors which are known to influence HIV incidence (including condom use, age, herpes infection, relationship inequity and intimate partner violence). The risk is increased even after considering the age difference in sexual partners. The authors suggest financial and material vulnerabilities may introduce a particular type of vulnerability into sexual relations.

For many of the participants, obtaining and keeping boyfriends was a central pursuit. Some women were proud of what they had been given, as it reflected their own desirability as well as their boyfriends' prosperity and status. But many desperately needed the items and money they received, although it was often inadequate for their needs. When dating, women had considerable agency and took care in choosing a partner they felt able to submit to. But once relationships were underway, agency was usually lost. Most tolerated their partners’ violent and controlling behaviour, and were publicly obedient and respectful.

Norway legal commission increases risk of criminal prosecution for HIV transmission

Date: 20 October 2012
Source: aidsmap 

The Norwegian Commission on HIV and the Law has issued recommendations to the government that will strengthen the options the state has to prosecute individuals who infect, or expose others to, HIV.

The law in place at present was established in 1902 and was intended to be used against people who negligently or deliberately spread contagious diseases such as tuberculosis but has only ever been used in cases involving HIV, apart from one case in the 1930s.

HIV activists had campaigned for the law to be revised, hoping that this would restrict HIV transmission prosecutions to clearly deliberate ones or at least only to transmission rather than exposure. However, the commission rejected a proposal to abolish disease-specific legislation and to use the general law on assault, as is the case in the UK, by an eleven-to-one majority. They also recommended, by a nine-to-two majority, the retention of a criminal offence of HIV exposure - meaning that transmission would not be necessary in order for there to be a crime. The commission makes one major concession by saying that no offence would be committed when condoms are used. This differs from the recent Canadian court ruling that condom use alone was not a sufficient defence.

Draft female genital cutting resolution sent to United Nations

Date: 25 October 2012
Date: Trust Law

African member states of the United Nations have submitted a draft resolution on ending female genital mutilation (FGM) to the UN General Assembly, in what campaigners have hailed as a landmark step to end a practice that has been inflicted on up to 140 million women and girls.

The draft resolution urges states to 'condemn all harmful practices that affect women and girls, in particular female genital mutilations... and to take all necessary measures, including enacting and enforcing legislation to prohibit female genital mutilations and to protect women and girls from this form of violence, and to end impunity'. It calls on states to implement laws against FGM and support these with education campaigns. It also urges states to train medical personnel, social workers and religious and community leaders to help prevent FGM and report cases to the authorities where they believe girls are at risk.

Although 19 of the 28 African countries where FGM is practiced do have laws against it, these are poorly enforced. Somalia, where FGM is near universal, banned the practice under its new provisional constitution in August.

Campaigners hope the draft resolution will be adopted in December. Although it will not be enforceable, the fact it has been initiated by African countries will give the resolution more weight.

HIV treatment initiation during pregnancy may increase risk of pre-term birth

Date: 31 October 2012
Source: aidsmap

A study of 33,000 pregnant women in Botswana has found that starting HIV treatment during pregnancy
may increase the risk of having a pre-term delivery, a small baby and stillbirth. The researchers found that taking combination treatment increased the risk of adverse birth outcomes by between 40% and 80%. Taking only one antiretroviral drug (zidovudine on its own) was also associated with an increased risk of complications, but to a lesser degree. However, the researchers stress that caution is needed when interpreting their results. For instance, many of the women were ill with malaria or tuberculosis, which will have also affected birth outcomes.

Assassination attempt on life of Congolese sexual violence activist

Date: 26 October 2012
Source: Guardian

Dr Denis Mukwege is a human rights activist who has tirelessly campaigned against sexual violence. He is founder and medical director of Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo, where he and his staff have helped treat over 30,000 survivors of sexual violence.

This week he was held up at gunpoint by armed men who broke into his home. The men shot at him when arriving at home and killed a security guard who attempted to alert neighbours. Dr Mukwege was shot at but escaped injury while the attackers escaped in the doctor's car.

Last month, Dr Mukwege gave a speech at the United Nations in which he denounced the country's 16 years of violent conflict and called for 'urgent action to arrest those responsible for these crimes against humanity and to bring them to justice.' Activists are calling on the DRC government to immediately ensure his safety and are calling on other governments and the AU to monitor the situation and to ensure Dr Mukwege's safety.

Northern Ireland's first abortion clinic opens

Date: 26 October 2012
Source: International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion

Marie Stopes has opened a clinic in Belfast, making abortion available for women in Northern Ireland for the first time. The services available remain limited - abortions will only be available in exceptional circumstances to women less than nine weeks pregnant. However, this is a significant success in the slow but steady move toward women’s reproductive and sexual health rights in Northern Ireland, the only part of the United Kingdom where women are not able to access abortion.

Jamaica urged to reconsider abortion law by CEDAW

Date: 1 October 2012
Source: Jamaica Observer

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has asked Jamaica to reconsider the criminalisation of abortion in cases where a pregnancy is a result of a rape or incest or in cases where it poses a threat to a woman's health and life.

Abortion is currently a criminal act for all women. In a recent hearing at CEDAW's 52nd session, the Committee said it was concerned that abortion is wholly illegal. Current Jamaican law does not make a distinction in cases of pregnancies resulting from rape, incest and threats to a woman's health and life. The Jamaican delegation note that the parliamentary committee that was convened to look at the possible amendment to the existing legislation has not yet been able to reach a decision.

The Committee
recommends that Jamaica strengthens the monitoring and data collection on women's access to health care, including data on incidence of unsafe abortions. The Committee also suggested that there be free and adequate access to contraceptives so as to improve the access and quality of sexual and reproductive health services for women and girls.

Engaging men and boys in transforming discriminatory social norms

Date: 22 October 2012
Source: Sonke Gender Justice

Sonke Gender Justice Network, Men for Gender Equality Sweden, the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Wikigender are starting a new online discussion on the topic of 'Engaging Men and Boys in Transforming Discriminatory Social Norms'.

A summary report will be presented at the 2012 Social Institutions and Gender Index seminar on 13 November.

You are encouraged to make contributions, especially on the following:

What are the opportunities and challenges for engaging men and boys in promoting gender equality? How can men and boys be persuaded that gender equality also benefits them?

In your area/region, what are examples of successful programmes in engaging men and boys in transforming discriminatory social norms? (e.g. socio-cultural practices, caring responsibilities, employment rights, gender- based violence)

What actions should governments, donors, UN bodies and civil society take to support the engagement of men and boys in achieving gender equality?

The discussion will be open for comments starting on Monday October 22nd until October 31st. Join in on this website or by use the hashtag #engagingmen to promote the discussion on Twitter.


Argentina's Supreme Court rules abortion for raped woman

Date: 12 October 2012
ource: Montreal Gazette

Argentina's Supreme Court has ruled that a woman rescued from a prostitution ring must get the abortion she wants.

Argentina allows legal abortions in rape cases or to protect a woman's health. But often cases are blocked, despite a Supreme Court ruling in March that was supposed to remove barriers to abortion. In this case, the woman was freed from a prostitution ring and is in protection by the courts. In her case, approval for an abortion was overturned by a judge who said that there was no proof of rape, even though the woman had been kidnapped and forced into prostitution.

The High Court`s ruling urged public health officials to urgently end the pregnancy. The ruling, signed by six of the seven justices, also blames the Buenos Aires mayor and the judge who intervened, saying they revealed details that enabled anti-abortion protesters to converge on the public hospital where she was awaiting the procedure, and later on her private home as well. The mayor now faces lawsuits for initiating the controversy by in a speech that mobilised anti-abortion forces to hunt her down. The judge in the case also faces both judicial and criminal investigations for allegedly disobeying the higher court.

Health Ministry data show 80,000 women are hospitalised with complications from illegal abortions in Argentina each year.

PrEP - cost-effective but not enough to slash HIV rates

Date: 12 October 2012
Source: aidsmap news

A detailed modelling study that assesses the impact and cost-effectiveness of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) finds that it could be very cost-effective in terms of the price of an extra year of healthy life for an individual taking it.
However, its absolute cost is likely to restrict its use to only the highest-risk individuals in a population, and this may mean it may only make a minor impact on HIV incidence.

These are the effects forecast amongst men who have sex with men and transgender women in Lima, Peru. The site was chosen as the base for the model because it featured the highest number of enrolments to the iPrEx study, the first of several studies to report significant efficacy. The trial cut HIV infections by 44%, even though only half of trial participants took enough doses of PrEP for it to work.

The model finds that, as might be expected, the number of infections prevented goes up if coverage is increased. But it also finds that the efficiency of the PrEP programme in cost per infection averted decreases. This is because at low coverage levels, targeting is more effective so more infections are averted per PrEP recipient.

Overall, the study concludes that PrEP could be a cost-effective intervention, even using quite strict criteria, in a middle-income country if targeted at the gay male population and especially at its highest-risk members. The model finds that some concerns about PrEP, such as behaviour change and drug resistance, are not crucial to is effectiveness.

The biggest limiting factor to PrEP will be its sheer cost relative to other prevention methods. The researchers comment that in a country like Peru where 100% HIV treatment coverage for those who need it has not yet been achieved, it would not be ethical to finance a national rollout of PrEP.

Reference: Gomez GB et al. The potential impact of pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV prevention among men who have sex with men and transwomen in Lima, Peru: a mathematical modelling study. PLoS Medicine 9(10): doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001323. 2012.

The full open-access paper can be viewed here.


Microbicide Campaign transitions to new partnerships

Date: 11 October 2012
Source: PATH 

The Global Campaign for Microbicides (GCM) has now officially closed. GCM staff thank all their supports and acknowledge and celebrate the outstanding accomplishments made by GCM over fourteen years of working on behalf of women around the world to advocate for new HIV prevention options.

GCM succeeded in focusing world attention on the critical need for new HIV prevention options, especially for women. Their awareness raising generated critical political pressure, resulting in increased global investment in microbicide development, whilst ensuring that the rights of trial participants, users and communities were represented and respected throughout the development process.

PATH will transition the management of two key GCM-led projects - the Community Involvement Community of Practice and the Microbicides Essentials e-course - to other partners. GCM publications will be housed on PATH's website and additional resources on women's HIV prevention methods can be found on AVAC's Research Literacy Database. Path will document and disseminate lessons learned from the GCM projects in the coming months.

Health in the post-2015 development agenda

Date: 11 October 2012
Source: World We Want 2015

World We Want 2015 is an open and inclusive consultation space. It aims to gather the priorities of people from every corner of the world and help build a collective vision that will be used directly by the United Nations and World Leaders to plan a new development agenda launching in 2015.

The health platform is open to discuss the role of health in the post 2015 development agenda. The website has background papers and meeting reports, online discussions and more. The idea is to draw a representative cross section of views and start to build consensus in five key areas: 

What are the lessons learnt from the health related MDGs?
- What is the priority health agenda for the 15 years after 2015?
- How does health fit in the post 2015 development agenda?
What are the best indicators and targets for health?
How can country ownership, commitment, capacity and accountability for the goals, targets and indicators be enhanced?

Read and comment on background papers and meeting reports, respond to the October call for papers, participate in online e-discussions and join in via Twitter using #health2015.

International Day of the Girl Child, Ending child marriage

Date: 11 October 2012
ource: Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development

Today is the UN International Day of the Girl Child. This year's theme is 'Ending Child Marriage'.

To mark the occasion, the Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development has launched a new toolkit and policy briefs - Child Marriage in Southern Asia - Policy Options for Action.

This document was produced as an initiative of the AFPPD Standing Committee of Male Parliamentarians on Prevention of Violence against Women and Girls, with technical support provided by UNFPA.

Jamaican men speak out against rape

Date: 11 October 2012
Source: International Sexual and Reproductive Rights Coalition

A new video, posted on YouTube shows a group of young actors speaking out against rape in Jamaica. The aim is to heighten the awareness of every young man, to "man up" and end violence against women.

The video can be viewed here on YouTube. 

People are encouraged to share through Facebook.


Empowering Nepali girls to reject marriage

Date: 11 October 2012
Source: UNFPA Asia Pacific Regional Office

UNFPA's Asia Pacific Office have released a video report and feature story to celebrate the the first International Day of the Girl Child.

The video, Let Girls Choose Their Future, highlights efforts to end child marriage in Nepal. Half of all girls in Nepal are married by age 18, but a growing number, empowered to defend their rights, are resisting child marriage.

The video tells stories of girls who have successfully challenged family plans to marry them at a young age. Through the programme, Choose Your Future, groups of girls learn that early childbearing endangers girls' health, and that child marriage is against the law. The video also shows the reality of many girls who have not been so lucky.

The video, and its launch on Day of the Girl Child, is accompanied by calls by UNFPA to scale up such efforts, empower girls and safeguard their rights, and allow them to stay in school.

The video can be viewed here.

Day of action to support women's human rights defenders in Honduras

Date: 10 October 2012
Source: AWID

The Meso-American Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders and other organisations in Central America, are organising a Day of Action on Thursday, October 11, 2012 in solidarity with women human rights defenders in Honduras, who are facing severe violence, criminalisation and other violations of their rights.
The initiative is requesting statements of solidarity or endorsements of the call to action to be presented at embassies.

Since the coup d'etat in June 2009, a climate of total impunity has pervaded Honduras, making it one of the most dangerous places in the world to practice journalism or defend human rights.

- Femicide increased by 257% between 2002 and 2010.
- Between 2010 and 2011, seven women human rights defenders were assassinated and thousands had faced sexual assaults, beatings and arbitrary arrests at the hands of state security forces. 
- Emergency contraception has been prohibited and the ban on therapeutic abortion continues.
- W
omen from indigenous and rural communities have been brutally evicted along with their families.
- Indigenous Misquita women have been assassinated by affiliates of the Department of State.

