Statements for the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council

We present statements that the Federation for Women and Family Planning submitted during the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council. Details on resolutions, panels and debates relevant to SRHR can be found on the website of our partner Sexual Rights Initiative.

Statement regarding the situation in Poland on the occasion of the International Women’s Day

Thank you, Madam President.

I deliver this statement on behalf of the Federation for Women and Family Planning.

The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action urged the full and equal enjoyment by women of all human rights as a matter of priority. The protection and fulfilment of the human rights of women and girls, which include the full realization of sexual and reproductive health and rights, is at the heart of gender equality, without which it cannot be achieved.

Unfortunately, despite Poland’s international human rights obligations and commitments, and as recently noted by the Committee against Torture, the Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights and the Working Group on Discrimination against Women and Girls, Polish women can barely access legal abortion services and contraception, and Polish children and youth cannot benefit from access to age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education. When human rights activists say “backlash”, Poland comes to mind. We are very disappointed that these international human rights standards are not upheld in Poland in the fields of women’s rights and gender equality.

Therefore we demand Poland to ensure access to available, accessible and quality sexual and reproductive health services as part of universal health coverage and public health systems, including modern contraceptive options, comprehensive abortion and post-abortion care and remove all legal and social barriers to safe abortion, including its criminalization and commit to providing safe abortion services on request.

International human rights mechanisms have a crucial role to play in reflecting the demands coming from women’s rights movements. Hence we demand UN institutions to continue holding Poland accountable for its obligations to take concrete actions so that standards of protection of women’s rights are upheld. We don’t want tulips on International Women’s Day as long as our rights are not protected.

Statement regarding the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities

Thank you Madame President, the Federation makes this statement on behalf of the Sexual Rights Initiative.

We welcome the Special Rapporteur’s naming of ableism and the articulation of how tightly it is embroidered into current medical, legal, psychological and philosophical perspectives. Ableist, sexist and heteronormative frameworks are entrenched in political, economic, social, religious and technology institutions around the world and prevent women from exercising autonomy, choice and control over their bodies and their lives. We highlight the reaffirmation to center the rights of all women, including women with disabilities, to decide whether or not they want to continue a pregnancy and access contraception with evidence based information during prenatal screening and diagnostic processes.

Yet, the report’s naming of “selective abortion” and “the cumulative effect of individual decisions” related to abortion shifts the scrutiny from State obligations to women and their right to bodily autonomy. It is important to distinguish between systemic discrimination faced by women who seek abortion and individual decisions which are often the result of discrimination. Restrictive laws, policies and practice limit access to SRHR services and constitute human rights violations. In particular, criminal laws and other restrictions on abortion violate international human rights law and are not the way to eliminate disability stigma or support women with disabilities.

We look forward to the continuing work of the Special Rapporteur, and to observing the cooperation of all states in this Council in addressing the impact of patriarchal ableism on the rights of women and girls with disabilities.

Statement regarding the Report of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights

Thank you, Madam President. I make this statement on behalf of the Federation for Women and Family Planning and Action Canada.

We welcome the visit of the Special Rapporteur on cultural rights to Poland in 2018, her comprehensive report on the visit and the recommendations that followed.

We share the concern about culture remaining a key area in which the ruling party attempts to impose its vision of Poland, rather than a sector in which a variety of voices are equally represented. Indeed, some aspects of cultural life in Poland seem to be ideologically circumscribed, especially where women and LGBT people are involved. Poland is a diverse country and should be freed from the attempts at the official cultural engineering.

We welcome the contribution of the report against the fundamentalist and extremist mainstreaming of discriminatory and exclusionary views that impact deleteriously on all spheres of life, including cultural life.

We couldn’t agree more with the Special Rapporteur’s statement that sexual and reproductive health and rights are critical human rights and include State obligations to ensure universal access to comprehensive sexuality education and human rights education. However, we are disappointed by the lack of firm stand that a liberalisation of the law on access of abortion is an indispensable condition for women’s equal participation in cultural life.

We call on the Government of Poland to recognise and combat extremist and fundamentalist ideologies that promote violations of cultural rights. We also call the Government to take concrete steps towards fulfilment of the recommendations of the Rapporteur to ensure that all sectors of vibrant society are included in the cultural life of the country, including women, minorities, persons with disabilities and LGBT persons, without discrimination.