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UNFPA Global Population Policy Update
Laws and Polices in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Rwanda and Chile
ISSUE 30 - 14 June 2004
This issue of the UNFPA Global Population Policy Update focuses on the creation of an enabling environment for the implementation of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action (Cairo, Egypt, 1994).
The following is a summary of selected laws and policies that have been passed recently in various countries on issues related to population, reproductive health and women's empowerment.
Afghanistan Adopts New Constitution
In January 2004, Afghanistan's Loya Jirga adopted the Constitution of Afghanistan , 1382. The constitution, which has 12 chapters and 162 articles, establishes Afghanistan as an Islamic Republic and requires all laws to conform to the tenets of Islam. It calls for the state to build a society based on social justice and respect for human dignity and human rights; to abide by international human rights treaties to which Afghanistan is a party; and to regulate national policy on the basis of equal rights. It guarantees 37 fundamental human rights of citizens, including the rights to nondiscrimination and equality before the law; life; liberty; dignity; education; and employment. It also obligates the state to develop and implement special programs for the promotion of womenâ€™s education; to provide free preventive health care to all citizens; and to adopt measures to ensure the physical and mental well-being of the family, especially of mothers and children. The constitution also calls for the state to establish an independent Human Rights Commission to protect and promote human rights and investigate individual claims of violations. In provisions relating to the structure of government, the constitution requires that a specified number of seats in the legislature be reserved for women. http://www.embassyofafghanistan.org
Cambodia Launches First National Population Policy
On 4 February 2004, the Prime Minister of Cambodia launched the country's first National Population Policy. At the core of the policy is the right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children, and to have access to the information and means to do so. The policy further describes the underlying principles that guided its formulation, including the values of Khmer culture and tradition, the human rights guarantees in the Cambodian constitution and the government's commitments under international human rights treaties and agreements.
In light of the key population issues facing the country, the policy sets forth an overall goal and several objectives. Its overall goal is to achieve sustainable development, reduce poverty and improve the quality of life of all Cambodians through changes in the size, composition and distribution of the population. Its specific objectives are to support couples and individuals in their ability to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children, and provide them with the information, education and services to do so; reduce infant, child and maternal morbidity and mortality rates; reduce the potential negative impact of rural-urban migration; promote gender equality; enhance human resource development; alleviate the burden of population on the environment and natural resources; strengthen efforts to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS; and integrate population issues into social and economic policies, plans and programmes at all levels.
A forthcoming action plan, known as the National Population Strategy, will provide detailed strategies and programmes to implement the policy. The Policy charges the National Committee for Population and Development with responsibility for monitoring its implementation.
Rwanda Adopts New Constitution
In a public referendum held on 26 May 2003, Rwandan citizens voted overwhelmingly for the Constitution of the Republic of Rwanda, 2003, which the president signed into law on 4 June 2003.
The document, which consists of 12 parts and 203 articles, establishes respect for fundamental human rights as the basis of Rwandan nation-building, reaffirms the government's commitment to international human rights treaties it has ratified and promises to ensure equal rights among all Rwandans, especially between women and men. It devotes 35 articles to enforceable fundamental human rights, and guarantees the inviolability of the human person and the rights to nondiscrimination, life, physical and mental integrity, equal protection of the law, free consent to marriage and equal rights in marriage and divorce, free choice of employment and equal pay for equal work, education and health.
It also obligates the government to undertake activities aimed at promoting good health and to enact special laws and create institutions for the protection of families, particularly of mothers and children. In addition to fundamental rights, the constitution establishes several duties of citizens, including the duty to respect the principles of social justice and equality. It also calls for political parties to ensure that women and men have equal access to elective office, and requires that a certain number of parliamentary seats be reserved for women. The constitution establishes several special national institutions to further promote human rights and gender equality, including the National Commission for Human Rights, the Gender Monitoring Office and the National Council of Women. http://www.cjcr.gov.rw/eng/constitution_eng.doc
Chile's Ministry of Health Approves Emergency Contraception for Survivors of Rape
On 6 April 2004, Chile's Ministry of Health issued Resolution No. 527 on the conditions for delivery of emergency contraception (EC) to victims of sexual violence. The accompanying Norms and Technical Guide on Emergency Care Service for Victims of Sexual Violence (the Guidelines) are intended to provide health care clinics and health personnel with tools to ensure that victims of sexual abuse are given appropriate care and necessary information on the risks associated with the crime inflicted, as well as access to different treatments to prevent an unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including Hepatitis B and HIV. Persons who have been victims of sexual violence shall receive EC upon request. Parental consent is required in cases where victims of sexual assault are minors.
Under the Guidelines, health professionals must guarantee that victims who seek assistance are treated with dignity and respect, their confidentiality is protected, and they have access to a fair grievance procedure. The Guidelines further guarantee psychological support and counseling for victims of sexual assault. Other provisions of the Guidelines offer direction for health clinic personnel on how to manage cases of sexual assault by calling for such health clinic initiatives as: developing systematized institutional mechanisms that respond to victims' needs; fostering a non-judgmental and welcoming atmosphere; and creating a sensitization program that responds to the needs of victims of sexual violence. Should an attending physician consider, for personal or religious reasons, that he or she cannot provide treatment, he or she must refer the case to a practitioner capable of handling the patient's request. In an effort to respect the person's privacy and ease the reporting process, the Guidelines require that rape victims not be asked to undergo questioning and physical examination more than once.
The Guidelines further provide that a physician's report on the medical examination of a victim of sexual violence should be limited to clinical observations; he or she is not authorized to assert or qualify the criminal act.
This newsletter is issued by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in its capacity as secretariat for the biannual International Parliamentarians' Conference on the Implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action (the first conference was held in November 2002, in Ottawa, Canada). These dispatches are intended to highlight important developments taking place around the world so that parliamentarians can be kept informed of and learn from the successes, setbacks and challenges encountered by their fellow parliamentarians in other countries and regions in their efforts to promote the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (September 1994, Cairo, Egypt). It should be noted that UNFPA does not necessarily endorse all of the policies described in this newsletter.
Thanks to Center for Reproductive Rights and Harvard University School of Public Health for their contributions to the content of this newsletter.
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