More information on the situation in Honduras is available here.

Call for papers: addressing unmet family planning need

Date: 8 October 2012
Source: International Union for the Scientific Study of Population

Call for papers, international seminar

Is access enough? Understanding and addressing unmet need in family planning
Nanyuki, Kenya, 14-16 May 2013

Organised by: the IUSSP Scientific Panel on Reproductive Health in collaboration with the Strengthening Evidence for Programming on Unintended Pregnancy (STEP UP) consortium, Population Council and the African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP).

This seminar will bring together scientists, policy makers, and programme managers to present and discuss a range of issues relating to the definition, determinants and consequences of unmet need in family planning and programme interventions designed specifically to reduce unmet need in groups at high risk.

The IUSSP Panel on Reproductive Health invites scientists, policy makers, and programme managers to submit online by 20 December 2012 a short 200-word abstract and upload an extended (2-4 pp., including tables) or a full paper, which must be unpublished and not already submitted to a journal for publication. To submit, please fill out the online submission form on the IUSSP website.

Submission should be made by the author who will attend the seminar.

The working language of the seminar will be English. Abstracts and final papers should therefore be submitted and presented in English. Abstracts/papers that are submitted must be original, describe data collection procedures and use rigorous analytical techniques. Applicants will be notified whether their submission has been accepted by 20 January 2013. In the case of acceptance on the basis of an abstract, the completed paper must be uploaded on the IUSSP website by 20 April 2013.

For further information please contact seminar organiser, Sarah Harbison (sharbison@usaid.gov).  

A full announcement for this seminar is available at the IUSSP website and Population Council website.


Supreme Court of Canada allows criminal HIV transmission even when condoms used

Date: 8 October 2012
Source: aidsmap news

The Supreme Court of Canada stated on 5 October 2012 that individuals who know they are HIV positive are liable to criminal prosecution for aggravated sexual assault if they do not disclose this fact prior to sex that may risk a "realistic possibility of transmission of HIV".

The decision is a major step backward for those fighting for the rights of people living with HIV.
The unanimous decision rejected the Government's argument that there should be a blanket law requiring people with HIV to disclose regardless of the risk, stating that the duty for an HIV-positive individual to disclose can be exempted, but only when a condom is used and the individual also has a low viral load.

Non-disclosure (regardless of whether this is active deceit or simply no verbal discussion of HIV risk) will continue to be treated as fraud that invalidates consent to sex. If it can also be shown that the sexual partner would not have consented had they known the accused was HIV positive, this is considered aggravated sexual assault, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and registration as a sex offender.

A coalition of HIV and human rights organisations led by the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, which acted as interveners in the two cases, issued a statement saying it was shocked and dismayed at the ruling, calling the decision "a major step backwards for public health and human rights".

UN vote for 'traditional values' threat to human rights

Date: 5 October 2012
Source: Information.dk

The Human Rights Council has voted in favour of a resolution that legitimises the use of 'traditional values' to promote human rights. The resolution, put forward by Russia and adopted on 27 September, highlights the important role of 'family' and calls for 'a better understanding of humanity's traditional values'. In the resolution, no definition is given as to how this concept should be understood.

resolution was adopted by 25 votes to 15 members, with seven abstentions. Those voting against the resolution were European countries, the United States, Botswana, Costa Rica and Mauritius.

Human rights lawyers argue that the resolution goes directly against UN rights conventions and is wide open to abuse, given the wide range of options for interpreting 'traditional values'.
The implications are serious for the reproductive and sexual rights of women, girls and sexual minorities.

Russia is intent on trying to influence and change the debate on whether homosexuals should enjoy protection by human rights, according to a senior researcher from Human Rights Watch in Russia. "It is an attempt to gain international approval of homophobic initiatives and to forge alliances with other countries that also discriminate against homosexuals".

The UN resolution can be downloaded here. Details on the votes and individual country positions can be accessed by scrolling down the page here

Appeal to overturn Costa Rica's IVF ban

Date: 5 October 2012
Source: San Francisco Chronicle

Costa Rican women are appealing to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to overturn a national law banning in-vitro fertilisation, which was introduced in 2011.

The state's national ombudsman, Ofelia Taitelbaum, initiated the appeal on the grounds that this is about ensuring rights that are appropriate for our times.

More than three quarters of Costa Rica’s population identify themselves as Roman Catholic. The Vatican openly opposes in-vitro fertilisation.

Global database on health and human rights launched

Date: 4 October 2012
Source: Health and Human Rights Journal

The O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University, the World Health Organization and the Lawyers Collective will shortly be launching a searchable Global Health and Human Rights Database. The database will be organised in three categories: human rights, health topics, and regional scope. It will provide a map of the intersection of health and human rights in judgements, international and regional instruments and national constitutions.

This is an invaluable tool for those seeking to use litigation to enforce human rights and looking for examples of the international and domestic legal instruments that enshrine health-related rights.

An article descriving the database's content and development can be viewed in Health and Human Rights. The database will soon be available online.


UK government stops funding HIV helplines

Date: 4 October 2012
Source: aidsmap news

The UK Department of Health has ended its support for the telephone helplines operated by four national organisations - Terrence Higgins Trust, Black Health Agency, fpa and Brook - with funding instead diverted to a centralised operation run by the private company Serco.

Terrence Higgins Trust's THT Direct service has had a particular focus on signposting individuals to local and specialist services. Despite the loss of funding, the helpline will stay open, but with reduced staff and hours of operation. The sexual health charities fpa and Brook will maintain their helplines and seek alternate funding. The I Do It Right helpline, designed to provide HIV support to African people in England, closed last week.

The private company have been contracted to run a large number of helplines and contact centre services. Due to the limited funding available, there will be pressure on call centre staff to deal with calls quickly, often following standardised scripts. The current helplines were often helped by volunteers who have personal experience of HIV and have had a particular role in providing emotional support to callers.

Abortion law success but unwanted pregnancies continue, Kenya

Date: 3 October 2011
Source: IRIN News 

Kenya's new constitution, approved in 2010, permits abortion when authorised by a trained health professional for cases in which a woman's life or health are in danger or if it is permitted under any other written law.

However, so far sections of the penal code have not been revised to reflect the language in the new constitution, with the result that many medical providers remain reluctant to perform abortions for any reason for fear of legal consequences, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

The government must do more to enable women and girls to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Kenya's unmet family planning need is high - one in four currently married women in Kenya had an unmet need for family planning, according to the 2009 Demographic and Health Survey.

Despite availability of contraceptives through both public and private facilities, barriers remain. More needs to be done to ensure service delivery points have a choice of all methods and provide more awareness raising for both women and health workers in the positive benefits of modern family planning methods.

Global evidence of lower adherence to anti-HIV drugs after giving birth

Date: 2 October 2012
Source: aidsmap

A pooled analysis of 51 studies, involving over 20,000 women from the United States, Kenya, South Africa and Zambia between 1998 and 2011, finds that antiretroviral therapy adherence levels among pregnant women with HIV are significantly below what is recommended for viral suppression and prevention of drug resistance. This is so in both high- and low-income countries, during pregnancy and especially after giving birth Only 73.5% of pregnant women with HIV attained adequate adherence to ART during and after pregnancy (equal to or greater than 80%), with a greater proportion adhering during pregnancy than after giving birth. Around three quarters of women adhered during pregnancy, but only just over half (53%) after delivery.

Reported barriers included physical, economic and social stressors, depression (notably after giving birth), alcohol or drug use and frequency of dosage or number of pills. Disclosure of HIV status and strong social support was linked to high ART adherence.

With a move toward universal lifelong ART for all pregnant women with HIV, there is an increased risk of multi-drug resistance for both mother and child, compromising the safety and scale-up of these programmes. The authors stress the critical and urgent need to more effectively monitor adherence and develop evidence-based interventions to improve and/or maintain adherence.

Preventing maternal deaths in Nigeria

Date: 3 October 2012
Source: Women's Health and Action Research Centre

At the recent Olikoye Ransome-Kuti Memorial Lecture, Professor Kelsey Harrison outlined significant events in the struggle against maternal mortality and vesico-vaginal fistula in Nigeria.

The Zaria Maternity Survey in 1973 was one of the first events that highlighted high maternal mortality and outlined key steps for action. Despite progress over the past thirty years, rates are still high but the lecture highlights some positive opportunities. These include the rise in numbers of researchers wlling to gather and apply data on maternal mortality, the positive lessons emerging from the Abiye Project which has established a functioning health care system for maternal and child health at local government area. The lecture calls for greater political will to address some of the challenges and conflicts in addressing these two huge causes of death and illness for Nigerian women.

CEDAW questions institutional violence in Chile and Togo

Date: 1 October 2012
Source: UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

CEDAW met this week to discuss the situation of the rights of women in Chile and Togo. The reports of the two countries will be reviewed by the Committee this week.

Chilean NGO representatives raised concerns about institutional violence against students in Chile, including sexual violence by State actors, and cases of indigenous women and women deprived of their liberty. Other issues included inadequate sexual education programmes for teenagers, teenage pregnancy and abortion inequality between rich and poor women, the estimated 160,000 illegal abortions conducted every year in Chile and discrimination faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.

Togolese NGO representatives reported on problems that women face, including access to maternal and infant healthcare and a very worrying scale of violence in all forms against women and girls that included rape, incest and early marriage. Penal code reform and improved access to healthcare for women were vital. Discrimination faced by rural women, such as access to food and land ownership, was also raised.

The reports will be reviewed by the Committee on 3 and 4 October.

Publication: Positive health impacts through HIV programming

Date: 1 October 2012
Source: UK Consortium on AIDS and International Development

A newly launched policy brief outlines the positive impact that HIV programming can bring to broader health issues, including reproductive and sexual health.

The report outlines how the HIV response has impacted positively on all the key building blocks of health systems - including health service delivery, access to medicines, health workforces, health information systems, health systems financing and leadership and governance. Examples include uptake in sexual and reproductive health services in the Caribbean and Africa and innovative means of increasing budget accountability and transparency at facility and local government level. These, and the many other examples in the report, are useful lessons for reproductive and sexual health advocates. However, although there is evidence of overall greater funding for health systems, gains elsewhere are not reflected in the reproductive health sector.

The brief concludes that we now need to capitalise on this potential for broader impact to a greater extent, with increased cross-sector collaboration to improve results for a wide range of pressing health issues. There must be continued and greater attention by HIV-focused NGOs and agencies to health system strengthening, translating lessons from HIV in ways that make them applicable to others. For reproductive and sexual health advocates, these lessons are paramount.

Human Rights Council adopts resolution on maternal mortality and morbidity

Date: 29 September 2012
Source: Center for Reproductive Rights

A ground-breaking resolution was adopted on 28 September 2012 by the UN's Human Rights Council in which states reaffirmed their commitment to addressing the root causes of preventable maternal deaths and disability.

The resolution delivers a clear message that attempts to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity will be insufficient and ineffective if the key principles of a human rights approach - accountability, participation, transparency, empowerment, sustainability, international cooperation and non-discrimination - are not applied.

An unprecedented number of countries (over 90) co-sponsored the resolution, demonstrating that States' commitment is consolidating and deepening. The resolution moves beyond theory to addressing practical implementation of a rights-based approach and requests the High Commissioner to prepare a report on how the technical guidance has been applied by States and other relevant actors, to be presented to the Human Rights Council at its twenty-seventh session.

Although there were moves from a number of countries to amend the resolution, the co-sponsors did not accept any dilution of the resolution.

The full resolution, with a list of co-sponsors, can be viewed and downloaded here.

28 September - International Day of Action for the Decriminalisation of Abortion

This day of action is co-ordinated by the International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion, the Latin American and Caribbean Campaña 28 de Septiembre, and the Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights. We call for action in every country in support of women's right to safe abortion as a public health and human rights issue.

In every world region, in as many as 50 countries, abortion rights groups, women's health and rights and human rights groups and other NGOs, as well as national coalitions, regional networks and international organisations who support safe abortion have responded to this call.

This global map gives a snapshot of all the activities taking place and will continue to be updated.

Reports from around the world of these activities can be found at: http://safe-abortion-womens-right.tumblr.com/archive

These activities include: public meetings, press conferences, demonstrations, debates, information days, solidarity campaigns, parliamentary lobbying, street theatre, flash mobs, discussion groups, tweetathons, blogs, reports, book launches, radio and TV programmes, films, videos, festivals, values clarification workshops, creating artwork and selling bags/shirts/hats with slogans on them, distributing informative newsletters and leaflets, and holding local and community-based awareness-raising activities.

The International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion was launched in April 2012. It has been endorsed by more than 620 groups and individuals all over the world in just a few months. We believe in and advocate for safe and legal abortion as a woman's human right. Women must be able to take decisions about their own bodies and health care free from coercion: this includes the decision to carry a pregnancy to term or seek an abortion. No woman should be obliged to continue an unwanted pregnancy.

* Women's human rights should be respected, protected and fulfilled.

* No woman's health or life should be placed at risk because safe abortion services are not available to her.

* Abortion should not be restricted, prohibited or criminalised.

Read the full statement from the Campaign for 28 September.

Join us on Twitter : @Safeabortion1

We invite everyone who supports women's right to safe abortion to join the Campaign: safeabortionwomensright@icma.md

No HIV response in South East Asia without women and girls

Date: 27 September 2012
Source: Asia Pacific Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

Young women, female sex workers, transgender women, women who use drugs and women living with HIV have called on the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to support women and girls living with and affected by HIV at ASEAN's recent consultative meeting on HIV and key affected women and girls, held last week in Lao PDR.

