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European strategy for the promotion of sexual and reproductive health and rights

Doc. 10310
4 October 2004

Opinion[1]
Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men
Rapporteur for opinion: Mrs Rosmarie Zapfl-Helbling, Switzerland, Group of the European People’s Party


I.          Conclusions of the Committee:

The Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men fully supports the draft resolution and draft recommendation presented by the Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee. The Committee wishes, however, to propose seven amendments to the draft resolution and recommendation with a view to strengthening them.

II.         Proposed amendments to the draft resolution and draft recommendation contained in Doc. 10266 tabled by the Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee:

Amendment A:

In the draft resolution, at the end of paragraph 6, add the following sentence:

“The Parliamentary Assembly itself has adopted Resolution 1394 (2004) on the involvement of men, especially young men, in reproductive health. It called on Council of Europe member and observer states to involve men and boys in all aspects of sexual and reproductive health, via special awareness-raising and sex education programmes and improved access to reproductive health services.”

Amendment B:

In the draft resolution, in paragraph 10, replace the words “the trafficking of young girls” with the words:

 “trafficking in human beings”.

Amendment C:

In the draft resolution, in paragraph 11 i., replace “prepare and adopt” with:

“work together to design a European strategy for the promotion of sexual and reproductive health and rights and prepare, adopt and implement (if they have not already done so)”.

Amendment D:

In the draft resolution, at the end of paragraph 11 i. g., add:

“including breast cancer”.

Amendment E:

In the draft resolution, in paragraph 11 i. h., replace the words “the trafficking of young girls” with the words:

 “trafficking in human beings”.

Amendment F:

In the draft resolution, in paragraph 11 v., replace the words “age-appropriate” with the words:

“age- and gender-appropriate”.

Amendment G:

In the draft recommendation, at the beginning of paragraph 1 ii., add a new sub-paragraph worded as follows:

“design a comprehensive European strategy for the promotion of sexual and reproductive health and rights which addresses – amongst other issues - those outlined in paragraph 11 of Resolution No. … (2004);”

III.        Explanatory memorandum by the Rapporteur for opinion, Mrs Zapfl-Helbling

1.         A European strategy for the promotion of sexual and reproductive health and rights is more necessary than ever before. This might seem a curious statement to make, seeing as, only a decade ago, sexual and reproductive rights were put firmly on the human rights agenda all over the world. In 1994, the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo adopted a Plan of Action which set clear objectives for 179 countries in the sexual and reproductive health field. A year later, in 1995, the Fourth World Conference for Women in Beijing and its Platform for Action added the recognition of the need for equal relationships between women and men in matters of sexual relations and reproduction.

2.         But, unfortunately, we have since witnessed a rollback in many states, both with regard to equality and to the effective exercise of sexual and reproductive health rights – due to budget-restrictions, misguided policies, or both. It is time for Europe to design a comprehensive European strategy in this field and thus lead the way in fulfilling the promises of Cairo and Beijing.

3.          The Rapporteur of the Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee is to be commended on her excellent report on this issue, which includes four detailed case studies of countries across Europe. The report not only presents the current problems and challenges but also outlines elements for national strategies to overcome them.

4.         However, the report stops short of suggesting a comprehensive European strategy for the promotion of sexual and reproductive health and rights. It is my firm belief that, while individual country policies can, of course, make a difference, real progress will only be made when all member states come together to exchange their experiences and design a common European strategy to deal with our common European problems: the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the rise in sexually transmitted infections, certain cancers and infertility, to name but a few. We need a common European strategy to reach our common European aims which include affordable, accessible, and available sexual and reproductive health commodities and services for all, a lower rate of teenage pregnancies, the elimination of the use of abortion as a means of contraception and lower maternal and child morbidity and mortality.

5.         Europe also needs to fight against sexual violence and exploitation, including trafficking in human beings. I would, however, guard against including this fight in the broader framework of a strategy for the promotion of sexual and reproductive health and rights. The problem of trafficking in human beings deserves more attention: it is both a very large and a very grave problem, constituting a human rights abuse in and of itself and needs to be treated as such (not just as an “annex” to another problem). Trafficking in human beings is multi-faceted and not restricted to trafficking for the ends of sexual exploitation. The Council of Europe is, in fact, currently drafting a Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, following up on several Assembly recommendations on the subject. This draft Convention is due to be submitted to the Assembly for opinion in December 2004, and will hopefully be opened for signature on the occasion of the Council of Europe’s Third Summit in May 2005.

6.         The need for equal relationships between women and men in matters of sexual relations and reproduction is another issue worth addressing in the context of elaborating a European strategy. Traditionally, issues of reproductive health have been considered “women’s issues” – the burden of dealing with the potential consequences of being sexually active has all too often fallen on women, be it decisions on contraception or even abortion, or bearing and rearing children. There are several areas of sexual and reproductive health which should and do concern men as much as women and which warrant more involvement from men. The Assembly has only very recently adopted Resolution 1394 (2004) on the involvement of men, especially young men, in reproductive health. In this Resolution, the Assembly called on Council of Europe member and observer states to involve men and boys in all aspects of sexual and reproductive health, via special awareness-raising and sex education programmes and improved access to reproductive health services. This Resolution deserves to be taken into account when a European strategy for the promotion of sexual and reproductive health and rights is designed.

7.         In conclusion, I recommend that the Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men fully support the draft report presented by Ms McCafferty on behalf of the Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee. The Committee should, however, propose some amendments to the draft resolution and the draft recommendation with a view to ensuring that a comprehensive European strategy for the promotion of sexual and reproductive health and rights be designed, which addresses – amongst others - all the issues outlined in paragraph 11 of the draft resolution, as well as the involvement of men in reproductive health.


Reporting committee: Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee

Committee seized for opinion: Committee on equal opportunities for women and men

Reference to Committee: Doc 9512, reference N 2757 of 3 September 2002

Draft opinion unanimously adopted by the Committee on 4 October 2004

Secretaries of the Committee: Mrs Kleinsorge, Ms Devaux


[1] See Doc. 10266 tabled by the Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee.