16 September 2021 — The Council of Europe Expert Group on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO) published its first baseline evaluation report on Poland.

The report contains a comprehensive analysis of the implementation of the provisions of the Istanbul Convention by Poland. As regards SRHR, some of the GREVIO recommendations to the Polish government take account of the suggestions that the Federation proposed in its alternative report submitted to GREVIO. FEDERA was also one of the non-governmental organizations met by the GREVIO delegation to assess compliance with the provisions of the Istanbul Convention in Poland.

GREVIO pointed to difficulties in accessing timely, sensitive and reliable information and referral to medical services performing lawful abortions, which is likely to increase women’s psychological distress and highlights the recent decision of the Committee of Ministers in the context of the supervision of the execution of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case P. and S. v. Poland, which, in relation to victims of rape, has stressed the need for the Polish authorities “to introduce clear and effective procedures … ensuring that women seeking lawful abortion are provided with adequate information on the steps they need to take, including in the event of a refusal by the doctor to perform an abortion on grounds of conscience”. Therefore GREVIO stresses that any obstacles to accessing available information or support services may result in the victims’ re-traumatisation and increase their sense of helplessness. GREVIO is concerned that women who are unable to obtain the necessary certificate and access to lawful abortion will be required to terminate their unwanted pregnancy abroad. This may place a high financial and psychological burden on these women in addition to that resulting from the rape. Therefore the experts urge the Polish authorities to ensure that the reproductive choice of women victims of rape does not constitute a barrier to their access to information and support from the above services.

GREVIO calls on Poland to recognise the role of independent women’s NGOs as key partners in preventing and combating violence against women, including in addressing the structural inequalities between women and men, by actively creating an environment that is conducive to their work and ensure equitable access to stable funding opportunities for these NGOS.

GREVIO strongly encourages the Polish authorities to address the multiple forms of discrimination in accessing protection and support faced by certain groups of women victims of violence, in particular women with disabilities, migrant women, Roma women, older women, LBTI women and women in prostitution, by developing policy orientation and measures which take into account and aim to overcome the specific obstacles faced by these groups of women.