Women and girls from civil society, including communities representing the voices from young women, female sex workers, transgender women, women who use drugs and women living with HIV, came together under the umbrella of a new platform, Unzip the Lips. Working as a united movement, they played a leading role in the development of recommendations arising from the meeting. Delegates committed to repealing punitive laws and ensuring that existing laws, regulations and policies of ASEAN Member States address the rights of key affected women and girls affected by HIV and AIDS.

The full recommendations are available here.

Uruguay narrowly votes to legalise abortion

Date: 26 September 2012
Source: Guardian

In a groundbreaking move, Uruguay's lower house of parliament has passed a measure to give women the right to a legal abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, 14 weeks in the case of rape, and decriminalise later-term abortions when the mother's life is at risk or when the foetus is so deformed that it would not survive. The measure must now go back to the Senate for approval of changes, but the President has said he will allow it to become law.

The measure was passed by the narrowest of margins - 50 to 49 votes. Uruguay is the second country in Latin America, after Cuba, to make abortions accessible to all women during the first trimester of pregnancy.

However, many challenges remain. Compromises made to get the measure through Congress include the requirement that women seeking abortions must go before a review panel of at least three professionals - a gynaecologist, psychologist and social worker - to explain her request and listen to advice about alternatives including adoption and support services should she decide to keep the baby - the father's point of view can only be presented with the woman’s consent. Then she must wait five more days -to reflect' on the consequences before the procedure. Women under 18 must show parental consent, but they can seek approval from a judge if they are unwilling or unable to involve their parents in the decision. The measure allows individual healthcare providers and private health institutions to decline to perform abortions. This is likely to generate layers of bureaucracy, which could delay abortions until more than 12 weeks have passed, especially given the opposition of many professionals to women's right to abortion. The struggle for women's right to choose continues.

Namibian government appeals forced sterilisation judgement

Date: 27 September 2012
Source: The Namibian

The Namibian government has lodged an appeal against the High Court ruling which found the government liable to compensate three HIV-positive women who claimed to have been sterilised in State hospitals without having properly consented to the procedure.

If the appeal succeeds, the case would be closed. If the appeal is dismissed, the case will return to the High Court for a decision about what amount of money the women should be paid as compensation. The women are currently each claiming N$1 million (about US$$90,000) for having been sterilised without their informed consent. An additional claim for HIV-related discrimination was dismissed. A date still has to be set for the hearing of the appeal.


Updated HIV website: What Works for Women & Girls

Date: 25 September 2012
Source: Health Policy Project

What Works for Women & Girls is the updated comprehensive website that documents the evidence for effective HIV interventions to guide donors, policymakers and programme managers in planning effective HIV policies and programmes for women and girls.

The updated site has the latest evidence to 2012, including nearly 3,000 articles and reports with data from nearly 100 countries. Sections include a range of sexual and reproductive health-related information, including prevention for key affected groups of women and young people, meeting of the sexual and reproductive health needs of women living with HIV, safe motherhood and prevention of vertical transmission, strengthening the enabling environment, including transforming gender norms, legal norms and reducing violence against women and structuring of health services to meet women's needs.

What Works complements existing guidelines from international agencies and is designed to spur national governments, donors and civil society to consult the evidence base when designing programmes and to set a research agenda based on critical gaps for women and girls.


Call to support the Human Rights Council Resolution on Preventable Maternal Mortality and Morbidity

Date: 25 September 2012
Source: Action Canada for Population and Development

A resolution was tabled on 24 September at the Human Rights Council, entitled’"Preventable maternal mortality and morbidity and human rights’. Its lead co-sponsors are New Zealand, Colombia and Burkina Faso.

The resolution focuses on the recent Technical Guidance produced by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on a human rights-based approach to the implementation of policies and programmes to reduce preventable maternal mortality and morbidity.

The resolution calls on governments to disseminate and apply the Technical Guidance. The resolution represents the culmination of five years of work to put the issue of preventable maternal mortality and morbidity on the intergovernmental human rights agenda, to examine the human rights dimensions of the issue including the need for accountability and to give guidance to governments on how policies and programmes can be grounded in human rights standards and principles.

A few delegations (in particular, Egypt, Morocco and Algeria) are seeking to weaken the text significantly. There have already been a number of concessions to them.

We need as many Governments as possible to co-sponsor the text and as soon as possible to prevent any further weakening of the text. 

he debates start on 26 September so action is urgent.

You can contact your own government's foreign or health ministry officials now asking them to co-sponsor this UN Human Rights Council draft resolution. You can also contact your permanent missions in Geneva directly by phone, fax or email with the same request for support.

When tabled, the resolution had 59 co-sponsors. These governments do NOT need to be approached. However, any UN Member State not on this list should be contacted. A list of the 59 states is available on AWID`s website here.

The following countries are governments who have previously co-sponsored resolutions on this topic but who have not yet co-sponsored this one - if you are from one of these countries, please do your best to urge them to sign this resolution.

Algeria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritius, Morocco, Panama, Moldova, Rwanda, Senegal, Singapore, Switzerland, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Uganda, Ukraine, United States of America, Burundi, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, South Africa, Togo, Angola, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Cameroon, Cuba, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Paraguay, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, Vietnam, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

For more information, including the resolution and the proposed changes that are being negotiated, view the AWID website contact Action Canada for Population and Development.


Child abuse cases stalled, Sri Lanka

Date: 24 September 2012
Source: IRIN News

It is taking as long as six years to prosecute criminals who abuse children, a delay that threatens to further traumatise thousands of children whose cases are stuck in the courts.  UNICEF officials in Sri Lanka report that as many as 4,000 child abuse cases are before the country's 34 high courts, with an average wait time for a ruling of six years - and up to eight years, according to local NGOs.

Delays include police taking a long time to complete investigations or sending incomplete files, bottlenecks in the attorney-general's office in clearing cases to proceed to hearings and an overload of all types of cases before the courts. In late 2010, the Monistry of Justice launched a $3 million project to set up 60 new courts to help clear the backlog.

The delays are devastating for children. A spokesperson for a local women's rights group pointed to the alleged rape of a 10-year-old, where the investigation is still ongoing over a year later. No action can be taken until the police investigation is completed. In the meantime, the accused often remain free or on bail. A new campaign has set the goal of having a hearing for all child abuse cases within six months from the time they are reported to the police.

According to UNICEF, over 85% of reported abuse cases involving children were of a sexual nature. In 70% of those cases, the attacker was someone known to the family versus the 3% of reported cases where the attacker was a stranger.

Maternal mortality - women and families speak, India

Date: 24 September 2012
Source: CommonHealth

Dead Women Talking is the report of a civil society meeting held in India in June 2012 on maternal mortality. The meeting gathered together civil society groups who have been using innovative methods like community monitoring and planning and media campaigns to strengthen health systems by stressing accountability of the system, deepening democracy and governance.

The report highlights examples of how this has been done by groups across India. It focuses on the lived experience of communities and families of women who die unnecessarily, as well as the voices of those who have died.

The organiseers hope
that this process will lead up to a coordinated plan for taking this learning forward into policy and programme.

Contact Commonhealth for a copy of the report.

Memorial service to honour Joan Dunlop, 24 September 2012

Date: 17 September 2012
Source: International Women's Health Coalition and Open Society Foundations

A memorial service honouring the life and legacy of Joan B Dunlop will be held on 24 September 2012.

The memorial will be at 11am with a reception to follow at the Cosmopolitan Club, 122 East 66th Street, New York, NY 10065.

Because so many of Joan’s friends have asked what they can do in her honour, the International Women's Health Coalition has created the Joan B. Dunlop Fund to present an annual Joan B. Dunlop Award to a deserving women's rights advocate working to advance sexual and reproductive rights and health in the global South. More details to follow from the International Women's Health Coalition.

Spanish clinic on strike in protest against government abortion restrictions

Date: 21 September 2012
Source: 20minutos.es

The Mediterranea Medica clinic in Valencia is the only clinic that provides second trimester abortions in Valencia and Castellón. On Friday, it announced that it will strike action for one week, starting Monday 24 September.
Clinic staff have worked without pay for four months because, for the last seven months, the clinic has not been paid by the government for women referred by public hospitals who refuse to do second trimester abortions.

The outstanding payments come to 500,000 Euros.During the strike, minimal services will be maintained, so that women seeking abortions do not have to wait until they are over the legal time limits for abortion.

The clinic is also protesting against the intention to restrict the 2010 abortion law, announced recently by the Minister of Justice. The clinic director warned that if the government persists in these restrictive reforms, he will launch "a clandestine network of free clinics to ensure the rights of women. They will have to put many of us in jail."

New film raises awareness of natural birth

Date: 21 September 2012
Source: One World Birth

On 20 September. the film 'Freedom for Birth' was screened in over 1,000 cinemas around the world. The film raises awareness of natural birth and the freedom for women to have the decision on where and how they give birth.

You can view the trailer for the film and find out about follow up activities around the world here. A short, web-friendly version of the film will shortly be available on the One World Birth website. The DVD of the full version is for sale. It has subtitles in Bulgarian, Chinese, Croatian, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Portugese (Portugal), Portugese (Brazil), Russian, Slovak, Slovenian and Spanish on the same website.

Family Planning Summit - costing the commitments

Date: 19 September 2012
Source: Population Action International

A two day meeting by organisers of July's London Summit on Family Planning has considered how to implement the commitments.

Some countries have increased budgets - with a few announcing substantial commitments. Uganda will increase its budget for family planning supplies from $3.3 to $5 million for the next five years. Zambia will double its supplies budget. Nigeria will provide an additional $8.35 million in contraceptives per year over the next four years. Pakistan will increase its funding for family planning to $200 million in 2012/2013. Malawi will make it easier to track funding for contraceptives by creating a budget line in the government’s budget.

Other countries have reduced the cost of family planning for users: Ghana, India, Mozambique, the Philippines and Zimbabwe are planning to reduce or eliminate out of pocket spending on family planning services. India and Indonesia will include family planning in their universal health care programmes.

In addition, some governments made strides towards fulfilling sexual and reproductive rights. Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique Niger, Uganda and Zimbabwe pledge to implement more youth friendly family planning services. Ghana, India, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Zambia and Zimbabwe will expand the available mix of family planning methods. Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Niger, Senegal and Solomon Islands will work to increase male involvement in family planning. Bangladesh, Ghana and Mozambique will improve access to family planning in post-partum and post-abortion services. Malawi plans to raise the legal age of marriage to 18 by 2014, while Bangladesh will work with leaders and communities to delay early marriage and child birth.

But where do these resources come from in low-income countries. Donor funding will play a key role in most countries, but the way money will be channelled is still not clear. The London Summit’s Accountability Annex says that donor money will be available for countries with 'strong, well elaborated country plans that are supported by stakeholders in-countries'.

Whatever the framework, it needs to be developed in a transparent manner in consultation with Southern governments and the in-country civil society groups that will hold them accountable.

Support human rights defenders in Russia

Date: 18 September 2012
Source: AWID

On 17 August, three members of Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in jail for having staged a performance of a protest song in Moscow's main Orthodox cathedral in February 2012.
The criminalisation of this peaceful protest is one more example of persecution of activists in Russia. It follows another recent case of a woman activist being failed by the justice system.

In 2009, leading human rights activist Natalia Estemirova was abducted near her apartment building in Grozny, Chechnya and found murdered in the neighbouring Republic of Ingushetia. The Russian state has so far failed to identify and prosecute the perpetrators of this crime, failing to live up to its obligations under its own constitution, laws and international human rights agreements.

AWID's Women Human Rights Defenders strategic initiative is working to ensure that women human rights defenders are able to conduct their work safely and free from threats to their security and well-being.

Please click here to demand justice for Natalia Estemirova.

Click here to join Amnesty International's campaign to Free Pussy Riot.



Launching sexuality and disability blog

Date: 17 September 2012
Source: Sexuality and Disability

www.sexualityanddisability.org believes that women who are disabled are sexual beings - just like any other woman. The website answers questions that a woman with a disability might have - about her body, about the mechanics and dynamics of having sex, about the complexities of being in an intimate relationship or having children and about unvoiced fears or experiences of encountering abuse in some form. The website is accessible across disabilities.

The website is now happy to announce the launch of a fortnightly blog,
written by Nidhi Garima Goyal, a visually impaired young woman. Click here to read her first blog, about the first-ever workshop on sexuality and intimacy for the visually impaired in Mumbai, India.

The website is a joint effort of Point of View and CREA and has been created with the active support of women with disabilities and activists.

Browse. Ask. Discuss. And share the link with anyone who might benefit from it.


Idaho state abortion law rejected in federal appeal

Date: 14 September 2012
Source: National Advocates for Pregnant Women

An important appeal hearing by the US federal court of appeals has ruled that Idaho's state law on abortion cannot be used to criminally prosecute a woman who induces an abortion for herself.

Jennie Linn McCormack, a woman from Idaho, was arrested after she allegedly self-administered an abortion. She was arrested and prosecuted under Idaho's recent state law which bans women from carrying out their own abortions. The case was first dismissed last year due to lack of evidence, leaving open the potential for reopening the case, should there be further evidence.

Ms McCormack challenged the law itself, claiming that Idaho's law is unconstitutional and should be overturned. The district court granted a preliminary injunction on some of the clauses, to which the State appealed.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the preliminary injunction that prevents the state from prosecuting Ms. McCormack for inducing an abortion, finding that she was likely to succeed on her constitutional challenge to Idaho's criminal abortion law as a mechanism for locking up women who have had abortions. The Court did, however, rule that she did not have standing to challenge the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which may still remain a challenge for women in similar situations.

The Appeal Court's opinion argued that prosecuting women for terminating pregnancies will not end abortion, it will just create a whole new class of criminals. It argued that the law puts an undue burden on women seeking abortions by requiring them to police their provider's compliance with Idaho's regulations. The court acknowledged the barriers that women, especially low-income women, face in obtaining abortion services, including lack of providers, financial obstacles and harassment at clinics.

This is an important decision that explicitly rejects Idaho's claim that the state may use its criminal abortion laws to punish pregnant women who end their pregnancies.

Uganda's legal and policy framework on abortion

Date: 13 September 2012
Source: Center for Reproductive Rights

The Center for Reproductive Rights has published a briefing paper on the legal and policy framework on termination of pregnancy in Uganda.

Although abortion is legal in Uganda in restricted situations, unclear and often confusing abortion laws and policies mean that many people are not aware that abortions can be legally obtained in some circumstances. 26% of maternal deaths in Uganda are attributed to unsafe abortion.

This publication offers clear explanation of the context, demonstrating that Uganda’s laws and policies are more expansive than most believe and the current legal and policy framework offers ample opportunities for increasing access to safe abortion services.

The document can be downloaded here.

Malaysia publishes guidelines to identify gay and lesbian 'symptoms'

Date: 13 September 2012
Source: Malaysiakini.com

Malaysia's Education Ministry has reportedly endorsed 'guidelines' to help parents to identify gay and lesbian 'symptoms' in their children so they can take early "corrective measurements". The symptoms include a preference for V-neck and sleeveless clothes and use of big handbags by men. The guidelines were published by two organisations, Yayasan Guru Malaysia Bhd and Putrajaya Consultative Council of Parents and Teachers Associations and endorsed by the Education Ministry. The seminar this week was the tenth such meeting. The guidelines were distributed to all those who attended the seminar.

Activists have denounced the move and call on the Ministry to rely on sound research, rather than supporting discriminatory approaches that are not based on evidence.

Misoprostol reduced maternal mortality - widespread use being challenged

Date: 12 September 2012
Source: IPS News Agency

Misoprostol is an important drug for reducing maternal deaths from post-partum haemorrhage, most especially in low-resource settings with no cold chain (reliable refrigeration) and distant from tertiary care centres.

Misoprostol for use in cases of post-partum haemorrhage was put on WHO's essential medicines list in April 2011. A study published in the August issue of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine suggests that WHO should rethink its recent decision to include misoprostol on the essential medicines list. The article states that there is insufficient evidence to suggest that misoprostol works in preventing PPH and, instead, urges poor countries to improve primary care and prevent anaemia to lower the risk of haemorrhage following delivery. The fact that misoprostol can also be used to induce abortion adds to the controversy.

The recent study has stirred international concern. Whilst organisations such as the International Planned Parenthood Federation accept the need for continued research, they warn that "countless women will be denied life-saving care and forced to suffer pregnancy-related complications which are entirely preventable" should misoprostol be removed from the WHO essential medicines list.

Challenging perceptions of traditional initiation and male circumcision, South Africa

Date: 11 September 2012
Source: PlusNews

Mthetho Tshemese, a psychologist from Eastern Cape Province, South Africa has written about the experience of traditional initiation, something that he underwent as a young man.

He acknowledges that violence does happen during traditional initiation and expresses his anger about the unnecessary deaths. But he also remarks that in a country with such high unemployment, it is inevitable that people will open illegal initiation schools. He also points out that about 42,000 young men in the Eastern Cape went for initiation last year. There were six deaths and around 100 who were hospitalised, indicating that there are some who run initiation schools well and the boys are not harmed. He also mentions that there are some women who are actively involved in making initiation schools safer. But he also comments on the negative elements, reporting how the boys talk about the harshness of the camps and a macho attitude to sex.

This is something that Tshemese and others are starting to challenge by gathering together boys who are undergoing initiation to have the space to reflect on the kind of masculinities they want to embrace.

This article and others from South African men appears in a new book produced by South African journalists - (Un)covering Men: Rewriting masculinity and health in South Africa - which aims to combat media stereotypes of men.

Developing solutions to universal health coverage in the global South

Date: 11 September 2012
Source: IRIN News

An increasing number of developing countries are introducing universal healthcare coverage - and creating new models to do it, according to research published in The Lancet.

The research reviews nine countries - five at intermediate stages of reform (Ghana, Indonesia, Philippines, Rwanda and Vietnam) and four at earlier stages (India, Kenya, Mali and Nigeria). Each of the nine countries has had strongly rising incomes, which ought to lead to demands for improved access to care and reductions in household out-of-pocket health-care costs.

The review finds that the new models vary considerably but have several common characteristics, including increased revenue and health budgets, larger risk pools and use of the private sector. Out-of-pocket spending as a percentage of total health expenditure has decreased by 3-6% in most of the countries at an intermediate stage in the reform process, but household spending in all nine countries remains higher than WHO recommends to avoid impoverishment.

The authors recommend that developing country governments would benefit from common, comparable standards for measuring key outputs and outcomes of universal-coverage reforms, which could guide midcourse policy corrections and improve implementation.

The article, and others in the Series, can be downloaded from the Lancet here.

Pro-reproductive health Catholics support reproductive health bill, Philippines

Date: 11 September 2012
Source: Sun.Star Cebu

A group of Catholics have started a campaign in Cebu Province, Philippines, to gather one million signatures in support of the proposed Reproductive Health Bill that is currently being debated in parliament.

The Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development Act of 2011 has been opposed by Catholic leaders because of provisions to the bill that would allow distribution of contraceptives and implementing adolescent reproductive health education. There have been bitter debates over the bill for a long time now. The Lower House voted to end debates last month.

A spokesperson for Catholics for Reproductive Health (C4RH) - Cebu Chapter says that they continue to push for the passage of the bill and hope the Catholic hierarchy will stop exerting pressure on lawmakers. The group will bring the campaign to schools and various communities in the province.

Uganda launches HPV vaccination campaign

Date: 6 September 2012
Source: IRIN News

The government of Uganda has launched an HPV vaccination for prevention of cervical cancer. The pilot campaign aims to reach 140,000 girls in 12 districts over the next two years. Officials say the government will also conduct cervical cancer screening in the selected districts.

However, officials are raising concerns about funding for national roll out of the programme after the pilot phase. The current phase is being externally funded by Merck, who produce the HPV vaccine under its commercial name, Gardasil.

Brazilian government compensates family for maternal death

Date: 6 September 2012
Source: DHESCA Brasil (Plataforma Brasileira de Direitos Humanos Economicos, Sociais, Culturais, e Ambientais)

In 2002, Alyne da Silva Pimentel Teixeira, a young, pregnant Brazilian woman died after not receiving essential, lifesaving treatment for pregnancy complications. A case against the state of Brazil was submitted to the CEDAW Committee in 2007. The CEDAW Committee decided that her death was a preventable maternal death and made a number of recommendations to the Brazilian government.

Following intense mobilisation by rights organisations in Brazil, the petitioners for Alyne’s case have recently met with the Federal Attorney General, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Women to discuss the case. The government
has accepted in large part the proposals made by Alyne's family and petitioners. These include compensation payment to the family, with a final agreed amount being discussed with the family. The government is now initiating the establishment of an inter-ministerial group that will consider the chain of events that lead to preventable maternal deaths. The government will also realise a seminar on rights-based maternal mortality that will be aimed at health and legal officials. The seminar will be held in partnership with the state government of Rio de Janeiro and will be held at the Rio de Janeiro Court. The dates for the seminar are to be confirmed.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs supported these steps commenting that these actions will be an opportunity to address concerns raised by conservative sectors after Rio +20, at which the issue of reproductive rights was a hotly contested issue.

This is a historic moment for the protection of reproductive rights in Brazil, marking public acknowledgement by the government of its international obligations to treat preventable maternal mortality as a human rights issue.

Iranian journalist and rights activist imprisoned

Date: 6 September 2012
Source: AWID

As a publication, RHM supports the right to freedom of expression and we condemn any move by a government to harass, threaten or imprison an editor, journalist or other writer for their work.

mnesty International have called on the Iranian authorities to release prisoner of conscience, Zhila Bani-Yaghoub, an award-winning journalist and women's rights activist held solely for exercising her right to freedom of expression.

Bani-Yaghoub was summoned to Evin Prison on 2 September to serve a one-year prison sentence. Further to her conviction for "spreading propaganda against the system" and "insulting the president", she has been banned from media and journalistic activities for 30 years.

For more information, please contact Amnesty International UK media unit eulette.ewart@amnesty.org.uk

Women's access to health care education, Iran

Date: 22 August 2012
Source: Huffington Post

This article has been revised and updated based on an article by Ajam Media Collective.

Education has been a way for women in Iran to find some independence within a highly restricted environment. This week 36 Iranian universities banned 77 undergraduate courses to women.

This is a double blow for Iranian women, limiting not only their fields of study but also their avenues for financial and personal independence. According to UNESCO, Iran has the highest ratio of female to male university enrolment in the world.

There is currently a debate within Iran, with activists challenging the universities' decisions and demanding that universities lift these restrictions.

Promoting exclusive breasfeeding, Guinea Conakry

Date: 3 September 2012
Source: IRIN News

Guinea is facing a rise in the numbers of women who do not exclusively breastfeed, according to a Ministry of Health 2011-12 health and nutrition survey. At present, only 18.5% of women practice exclusive breastfeeding, down from 32.9% in a 2008 study.

Reasons include traditional beliefs and family pressure. Often the baby is not given his or her first breast milk for hours, until the child is fed water that has been used to rinse a wooden tablet carved with special Koranic verses and which is brought after the birth by a designated family member.  There are also many pressures from family members who oppose exclusive breastfeeding. One health worker reported that his mother stopped talking to him and he was called to the village to explain himself to the elders when he and his wife decided to exclusively breastfeed their child. It required a lot of courage from him and his wife to stick to their decision and show the family that the child was growing well.

The recent survey shows an increase in store-bought powdered milk, probably because of a combination of aggressive marketing of milk products and recent political instability that has hit community nutrition education activities. The recent study also considers that the previous study may have been inaccurate.

Lack of information on safe abortion fuels maternal deaths, India

Date: 21 August 2012
Source: Times of India

Despite the availability of legal abortion in Bihar State, India, the majority of abortions are still being performed outside recognised government centres.

Only one quarter of women in Bihar know that abortion is legally valid, according to recent surveys. Even when women are aware of the legal option, they face barriers such as lack of trained health professionals in rural areas and high abortion cost at big hospitals in the cities.

The state government health secretary has called for provision of safe abortion at affordable prices and to halt the use of unsafe abortions. He has said that the first step towards this is to make women and the community at large aware about the legality of abortions.

State hospitals are now authorised to grant accreditation to private hospitals to provide free abortion up to 12 weeks and treat post-abortion complications, in a move to increase access to safe abortion. So far this year, 124 health institutes have applied for accreditation and three have received accreditation so far. Other measures include investing in increased access to and quality of institutional deliveries and appointment of women health workers in government hospitals across the state.

Anti-abortion laws responsible for death of young woman with cancer, Dominican Republic

Date: 17 August 2012
Source: Colectiva Mujer y Salud

Mujer y Salud (Woman and Health) have issued a statement on the recent tragic and senseless death of Esperancita, 
a 16-year-old young woman from the Dominican Republic who had acute leukaemia. In July this year, when Esperancita was gravely ill, but was also 9 weeks pregnant, hospital doctors refused to provide chemotherapy because they feared they would be prosecuted in the event of a miscarriage. This refusal to provide treatment continued for several weeks, despite the fact
that she was in urgent need of aggressive chemotherapy. She subsequently died from what is now officially known to be due to a uterine haemorrhage following a miscarriage.

Mujer y Salud cite Article 42 of the Constitution that states that no one can be subjected to procedures that may damage their health, nor subjected to procedures that do not conform with internationally recognised scientific and bioethical norms. In Esperancita's case, such norms would prescribe the termination of the pregnancy and the immediate initiation of chemotherapy.

Mujer y Salud demands a full investigation of Esperancita's case to establish responsibility. They also call on the National Congress to correct the infamy of Article 37 of the Penal Code and restore to Dominican women the right to life.

Kenyan hospitals accused of forced sterilisation

Date: 23 August 2012
Source: Identity Kenya

Doctors in hospitals in six Kenyan towns are being investigated, after a study claimed that they are sterilising women with HIV without their knowledge.

The study, Robbed of Choice: Forced and Coerced Sterilisation Experiences of Women Living with HIV in Kenya, by the African Gender and Media Initiative (AGMI) reports the cases of 40 women who claim to have been sterilised without their permission whilst attending public and private hospitals for delivery. Some women allege that they were sterilised without their knowledge or an opportunity to provide consent. Others allege that they were coerced to consent to the procedure by use of money or other incentives, misinformed or denied medical services, including HIV treatment.

Rights activists have also reported similar allegations in the past. Activist groups have committed to ensuring that the affected women can access their medical records to enable them to take action.

Kenya's Director of Public Health has expressed his concern about the allegations and announced that the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board will be investigating the allegation.

One of the largest hospitals accused in the report, Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi, denies that it carries out coerced or forced sterilisation, stating that there the hospital records are available and show that none of the women concerned were admitted.

Women with HIV need family planning and safe abortion, Malawi

Date: 28 August 2012
Source: Salamander Trust

In Malawi, there is a high rate of unintended pregnancies due to the limited availability of family planning services and contraceptives. Many of these pregnancies are among young girls and they lead to abortions, most of them unsafe, infant deaths and pregnancy-related deaths which could be prevented.
In Malawi, abortion is currently only permitted legally to save a woman's life.

The International Community of Women Living with HIV is part of the Coalition to Prevent Unsafe Abortion in Malawi (COPUA). They collected testimonies from women in communities about their experiences with unsafe abortion. These include women living with HIV and women living with disability. COPUA and ICW are raising awareness amongst women in communities but also to policy makers and civil society groups.

A booklet of women's testimonies can be downloaded here.

Ireland awaits European ruling on its abortion law

Date: 27 August 2012
Source: We News

In September, a European Court of Human Rights panel of experts issue their report on Ireland's abortion laws, after a 2010 judgment by the European Court of Human Rights that said the rights of a woman had been violated because she had to travel outside Ireland for an abortion.

The issue is raising the stakes for both political and pro-choice leaders. Some anti-abortion activists express concern about a decline in interest in religion in the country. Rocked by sex abuse scandals and leadership crises, the Catholic Church in Ireland was found to be in steep decline in a recent survey about the proportion of Irish people describing themselves as religious - 47% of people surveyed described themselves as religious, a 22% drop from seven years earlier.

However, it is not clear whether a drop in the numbers of people declaring themselves to be Catholic will translate into support for legalisation of abortion. A large group of party members from
Fine Gael, the party with the most seats in the coalition government, have vowed to oppose any liberalising of abortion, even if the European panel recommends it. The Labour Party favours bringing in legislation to allow for abortion when the mother's life is at risk, which many expect will be the Europeans Court's recommendation.

Turkish government tries to reduce abortion

Date: 26 August 2012
Source: AWID

Women in Turkey who undergo an abortion after 10 weeks of pregnancy could be sentenced to up to three years in prison under a proposed bill, officials said.

The Ministry of Health is working on draft legislation that would extend the current sentence from one year, according to Turkish media reports. The bill was reportedly presented to cabinet earlier this week and will be presented to Parliament in October. This follows public statements from the prime minister opposing abortion.

Abortion is legal in Turkey during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. The Ministry of Health said the bill calls for the development of programmes to counsel against abortion and free distribution of the morning-after pill. In an effort to encourage women to carry their pregnancies to term, the government would extend maternity leave from four months to six.

Violence prevents antenatal care, Yemen

Date: 24 August 2012
Source: IRIN News

On 7 August, 19-year-old Dawlah Muslih died in childbirth, because her family could not reach the local hospital for an emergency caesarean operation.

Two months ago, the Yemeni government announced that the militant group Ansar al-Sharia had been routed from the southern Abyan Governorate by a large-scale military offensive. Hundreds of displaced families have since returned to their homes in Jaar and Zinjibar cities, according to local sources. But violence has returned to the region, with suicide bombings and armed clashes between remaining Ansar al-Sharia fighters, armed tribesmen and criminal gangs. More than two hundred people have been killed in the governorate since mid-June, according to the acting chief of Abyan's security department.

A local midwife in Jaar City reports that this indiscriminate violence is preventing many pregnant women, who have returned displacement over the past two months, from obtaining prenatal care. Dawlah is reportedly the fifth mother to die in labour over the past month in the local area.

Antenatal healthcare services have historically been poor and limited in southern Yemen. In 2010, the UN Population Fund estimated that 22 women die in Yemen every day due to pregnancy- and birth-related complications and that antenatal care coverage was 47%, the lowest in the Middle East.

Public meeting: Taking abortion out of criminal law, London, UK

Date: 23 August 2012
Source: Voice for Choice

On 1 October there will be a public meeting to celebrate the International Day of Action for the Decriminalisation of Abortion in London. The meeting will explore the situation in the UK - the vulnerability of doctors to prosecution and threats to women's access to abortion under the 1967 Abortion Act, the situation in Northern Ireland and in other countries.

Speakers will explore how the criminal law problematises abortion for women and health professionals, abortion in Northern Ireland, law reform options and supporting access to safe medical abortion through the internet for women in legally restricted settings. Marge Berer, RHM Editor, will discuss what's happening in other countries and the new International Campaign for Women's Right to Safe Abortion.

Public meetings and street actions are also planned in London, Belfast, Derry and Dublin. See here for details of the meeting and book your free place here

Women at risk of unsafe abortion, Ghana

Date: 21 August 2012
Source: Daily Guide, Ghana

A leading medical doctor has called on the Ghanaian Ministry of Health to intensify reproductive health, including safe sex and abortion, for girls.

Abortion is a criminal offence in Ghana but, according to Dr Akuamoah-Boateng, there are grounds on which legal abortion might be permitted but few people know about these. As a result, many women in Ghana do not know their legal rights to safe abortion. Reportedly, unsafe abortion was the second leading cause of maternal mortality in Ghana, accounting for 25-30% in leading hospitals in the country. Numbers are reportedly rising.

Dr Akumoah-Boateng suggested that Ghana's Reproductive Health Policy on the reduction of unsafe abortion should be geared towards the provision of safe abortion within the confines of the law, as recommended by the World Health Organization.

Tunisia's draft Constitution raises anger from women

Date: 17 August 2012
Source: AWID

A proposed constitutional description of women as complementary to men in family life has sharpened divisions in Tunisia between the Islamists in government and a secular opposition fighting to keep gender equality. Activists fear that the introduction of constitutional changes by the new leaders could reverse decades of progress.

Article 28 of the proposed draft constitution assigns women 'a complementary role inside the family' which activists describe as gratuitous, humiliating and a threat to women's rights.
Women held a protest march along the capital's main boulevard, Habib Bourghuiba, named for Tunisia's first president, known as a champion of women's rights. Tunisia is the only Arab country that permits abortion. Women of all classes play a prominent role in public life and the economy.

The draft constitution, formulated by a constituent assembly dominated by Islamists, is due to be ratified in a referendum next year. Talks on the exact wording are continuing between the government and activists. Government officials claim that the word 'complementary' is not intended to substitute for the word 'equality'. But activists worry that the government's unwillingness to change the proposed wording is threatening.

Sexual rights recommendations, Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review

Date: 15 August 2012
Source: Action Canada for Population and Development

The 13th session of the Universal Periodic Review was held at the Human Rights Council in early June. 14 countries were reviewed by their peers for the second time on their entire human rights record. The countries were Algeria, Bahrain, Brazil, Ecuador, Finland, India, Indonesia, Morocco, Netherlands, Philippines, Poland, South Africa, Tunisia and the United Kingdom.

The Sexual Rights Initiative collaborated with national NGOs to prepare stakeholder submissions with strong recommendations on sexual and reproductive rights, covering issues such as female genital mutilation, discrimination against women in law and practice, discrimination and violence against persons on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, sexual and gender-based violence, access to abortion, children's rights to participate in the decisions that affect them, maternal mortality, sexuality education, access to sexual and reproductive health information, education and services and gender equality.

The detailed recommendations for each State under review can be viewed here.

SRI reports that s
everal recommendations, particularly in relation to women’s rights, were too broad to enable States to be held accountable. Civil society must work to ensure recommendations are more specific and actionable in their stakeholder submissions and states must be more specific in their reports. 

Some issues require more attention, including criminalisation of sex work and HIV transmission, discrimination against people living with HIV, sexual and reproductive rights of people with disabilities and other poor and marginalised people and accountability mechanisms for sexual and reproductive rights violations, beyond instances of violence.

The outcome report for each State under Review during UPR 13 will be adopted at the 21st session of the Human Rights Council in September 2012. This report indicates which recommendations the State under review will agree to implement. This is the only opportunity for civil society to make an oral statement during the official UPR process.

The Sexual Rights Initiative, in collaboration with partners and allies, will work to ensure that sexual and reproductive rights are visible during this segment of the UPR process.
To learn more about the UPR process and how to get involved, the Sexual Rights Initiative and IPPF have published a toolkit, Sexual Rights and the Universal Periodic Review: A Toolkit for Advocacy, which is available in English, French, Spanish and Arabic.






Rwanda affirms importance of access to safe and legal abortion

Date: 15 August 2012
Source: AWID

The Rwandan government has lifted its reservation to the Maputo Protocol - Article 14(2)(c) of the African Charter on Human and People's Rights of Women in Africa. The Maputo Protocol is the only international treaty that explicitly guarantees the right to legal abortion.

By accepting this protocol, the Rwandan government is now required to 'protect the reproductive rights of women by authorising medical abortion in cases of sexual assault, rape, incest, and where the continued pregnancy endangers the mental and physical health of the mother or the life of the mother or the fetus.'

he Rwandan Government recently signed into law a new penal code reducing harsh criminal penalties against women who terminate their pregnancies and doctors who perform abortions.

These are positive steps, although the new law still imposes barriers that could prevent women from accessing legal abortions. Women who are pregnant as a result of rape, forced marriage or incest and seeking an abortion must get written approval from the court first. The law requires that anyone performing a legal abortion be a licensed medical doctor and consult with another physician before the procedure. These can be significant barriers for women that can cost money, waste time, and dangerously delay critical health care. However, the law and this recognition mark significant progress toward women's reproductive health and rights.

Ban on female genital mutilation, Somalia

Date: 13 August 2012
Source: IRIN News

Somalia's new constitution bans female genital mutilation/cutting. Activists welcome the news but warn that translating the law into action will require more than just a legal declaration. In Somalia, 96% of women undergo infibulations, one of the more extreme forms of the practice.

The provisional constitution prohibits the practice, describing it as a 'cruel and degrading customary practice... tantamount to torture.'

Activists welcome the ban but say that its implementation will need education, awareness-raising and strong legal provisions. There is still a lot of opposition from women and men, believing that it will affect girls' marriage prospects and in the belief that female genital mutilation is a religious requirement, makes women pure and reduces sexual libido.

Gay men and intimate partner violence, US

Date: 3 August 2012
Source: aidsmap

A study has found that 45% of gay and bisexual men in Atlanta, US, have experienced
intimate partner violence, according to definitions developed by gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men in Atlanta.

The study also suggested that many gay men consider non-disclosure of HIV status to be a form of violence. And men with experience of intimate partner violence were more likely to report unprotected sex.

The study was undertaken because definitions of intimate partner violence and domestic violence tend to refer to women suffering at the hands of male partners. After developing local definitions with men, 1,074 men completed a questionnaire. Their answers were sorted into five types of violence - physical and sexual violence, monitoring behaviour such as checking emails, controlling behaviour such as refusing contact with family or friends, emotional abuse and issues related to HIV, such as non-disclosure of status.

Percentages of men surveyed who had experienced or perpetrated violence ranged from 13% victim and 8% perpetrator using a CDC physical and sexual abuse definition through to 46% victim and 32% perpetrator, using the locally developed definition. The numbers reporting abuse were a little higher in black and Latino men than in white men.

Whatever the definition used, men who had been victims of intimate partner violence were more likely to report that they did not use a condom the last time they had anal sex, whether it was with a casual or regular partner.

The scale will need to be validated with other groups of men who have sex with men but the survey indicates the lack of appropriate services for gay and bisexual men who had experienced intimate partner violence.

Male partner involvement improves HIV testing in pregnancy

Date: 2 August 2012
Source: aidsmap

Several studies presented at the XIX International AIDS Conference highlighted the benefits of increasing male involvement in prevention of mother-to-child transmission efforts.

A Tanzanian study involving 354 facilities documented a major increase in the number of male partners undergoing HIV testing from 2008, when male involvement interventions were introduced. Interventions included letters inviting partners to attend antenatal appointments, posters encouraging male attendance, the prioritisation of clients who attended with partners, improvements to clinic rooms for couples counselling, training for providers on PMTCT couples counselling and the engagement of villages in developing local strategies. The number of male partners tested annually for HIV increased from 1,746 in 2008 to 22,623 by 2011. Only 7% of male partners underwent testing in the absence of partner interventions, whereas half did so after the interventions had been in place for three years.

These findings were reinforced by reports from similar interventions from elsewhere in Tanzania where the percentage of women with HIV enrolling in HIV treatment increased from 22% to 57%, and from northern Nigeria where HIV testing among pregnant women increased from 40% to 96% after a community campaign.


US Affordable Care Act provides essential health services for women

Date: 2 August 2012
Source: Our Bodies Ourselves

Under the US Affordable Care Act, which went into effect on 1 August 2012, a number of essential preventive services for women are now covered by insurance. These include: FDA-approved methods of contraception prescribed by a doctor, counselling and support for breastfeeding and equipment costs, and screening and counselling for interpersonal and domestic violence.

Countdown to Coverage is a series of of blog posts by women`s health experts that detail the new preventive services available. HealthCare.gov provides information on the full range of covered preventive services for adults and children.


Zimbabwe woman fights deliberate HIV transmission conviction

Date: 2 August 2012
Source: Voice of America

Last month, a 34-year-old Zimbabwean woman was found guilty of deliberately infecting her husband with HIV. Her lawyers are challenging this conviction in the Supreme Court, demanding repeal of the law she was charged under.

Samukelisiwe Mlilo is facing 20 years in jail for allegedly passing HIV to her husband. Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, who are representing her, claim that it is unclear whether Mlilo or her husband had HIV first. 
According to court papers, Mlilo only discovered her HIV-positive status when she became pregnant. She disclosed her status to her husband who then reported the matter to the police. There is therefore no evidence about whether Mlilo or her husband got HIV first.

The lawyers also claim that the law stigmatises people living with HIV. They are stating that, if the state chooses to proceed with criminal sanctions for risk behaviour, they should use general criminal laws and not an HIV-specific provision.

As Mlilo's lawyers point out, this is an example of the violation of women's rights. Women are likely to know of their status first.

Roadmap to effective HIV prevention

Date: 1 August 2012
Source: aidsmap

The XIX International AIDS Conference two weeks ago hosted important discussions about how policy makers can implement effective HIV prevention strategies.
Nelly Mugo, University of Nairobi, outlined priorities for interventions that are effective with the populations who are most at risk and that can be delivered in combination with high coverage to achieve high impact.

Her first recommended priority is t
o use data on new infections and prevalence in order to identify the populations which are at greatest risk of HIV infection. Even in generalised epidemics, such as much of sub-Saharan Africa, some communities are at elevated risk, especially men who have sex with men, sex workers and injecting drug users. An example from the US showed that in parts of the US, around half of HIV infections are in black men who have sex with men, yet less than 10% of interventions reached members of this population in 2010.

Next is to prioritise the most effective prevention interventions for local circumstances. The conference provided examples of modelling that uses detailed data on the size and characteristics of local risk populations, the cost, efficacy and coverage of available interventions, and the available prevention budget. A study in Philadelphia used such data to design a targeted intervention of HIV testing in non-clinical settings to men who have sex with men. The model suggested that while doubling the current prevention budget would make a dramatic difference to the number of infections, doubling it again after that would only provide a slight benefit. The conference demonstrated the need for community organisations to develop new skills in HIV testing, supporting people along the care continuum and pre-exposure prophylaxis.

Effective interventions need to packaged together, provided in combination and delivered at a sufficient scale, so that a large proportion of the population are reached. Nelly Mugo gave the example of HIV testing, which is increasingly seen as the gateway for all other services, whether the result is positive or negative and called for a `care continuum` for those who test HIV-negative, linking people to prevention services such as counselling, social support, condom provision, pre-exposure prophylaxis and male circumcision.

Female sex workers at far greater risk of HIV than other women

Date: 31 July 2012
Source: aidsmap

Available data from 50 countries shows that female sex workers have a 14-fold higher risk of infection as women of a similar age in the general population, according to a Lancet article and presentation at the XIX International AIDS Conference.

Rates are especially elevated in some countries, including Bangladesh, Benin, Cambodia, China, Guinea, Guyana, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Nepal and Senegal. The meta-analysis is drawn from 102 reports from 50 countries between 2007-2011. However, reports were only available for 50 of 145 countries.

The researchers who conducted the analysis also did a modelling exercise to estimate the impact of improving sex workers' access to antiretroviral therapy to the level of other adults nationally and of providing a comprehensive community-empowerment programme to address structural barriers. The modelling exercise estimated that in Kenya just improving ART access would reduce infections in sex workers by 25% over five years, making the empowerment intervention available to two thirds of sex workers would reduce infections by 11.5% and doing both would reduce infections by 33%. There would also be a significant impact on the epidemic in the wider population, with 30% fewer infections if the interventions were combined.

In a plenary session, researcher Cheryl Overs stressed that the epidemic is not driven by the lack of a pill or a gadget, but by repression. As a symbol of this, many sex workers were prevented from participating in the Washington DC conference due to bans on them entering the United States.


Unmarried parents stoned to death, Mali

Date: 31 July 2012
Source: New York Times

Islamist rebels in control of Aguelhok, a town in northern Mali, stoned a couple to death after accusing them of having children outside of marriage, according to a local official who was one of several hundred witnesses to the killings. The official said the couple were brought into the town centre, buried in holes with their heads protruding and then stoned to death.

The official said many of the 2,000 people in Aguelhok had already begun leaving, crossing the border into Algeria, as a result of the stoning. This is one of the most extreme reports from the Islamist rebellion in northern Mali that began in January.

The rebellion began as a new iteration of a decades-long struggle by a nomadic ethnic group, the Tuaregs, to gain autonomy from a central government based in the south that it had long accused of neglect and persecution. However, reportedly the rebellion has been monopolised by a local Islamist movement, the Ansar Dine or Defenders of the Faith.

Sex work, HIV risk and human rights

Date: 24 July 2012
Source: aidsmap 

Sex workers are being targeted for simply trying to protect their health and the health of their clients by using condoms. Studies and presentations at the 19th International AIDS Conference showed that across the world sex workers are being targeted and face verbal, physical and sexual abuse for carrying condoms, an action which provides police with so-called 'evidence' of prostitution. 

A session entitled ‘'Criminalising Condoms and Sex Work' showed that public health efforts are being blocked by police. A report from the Open Society Foundation showed that sex workers from countries as varied as Kenya, Namibia, Russia, South Africa, United States and Zimbabwe face police harassment for carrying condoms. In Russia, 80% of sex workers said that police had confiscated condoms and in Namibia, 50% of sex workers actually had their condoms destroyed. A representative from Zimbabwe's Sexual Health Centre reported similar similar experiences. Because of this, there seems to be a marked decrease in condom use among sex workers. 60% of the Namibian sex workers in the study who saw their condoms destroyed went on to continue sex work without condoms. Another study, from Uganda, found that police harassment also increased the risk of violence, with sex workers rushing their negotiations due to police presence.

Policies that stigmatise and marginalise sex workers go beyond law enforcement. The International AIDS Conference host country, the United States, has been heavily criticised this week for denying sex workers visas to enter the country and attend the conference . A Sex Worker Freedom Festival took place during the same week in Kolkata, India, as an alternative conference hub for sex workers denied entry to the United States.

Male circumcision and HIV transmission - conflicting reports

Date: 26 July 2012
Source: Aidsmap

Voluntary medical male circumcision is being seen as one of the most promising interventions to reduce HIV transmission, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. The XIX International AIDS Conference heard about progress in rolling out circumcision programmes in the region, for example in Nyanza Province in Kenya where 80% of men aged 15-24 years had been circumcised.

However, presenters raised the challenge of burn out for staff conducting circumcisions. The conference heard calls for task shifting the procedure from doctors to nurses and medical auxiliaries.

Also at the conference there is growing unease about how the contexts in which circumcision is being carried out - where people do not always do as advised in the trials. One study from Zimbabwe showed that 14% of the partners of circumcised men were infected with HIV, compared to a prevalence of 12% in the partners of uncircumcised men - although the related panel discussion acknowledged that some men may have become HIV positive before they were circumcised.

Other delegates raised concern about recent study findings showing that partners of circumcised men appeared to have increased risk of transmission to their partners. This was described as possibly because sexual activity was resumed before healing had finished.

Publication: Series on men who have sex with men, Lancet

Date: 30 July 2012

Source: The Lancet

This week the Lancet publishes a special series on men who have sex with men. 

The articles cover a wide range of topics, from a global epidemiology of HIV infection in men who have sex with men, to more local analyses of disparities in black and other men who have sex with men in Canada, UK, and USA. Articles on comprehensive integrated clnical care and on the successes and challenges of HIV prevention in men who have sex with men provide a technical overview, whilst articles on community leadership, advocacy and stigma address the social side.

The editorial explains that the Series aims to unite two vital elements in the fight against AIDS - science and the cultural dimension of stigma and homophobia. 'If we are to succeed in this fourth decade of the HIV/AIDS response, we must show our commitment to this welcome human diversity as well as to gender equity.'


All articles are available free online to Lancet subscribers (subscription is free).


Namibian High Court ruling on sterilisation of HIV-positive women

Date: 30 July 2012
Source: PlusNews

The Namibian High Court has ruled that the human rights of three HIV-positive women were violated when they were coerced into being sterilised while they gave birth, but the judge dismissed claims that the sterilisation amounted to discrimination based on their HIV status.

Southern Africa Litigation Centre, the legal aid group that supported the women, claimed the decision was a victory for HIV-positive women, as it reaffirms their right over what is done to their body. The judgment allows the women to seek damages from the government. Another group, the Namibian Women’s Health Network were unhappy about the judge's decision on discrimination and are considering whether to appeal the decision. The ruling that the women failed to show they were discriminated against based on their HIV status, made the win bittersweet.

The case is the first of its kind in southern Africa was filed in 2009. The women chose to have caesarean sections at public hospitals to reduce their chances of transmitting HIV to their children, but said the doctors told them they could only have the procedure if they agreed to be sterilised at the same time.

More cases are pending in Namibia. Activist groups hope that the decision will encourage the Ministry of Health to review its policies on sexual and reproductive health to women in public hospitals. The decision will have an impact beyond Namibia, with similar practices reported in Swaziland and South Africa.

Social media confessions from men who rape

Date: 29 July 2012
Source: The Guardian

A user on the social media site, Reddit, asked fellow users to share their experiences as perpetrators of sexual assault. What resulted was a huge number of comments, mostly a 'part mass-confessional and part exhibitionist spectacle in which some users offered one another virtual absolution in the same way society often already does'.

The main lesson from the experience is that men who rape can look and act like everyone else, almost right up until they start raping. The article provides a stream of examples of women who thought they could trust a friend and ended up being raped. The common thread is that none of them looked or acted like rapists, and few in their lives, unless they were reported, suspects they were. In many cases, the men were not the violent sexual predators women have been taught to expect and guard against. At some point, they all simply stop caring how you feel because that is not remotely necessary for it to feel good to them.

The article concludes that the people who need to be educated about rape are men and boys. 'They need to learn that sex isn't a … thing they do with their genitals to the genitals of another person at whom they don't look, let alone see. It is something they can engage in and share with another person and, if the other person - the whole of other person - isn't sharing in the sexual act, for whatever reason, at whatever moment, then it's not sex. That's when it becomes rape - and no matter what you look like, or what other good you've done in your life, you're then a rapist. And, if the men who admitted to it on Reddit are any guide, no matter how they justified it in the moment, they know it.'

Publication: Sexual and reproductive rights and human rights

Date: 27 July 2012
Source: European Women's Lobby

Amnesty International have published a new report - Realizing Sexual And Reproductive Rights: A Human Rights Framework.

The report sets out the link between human rights and the improvement of sexual and reproductive health and explains how an effectively implemented ICPD Programme of Action would contribute both to the realisation of human rights and to better development and population indicators.

The report spells out the key sections of the Programme of Action and highlights gaps in and challenges to its implementation in relation to sexual and reproductive rights. The report includes simple key messages throughout and ends with a recommendations - for governments and civil society - to end exclusion, increase participation and accountability and ensure sexual and reproductive rights as human rights.

HIV and injectable hormonal contraceptives - links remain unclear

Date: 27 July 2012
Source: aidsmap

There has been further contradictory evidence on whether hormonal contraceptives, especially injectable ones, raise the risk to women of acquiring HIV and, if they already have HIV, of developing AIDS.

A review of a randomised controlled trial of herpes suppression in serodiscordant couples, found strengthened evidence for increased risk. Women using injectable contraceptives were 2.6 times more likely to acquire HIV, and women using DMPA (Depo Provera) were 3.4 times more likely to acquire HIV. Another study, investigating progression to AIDS in women using either a copper intra-uterine device or DMPA as contraceptives, found a 60% raised risk of progression to AIDS in HIV-positive women using DMPA, although the study did not study comparable results for women using oral contraception or condoms only.

However, two meta-analyses by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found no link between hormonal contraceptives in general and between HIV acquisition or progression in 20 studies. They did find an increased risk of HIV in women using DMPA in one out of 15 studies. Unfortunately, none of these studies were specifically designed to look at an association between HIV incidence or progression and contraception method as a primary outcome.

In March 2012, the World Health Organization released guidance recommending that women using hormonal contraception should still do so, but that they should pay extra attention to using condoms, especially if using injectable progesterone-only formulations such as DMPA or NET-En (norethisterone enanthate).

n audience discussion at the XIX International AIDS Conference, people felt that the evidence against DMPA, especially, had grown stronger and some advocated that women should be told to stop using it. Others argue that the evidence is still not strong enough for a ban, especially in countries where Depo Provera is the only available hormonal contraceptive method. Following an audience poll, the consensus was that young women should be fully informed about the possible risks and benefits of injectable contraception so they can make a choice about using it.


End second-class HIV prevention, Catholic call for condoms

Date: 26 July 2012
Source: Catholics for Choice 

The XIX International AIDS conference has drawn attention to the involvement of faith-based organisations in providing AIDS care around the world. According to the Vatican, Catholic agencies provide one quarter of HIV care globally.

Catholics for Choice and others have been campaigning for catholic leaders to accept the importance of condoms for addressing HIV. The pope has acknowledged that condoms are a moral choice in preventing the spread of HIV. The Condoms4Life campaign has been active at the AIDS conference to capitalise on that statement.

UNICEF backs life-long HIV treatment for all HIV-positive pregnant women

Date: 26 July 2012
Source: aidsmap

UNICEF has come out with a clear call for life-long HIV treatment for all HIV-positive pregnancy women. At the XIX International AIDS Conference, UNICEF`s Chewe Luo called for the transformation of PMTCT programmes into ART programmes.

The call is for universal application of Option B+, as outlined in WHO`s 2012 update to its guidelines on antiretroviral treatment - triple combination therapy for all HIV-positive pregnant women, regardless of their CD4 level.

Malawi adopted Option B+ in 2010, largely because of the difficulty it would have in providing universal CD4 screening to all HIV-positive pregnant women, and has seen major increases in the proportion of HIV-positive pregnant women initiating antiretroviral therapy. The programme uses the standard first-line antiretroviral regimen that is used for all adults taking HIV treatment, making drug procurement, distribution and prescribing more straightforward.

Whilst Option B+ is the most expensive option, UNICEF and the Business Leadership Council for a Generation Born HIV-Free suggest that there may be a net savings resulting from the higher numbers using the treatment. Another advantage is the possible reduction of HIV transmission to male partners of HIV-positive women. UNICEF has also called attention to the moral argument - the right of every woman to live, regardless of her maternal status.

There are also voices raising caution about the push to introduce Option B+, noting the lack of long-term data on the outcomes of implementation and a call to remember the need to treat all women with CD4 cell counts under 350, regardless of whether they are pregnant or not.

Brazilian protest against medicalisation of births, call for solidarity

Date: 25 July 2012
Source: Acao contra o CREMERJ

On Sunday 5 August, women's rights activists will hold a protest in Rio de Janeiro against two resolutions released by the Medical Council of Rio de Janeiro (CREMERJ) earlier this month.

The first resolution prohibits midwives or doulas (trained, lay support during and after childbirth) from attending women in hospitals and maternity wards. Nurse-midwives would be tolerated under doctors' supervision. Non-compliant hospital doctors will be considered to have violated ethics.
The second resolution prohibits any doctor from supporting birth outside a hospital setting or attending women transferred from birth centres or home births. There would be mandatory reporting to the Council of any out-of-hospital births and punishment for non-reporting as an ethical offence. Non-compliant doctors could have their medical licenses revoked

Activists see this as even greater pressure on women to submit to elective caesarean section births or have aggressively-managed vaginal birth. The caesarean section rate in private hospitals in Rio de Janeiro is over 85% and the national caesarean rate in all hospitals in 2010 was 52%. In response, many women are choosing midwife care, delivery in birth centres or home births. Although there has been a lot of pressure from doctors to restrict women's use of alternative childbirth options, this is the first time there has been a call for such options to be effectively outlawed.

Activist groups argue that CREMERJ's proposed resolutions are illegal, against the best scientific evidence concerning care during childbirth and a violation of women's human rights. They also contravene Ministry of Health guidelines and World Health Organization recommendations. The Rio de Janeiro Nursing Council has released an official statement repudiating the Medical Council's resolutions.

Together with the public demonstrations, activists are organising legal action against the Council and demanding a formal and firm reaction from the Ministry of Health.

Please sign the online petition to protect the right of Brazilian women to choice.

Hospitals suspend infant male circumcision, Austria, Switzerland

Date: 25 July 2012
Source: The Guardian

In response to a ruling last month in a local court in Germany, which stipulated that in future doctors should be punished for carrying out infant circumcisions, several hospitals in German and Switzerland have suspended male circumcision. A hospital in Zurich announced that it wanted to investigate public concerns about the procedure and the governor of an Austrian province has told state-run hospitals to stop circumcisions except for health reasons until the legal situation was clarified.

A group of orthodox rabbis warned this week of the possibility of further restrictions to their religious freedom.

The German government is expected to propose a bill this autumn which would ensure that circumcision remains legal in the country.

World Bank chief calls for HIV and poverty eradication

Date: 25 July 2012
Source: The Guardian

Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, announced his determination to eradicate global poverty through goals, targets and measuring success in the same way that he led the '3 by 5' campaign for expansion of HIV treatment in 2003.

The commitment was made at the opening speech of the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington DC,  His main message was to have a clear and simple goal, but to work on multiple, but integrated, fronts. Kim told activists and scientists that the end of HIV no longer looked as far-fetched as the 3 by 5 plan had appeared in 2003, when he championed the approach. Science has delivered tools, such as drugs that not only treat but prevent infection. But he also raised the challenge of sustainability. Hard-hit developing countries have to be helped to grow so they can pay for the drugs and healthcare systems they need. He also challenged 'AIDS exceptionalism' and called for a need to go beyond the emergency response and think about the long-term sustainable response, including social protection programmes.

German decision to outlaw male circumcision

Date: 27 June 2012 and 18 July 2012
Source: Guardian 

Jewish and Muslim leaders have condemned a district German court's decision to in effect outlaw the circumcision of boys.

The ruling followed a lengthy legal battle, sparked when a Muslim couple decided to have their son circumcised for religious reasons in Cologne. Following bleeding two days after the circumcision, his parents took their son to a hospital casualty department . The hospital contacted the police, who then charged the doctor with bodily harm. The doctor was acquitted but the judge concluded that circumcision of minors for religious reasons should be outlawed, and that neither parental consent nor religious freedom justified the procedure. It ruled that in future doctors who carried out circumcisions should be punished.

There has been widespread condemnation from religious leaders in Germany and elsewhere in Europe about the implications for religious freedom. Women's rights groups and social policy makers also condemn the decision, stating that it would have the effect of putting male and female circumcision on the same footing when they are in no way comparable.

A more recent editorial highlights some of the ethical issues that this debate raises, especially in Germany where a direct attack on religious freedom hits the Jewish community hard. A ruling that equates male circumcision with child-beating is one that is insensitive to anyone who regards the practice as a marker of identity. As the editorial comments, the laws of a secular society should prevent one religion from dominating another. It is not to tell religious people that they should not be religious. Female genital mutilation is argued as being in a place apart because it contravenes fundamental human rights. As the article states, faith is not solely a rational choice made by adults but also about being part of a bigger group. The editorial argues that male circumcision performs this role with Jewish and Muslim men.

Police practices fuel HIV epidemic, US

Date: 19 July 2012
Source: Human Rights Watch

Police in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, and San Francisco are confiscating condoms from sex workers and transgender women, undermining health department campaigns to reduce HIV, according to a report released by Human Rights Watch.

The report documents how police and prosecutors are using the fact that sex workers and transgender women carrying condom to support prostitution charges. The practice makes sex workers and transgender women reluctant to carry condoms for fear of arrest, causes them to engage in sex without protection and puts them at risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Few of these women filed complaints, for fear of further abuse and because they had no faith that police would respond with fairness and integrity. Police and prosecutors defended the use of condoms as evidence, saying that the practice was necessary to enforce anti-prostitution laws and that condoms are one tool that helps obtain convictions against prostitutes, their clients, and those involved in sex trafficking.

The report calls on the US Department of Justice to investigate police treatment of sex workers and transgender people and calls for local, state and federal leadership to stop the use of condoms as evidence of prostitution.

The full report in English can be downloaded here and the executive summary and recommendations can be downloaded here in Spanish.


Publication: Action for sexual and reproductive rights, Asia-Pacific

Date: 13 July 2012
Source: ARROW

'Action for Sexual & Reproductive Health & Rights: Strategies for the Asia-Pacific beyond ICPD & the MDGs' reports on the recent regional meeting held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The meeting, Beyond ICPD and MDGs: NGOs Strategising for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in the Asia-Pacific Region, brought together 127 participants from 30 countries in the Asia and Pacific region to define and discuss the comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights agenda and chart the avenues for advocacy and effective NGO engagement leading for the next three years

The report highlights key discussions, responses and recommendations around the six priority issues identified prior to the meeting that impact the SRHR of women and young girls - universal access to sexual and reproductive health, poverty, climate change, displacements and migration, food security and religious extremism.

The report presents the way forward, through the Kuala Lumpur Call to Action, which makes specific demands from governments, international organisations and other duty bearers, with sub-regional and regional action plans to operationalise these calls.


US drug agency approves pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV prevention

Date: 16 July 2012
Source: Fenway Health

Today the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved an antiretroviral medication known as emtricitabine/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (FTC-TDF) for use in preventing HIV through pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

The FDA stressed that FTC-TDF should be used in combination with safer sex practices to prevent sexually-acquired HIV infection in adults at high risk and stressed that Truvada - the brand name for FTC-TDF- is not a substitute for safer sex practices. 

The FDA's action comes two months after a scientific advisory committee overwhelmingly recommended indicating emtricitabine/tenofovir for PrEP and a week after the New England Journal of Medicine published two studies showing that FTC-TDF reduced the risk of HIV infection among heterosexual women and men in Africa.

More information on the use of this drug for pre-exposure prophylaxis if available from Fenway Health.
A company PrEP brief is available online here.


English schools deny girls HPV vaccine

Date: 18 July 2012
Source: The Guardian

Some faith schools in England have opted out of the HPV vaccination programme. The HPV vaccination is offered routinely to girls aged 12 to 13 and guards against two strains of HPV --16 and 18 - which cause 70% of cases of cervical cancer. 

An investigation by GP magazine found 24 schools in 83 of England's 152 local health areas were opting out of the vaccination programme. The majority of schools opting out did not tell their family doctors nor gave information to parents and girls about where the girls could be offered the vaccine.

The reasons schools gave for not giving the jab included 'not in keeping with the school ethos', 'pupils follow strict Christian principles, marry within their own community and do not practise sex outside marriage' and 'the school does not want parents/students to feel pressured by peers or the school setting'. The Royal College of General Practitioners said that all family doctors needed to be informed about which pupils were being denied vaccines at school to help cut cervical cancer deaths.

Every year, 1,000 women in the UK die from cervical cancer.

Mother to child HIV transmission rates still falling, South Africa

Date: 23 July 2012
Source: Plus News

There has been a significant decline in mother-to-child HIV transmission in South Africa for the second consecutive year, with new data showing that just 2.7% of babies born to HIV-positive women had HIV by six weeks of age, down from 8% in 2008.

The new figures, released by South Africa's Medical Research Council, UNICEF, the US Centers for Disease Control and others, show a significant decrease from the rate of 3.5% presented this time last year. The research, conducted between April 2011 and March 2012, shows there are also fewer provincial differences than in 2011, when rates ranged from nearly 6% to about 2.5%. Significant improvements were recorded in provinces where the provision of PMTCT services had been poor, such as rural areas in Mpumalanga and Free State provinces. Less than 2% of babies born to women living with HIV in these regions now contract HIV. Researchers estimate that about 120,000 infant HIV infections were averted as a result of expanded provision of PMTCT services.

The results were welcomed by South Africa's Health Minister. He stated that the government and its research partners are planning surveys to examine what percentage of mother-to-child transmission occurs after six weeks, the point at which surveillance currently stops.

Bid to free woman victim of anti-abortion law, El Salvador

Date: 23 July 2012
Source: Central America Women's Network

Today a tribunal hears claims that, due to a doctor's personal beliefs, a woman was jailed for 30 years following a miscarriage. Sonia Contreras Tabora received the severe prison sentence for 'aggravated murder' in 2005 when she was 20 years old. She was reported to the police for abortion by a doctor from whom she sought help for an obstetric complication during premature labour.

The hearing in Sonsorate region will hear allegations that the trial violated legal procedures by delivering its verdict based on the word of the doctor alone, despite a lack of evidence and a post-mortem on the fetus.

Attempts to induce abortion now represent the second highest cause of maternal mortality in El Salvador, with 110 deaths per 100,000 live births. Under law, medical staff must report to the police any women who have terminated their pregnancy.

This case is similar to a similar case highlighted recently, in which 'Manuela' received a similar jail sentence. She died from cancer shortly afterwards.


Global Campaign for Microbicides to close

Date: 23 July 2012
Source: Global Campaign for Microbicides

The Global Campaign for Microbicides (GCM) has announced that it will close its operations in the coming months.

GCM was initially established to generate political pressure for increased investment in microbicide development and to ensure that the rights of trial participants, users and communities were represented and respected throughout the development process. Over nearly 15 years, GCM worked to achieve these initial goals and has been a champion for the ethical development of and access to HIV prevention options, especially for women.

There continues to be a need for a strong voice to ensure that women's issues remain on the agenda when discussing emerging technologies like oral PrEP as well as microbicides. However, the consultation process has led to a decision to close GCM’s operational base operations and activities by the end of September 2012.

PATH and the GCM staff thank all fellow activists in HIV prevention and women’s rights for their support for GCM and look forward to celebrating with our partners the significant achievements of GCM this week during the International AIDS Conference.

A small reception will be held on Thursday, July 26th, from 4:30-6:30 pm at the PATH office to recognise the remarkable accomplishments made over the life of the campaign and commemorate the hard work of GCM’s staff and steering committee.

Global Female Condom Day, September 2012

Date: 24 July 2012
Source: Cervical Barrier Advancement Society

Save the date!

Global Female Condom Day, 12 September 2012

The female condom has the potential to revolutionise safer sex practices for women and men around the world.

On 12 September 2012, join HIV, reproductive health and justice, women's health, youth and gay men's health organisations and advocates from around the world for the first ever Global Female Condom Day.

The female condom is a
highly effective safe-sex option for women, men, and youth, but most people remain unaware about female condoms or are unable to access them. Global Female Condom Day aims to increase the number of women and men around the world who know about, use, and advocate for female condoms.

Click here to become part of Global Female Condom Day.

Blow for HIV treatment as prevention

Date: 24 July 2012
Source: aidsmap

A Ugandan study has found that HIV treatment has not reduced new infections in heterosexual couples of differing HIV status. This is a blow for advocates of 'treatment as prevention'. The study was presented at the 19
 International AIDS Conference in Washington DC.

The study found no difference in the rate of HIV infections in the HIV-negative partner when the HIV-positive partner was taking antiretroviral therapy (ART) and had undetectable viral load, compared to couples where the positive partner was not on treatment.

The survey was conducted in 586 HIV patients and their long-term partners who were attending a clinic in Jinja, Uganda. During the two-year study period, there were 17 new HIV infections - eight in people not taking ART and nine in patients on ART, with no significant difference in those on ART and those not yet on ART. The factors that were significantly related to transmission were having a viral load of over 1000 copies/ml, early age of sexual debut in women, being in a polygamous relationship and situations where "men took the decision on whether to have sex" - suggesting possible sexual coercion.

The findings are very different to previous randomised controlled trials which found a significant reduction in HIV transmissions. The presenter of the study warned that it may demonstrate how hard it is to translate the results of randomised controlled trials to real-life situations in low-income countries.

The abstract can be viewed here on the conference website.

Shame of gay murders highlighted on Mandela Day, South Africa

Date: 18 July 2012
Source: Mamba Online

Today is Nelson Mandela's birthday. On this day, South Africans have been called on to perform a good deed for at least 67 minutes - a minute for every year of Mandela's public service.

The gay and lesbian community will use this day to demand an end to the epidemic of murders of LGBTI people. Groups are organising a 67 minute protest against hate crimes in Johannesburg and a 67 minute candlelight vigil at 6pm South Africa time, in memory of LGBTI people killed in hate crime attacks.

There are reports that eight LGBTI people have been murdered because of their sexual orientation or gender appearance in the last month. A spokesperson stated that 
Nelson Mandela was a leader who believed that LGBTI people should enjoy their full human rights in South Africa. The current President has uttered homophobic statements and has been silent on these attacks. The vigil is to remember this 67 minutes of shame of the current government's silence.

More information about the vigil can be found on Mamba Online's website.

CUPID female condom prequalified by World Health Organization

Date: 17 July 2012

Source: Universal Access to Female Condoms Joint Programme

The CUPID™ female condom, produced by the Indian company Cupid Ltd., has been prequalified by UNFPA and the World Health Organization, meaning that UN agencies and donor organisations as well as national procurement agencies will be able to place a second female condom on their procurement list. This expands the variety and choice of female condoms for distribution.
The CUPID female condom is already available in India, Brazil, Indonesia, the Netherlands and South Africa and has recently been launched in Mozambique by PSI Mozambique under the name Jeitosa.

It has been twenty years since the first female condom came on the market and studies have repeatedly shown high levels of acceptability of female condoms. Yet still most women cannot use them because they are not available to them.

The Universal Access to Female Condoms Joint Programme urges governments to include this condom on funding proposals and calls on civil society organisations to advocate for making the product available in their country in order to increase access for women and men to a wider range of female condoms.


Sexual health significantly worsens, England

Date: 31 May 2012
Source: AIDSMap News

There has been a significant worsening in the sexual health of gay and other men who have sex with men in England, according to new surveillance data released by the Health Protection Agency. Infections also remained high among heterosexual young people, aged between 15 and 24.

Overall sexually transmitted infections increased by 2% in 2011 compared to 2010. But gonorrhoea and syphilis cases increased by 25% and 10% respectively. This year's increase follows longer-term trends showing that rates of syphilis, genital herpes and genital warts have all increased significantly since 2002.

Three-quarters of syphilis cases in 2011 were amongst gay and other men who have sex with men, as were half of gonorrhoea diagnoses. Gonorrhoea cases in gay and bisexual men increased by 61% compared to 2010. Whilst some of the upsurge of diagnoses in gay men is partly attributed to improved testing and surveillance, the increase is at least partly due to ongoing high rates of unprotected sex. There was also an alarming increase in infections amongst young men and women, with two-thirds of chlamydia diagnoses in heterosexuals involving patients aged 15-24 years.

Doctors are especially alarmed by the large increase in gonorrhoea diagnoses because of increase in treatment resistance.

The full report can be downloaded here.


Unsafe abortion, adolescents and young women in Asia Pacific

Date: 19 April 2012
Source: Asian-Pacific Resource & Research Centre for Women (ARROW) 

The latest edition of ARROWS for Change journal includes articles on the huge and rising numbers of induced and often unsafe abortions among unmarried teenagers in the Asia-Pacific region. In Asia, an estimated 9% of all abortions are among girls aged 15-19 years and a further 23% among young women aged 20-24 - this relatively small percentage translates to just under half of the 7.2 million unsafe abortions amongst women aged 15-24 years in the developing world. 

The journal provides information on the data and reasons why deaths from abortion-related complications are higher among adolescents, particularly if unmarried. This edition also provides examples from the Philippines and Pakistan of organisations that are successfully reaching out to young women at risk of unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortion, through information, support and legal and health support. A number of useful resources are also listed.

The newsletter can be downloaded here in English, Cebuano and Filipino.

Family planning summit mobilises new commitments amidst silence on abortion

Date: 13 July 2012
Source: Independent, Lancet, Berer Blog

Rich countries have pledged $2.6 billion over the next eight years to provide family planning access for 120 million women. The commitments, at last week's family planning summit in London, are being described as a breakthrough for the world's poorest women and girls. Almost half of the pledges made at the conference have been from developing countries. The data on the number of pregnancies that would be averted are, however, estimates and are being questioned.

A breakdown of commitments by donor and private sector institution can be viewed here. Developing country commitments are not listed in this breakdown.

The conference is a visible sign of the renewed focus on family planning. The Lancet this week published a series of articles on the scale of the problem and solutions. Its editorial praises the renewed focus on the reproductive health - excluded from the Millenium Development Goals when they were first inaugurated in 2000.

However, despite impressive commitments, an essential component of reproductive health remains missing from the summit discussions - free and legal abortion. Much is being made in the media of Melinda Gates' personal commitment to increasing access to contraceptives, given that she is a practising Catholic. But talking about abortion was clearly one step too far.

In a blog on the conference, Marge Berer argues that while contraception helps people not to have children if and when they don't want to, it is not enough on its own and it never has been. The need for the means to control fertility is part of a much broader set of needs related to reproduction and sexuality - free of fear of violence and negative outcomes, including being able to have a safe abortion without fear of death or condemnation when an unwanted pregnancy occurs.

Marge Berer will be blogging about these issues in the light of the FP Summit over the next weeks - watch our blog!

The other summit co-host, the UK government faced criticism this week from an all-party parliamentary report into restrictions in access to contraception in the UK. The parliamentary enquiry highlighted barriers, especially those facing women over the age of 25, as well as girls and women of all ages who are not residents and women who are not able to get a doctor's prescription for long-acting reversible methods of contraception. More information on the report is in our news and the report can be viewed here.

New family planning policy briefs to strengthen delivery systems and expand access

Date: 17 July 2012
Source: World Health Organization

Four new policy briefs have been launched by the WHO, coinciding with the recent Global Summit on Family Planning in London.

'Strengthening health system response: no opportunities missed' offers policy, programming and research recommendations to increase women's access to postpartum, abortion, postabortion and emergency contraception. The brief calls for family planning services to be an essential component of antenatal through to postpartum or post abortion care, provide women counselling and a variety of contraceptive methods at the point of care and ensure sufficient funding so that services can be provided not only in health facilities but at community level.

'Optimizing the health workforce for effective family planning services' recommends adaptation of locally appropriate task shifting policies for family planning counselling and services and introduce standardised, competency-based training for family planning providers.

'Strategies to increase use of long-acting and permanent contraception' focuses on the importance of strategies that increase access to long-acting and permanent methods for women and men in their communities and that improve training and supervision for intrauterine device and implant insertion and removal techniques.

'Expanding access to contraceptive services for adolescents' outlines the policies necessary for provision of accurate, age-appropriate and comprehensive sexuality education for all adolescents, including engaging adolescents as full partners in programme design, delivery and monitoring.


New global data on sexually transmitted infections

Date: 17 July 2012
Source: World Health Organization

Sexually transmitted infections are a major global cause of acute illness, infertility, long-term disability and death with serious medical and psychological consequences of millions of men, women and infants.

This new publication provides estimates from 2008 on the global burden of sexually transmitted infections - it was estimated that there were 498.9 million new cases of the major diseases - chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis and trichomoniasis. Incidence and prevalence data are broken down by region.

The full report can be downloaded here.


Abortion hotline opens in Kenya

Date: 27 July 2012
Source: Women on Waves

A new hotline - Aunty Jane - has opened in Nairobi, sharing information about how women can safely have an abortion using misoprostol and to prevent post-partum haemorrhage, among other sexual and reproductive health topics. The hotline is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and gives information in English and Swahili.

The hotline was launched by Women on Waves, Women on Web and activists from Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, and Uganda and the hotline uses software from Freedom Fone, a Zimbawean open-source initiative.

Since the launch two weeks ago the hotline received over 50 calls.
In Kenya, one in 38 women dies from pregnancy-related causes. Unsafe abortion rates in Kenya are  among the world's highest. At least 35% of maternal deaths are caused by unsafe abortion. 

Indigenous women face reproductive health barriers, Guatemala

Date: 16 July 2012
Source: Guttmacher Institute

A new study on the use of pregnancy-related services and modern contraceptives amongst ladina and indigenous women in Guatemala finds inequalities in access to health facilities.

Almost three quarters (73%) of ladina women (Spanish-speaking women of mixed Spanish and indigenous heritage) delivered in an institution, whilst just over one third (36%) of indigenous women did so. Indigenous women who wanted to avoid pregnancy were far less likely than their ladina counterparts to use modern contraceptives (49% vs. 72%).

The main difference between ladina and indigenous women was due to Spanish fluency - this also affected service use amongst indigenous women. Some 55% of births to indigenous women who spoke Spanish occurred in a health facility, compared with 19% of those to non-Spanish speakers. And among indigenous women who wanted to delay their next birth, 60% of those who spoke Spanish were using a modern contraceptive method, compared with 36% of those who did not speak Spanish.

Child mortality rates among indigenous families are the highest in Central America and high rates of maternal mortality and morbidity persist in rural and indigenous areas of the country.

The study is currently available online and will appear in the June 2012 issue of International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health.

Turkey restriction on caesarian births

Date: 15 July 2012
Source: Guardian

Turkey has become the first country in the world to make elective caesarian deliveries illegal except for cases of medical necessity, threatening fines for doctors who persuade women to have the surgery.

The new law has been introduced at a time of activism against the prime minister's moves to outlaw abortion. The caesarian restriction law has received far less attention, in part because caesarian sections have risen alarmingly in recent years, with 40% of births in public hospitals being caesarian sections last year. Whilst there is a need to challenge the rise in unnecessary caesarians, critics are concerned that introducing a law will affect individual women and the control that they should have over their bodies. 

Uganda bans NGOs over 'pro-gay' stance

Date: 20 June 2012
Source: The Guardian

Uganda has announced a ban on 38 NGOs it accuses of 'undermining national culture by promoting homosexuality'. The Ethics and Integrity Minister claimed the NGOs were receiving support from abroad and recruiting children 'into homosexuality'.

This crackdown is further intimidation of organisations already battling under the 
new bill, proposed in February, which calls for penalities for those who 'promote' homosexuality.


Publication: Sex, choice and control

Date: 22 June 2012
ource: Action Aid

Photo: ActionAid

A new report from Action Aid states firmly that women’s ability to control when and whether they have children is fundamental to the achievement of all the Millennium Development Goals.

Action Aid launched the report - 'Sex, choice, control: the reality of family planning for women and girls today' during the global summit on family planning. ActionAid  stresses that improving access to contraceptives is just one of many issues. Many women and girls are prevented from using contraceptives because of social barriers caused by gender inequality. Many women and girls' sexual experiences are forced. Often husbands make decisions about family size, and compel their wives to have unsafe sex.

The report presents the stories of four women from across sub-Saharan Africa and shows how important it is to take these complexities into account. The report makes a strong case to show that contraception should be a woman's choice but that it is not solely her responsibility. Men and women, families and communities, donors and governments need to take measures to ensure all women are able to take control of their lives.

The report can be downloaded here.


AIDS-free generation? Not without women!

Date: 12 July 2012
Source: Serra Sippel, Center for Health and Gender Equality (CHANGE)

Five years ago, women overtook men as the majority of people in the world living with HIV. Young women aged 15-24 years make up three quarters of all new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa. HIV is the top killer of women in their childbearing years and HIV was responsible for 60,000 maternal deaths in 2008. In the last two years, HIV infections have nearly doubled among African American women in Washington, D.C. - site of the forthcoming XIX International AIDS Conference in two weeks.

This blog argues that although there are grand global commitments to creating an AIDS-free generation, these relay on making sure that the headline interventions such as voluntary medical male circumcision, treatment as prevention and prevention of mother-to-child transmission use a combination approach that includes access to condoms and social changes that will end the stigma, discrimination, and violence that put women at increased risk of HIV.

For those going to the conference, look in bus shelters, on stickers, in print and on Facebook cover photos for the message that this AIDS conference must pay attention to: AIDS-free generation? Not without women.

Sign the Declaration of Commitment to a woman-centred approach to HIV here.

UK parliamentary report highlights contraceptive restrictions in UK

Date: 10 July 2012
Source: Family Planning Association

The UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Sexual and Reproductive Health has launched a report on its inquiry into access to contraception.

The report,'Healthy women, healthy lives? The cost of curbing access to contraception services' includes the findings of an inquiry that found evidence of commissioners (who manage local health service delivery) restricting access to contraceptive services on the basis of age or place of residence, reduced access to the full range of contraceptive methods due to 'efficiency savings', some methods of contraception only being made available with a referral from a family doctor and not at open access family planning services and breaks in the continuity and quality of contraceptive care across a woman's full sexual and reproductive health life.

The inquiry, which started in April 2012, took written evidence and held an oral evidence session. One written submission from the Advisory Group on Contraception (AGC) written submission found that almost one third of women in England aged 15-44 are living in areas where a fully comprehensive contraceptive service is not provided. Women over 25 are 'bearing the brunt' of these restrictions.

The report recommends that any restrictions on access on the basis of age, residence or method should be removed as a matter of urgency and calls on the government to consider the report and its recommendations and to publish a response to it as soon as possible. It also calls on commissioners of contraceptive services, working in the National Health Service, to ensure that they meet the age-appropriate sexual health needs of all women and men when commissioning contraception and other sexual health services.

The report is available online here.

Sexual refugees struggle to access asylum in Africa

Date: 9 July 2012
Source: IRIN News

A recent study by the Cape Town-based NGO, People Against Suffering Oppression and Poverty, highlightes the high levels of discrimination faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) asylym seekers. The 25 asylum seekers whose stories are featured in the report reveal a combination of xenophobia and homophobia from landlords, employers, police and Home Affairs officials. LGBTI asylum seekers are shunned by the