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UNFPA Global Population Policy Update
Laws and Polices in Mali, Albania, Nepal, Ecuador, Bolivia and India
ISSUE 1 - 21 April 2003
As part of the follow-up to the International Parliamentarians’ Conference on the Implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action (21-22 November 2002, Ottawa), UNFPA is proud to launch its first email newsletter for parliamentarians.
As many of you know, the IPCI/ICPD was a watershed event where parliamentarians from around the world, including ministers and secretaries of state, gathered in the Canadian parliament to discuss the implementation of the Programme of Action of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (IPCD). 103 elected representatives from 72 countries and territories attending the conference focused on the two themes they were in the best position to address as policy makers: meeting the ICPD financial targets and creating an enabling environment for ICPD implementation at the national level.
At the end of the conference, the participants unanimously adopted the Ottawa Commitment, which spelled out concrete actions parliamentarians should take to further mobilize resources that are desperately needed to achieve the ICPD (and Millennium Development) Goals and to bring about positive changes to national laws, policies and programmes related to population and development. It was agreed that the IPCI/ICPD would be an ongoing process, with a global parliamentary conference taking place every two years. UNFPA, as the secretariat to the IPCI/ICPD, was tasked with monitoring progress being made at the global level on the two themes and providing parliamentarians with regular updates. This monthly dispatch is 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.
To all our partner NGOs, secretariats of parliamentary groups and UNFPA field offices on this mailing list, we would like to ask for your kind cooperation in forwarding this first issue to parliamentarians and government officials in your countries who may be interested in receiving this type of information. As we do not wish to burden you with similar requests every time we issue the newsletter, it would be highly appreciated if you could send us the email addresses of parliamentarians and government officials you recommend to be on the mailing list as soon as possible, and inform us of any subsequent changes.
We hope you enjoy this first issue, which focuses on the creation of an enabling environment.
On 24 June 2002, the Republic of Mali adopted Law No. 02-44 on Reproductive Health, which came into effect on 24 December 2002. The law incorporates the definition of “reproductive health” affirmed in Article 7.2 of the Cairo Programme of Action. Citing the needs of “vulnerable groups” such as women, children and young adults, the law states that the aim of reproductive health care is to reduce maternal and child mortality and morbidity and promote the well-being of all individuals. The law affirms the equality of men and women in matters of reproductive health, stating that all persons are entitled to enjoy a safe and responsible sex life and that men and women have equal rights to information and access to the family planning methods of their choice. The law provides that any individual or couple has the right to reproductive health services that are of the best possible quality. In particular, it ensures the rights of women to health care during pregnancy and childbirth aimed at preserving the health of the pregnant woman and the newborn. The law lists the components of reproductive health care, which include: services and activities related to family planning; information and counseling on sexuality and responsible parenthood; care for safe pregnancy and childbirth; services to promote infant survival; prevention and treatment of sterility, infertility and impotence; abortion prevention and post-abortion care; prevention and treatment of reproductive tract infections; treatment of genital disorders; treatment of complications of female genital mutilation; reproductive health care for older adults and young people; and treatment and prevention of sexually transmissible infections (STIs) and HIV/AIDS.
The law pledges special care to those living with HIV/AIDS, but calls upon them to inform their partners and take measures to avoid its transmission. It further provides for criminal penalties for individuals who intentionally transmit HIV. The law affirms the legality of manufacturing, importing, selling and publicizing approved contraceptive methods, while setting penalties for the sale and promotion of non-approved methods.
The Republic of Albania, on 4 April 2002, adopted Law No. 8876 on Reproductive Health, which provides for the organization and delivery of reproductive health care and sets forth guarantees of individuals’ reproductive rights. The law incorporates the principles of the Cairo Programme of Action in its definitions of reproductive and sexual health, listing the following services as components of reproductive health care: family planning services, services and education for safe pregnancy and childbirth; health care services and education for children and adolescents; prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS; safe abortion services and management of abortion complications; information, education and counseling about sexuality and reproductive health; referral services for a range of special needs in the area of reproductive health; and prevention and treatment of infertility.
In addition, the law provides broad protection for the principles of gender equality and reproductive self-determination, providing explicit guarantees of the right to family planning, consent to reproductive health care interventions, safe pregnancy and childbirth services, access to reproductive technologies, health education and basic medical care. The law further affirms the right of consenting individuals to undergo sterilization, provided they are of the legal minimum age. It also provides for the rights of adolescents to age-appropriate reproductive health information and services, including programs aimed at preventing unwanted pregnancy and sexual abuse. Finally, the law guarantees treatment for infertility and use of reproductive technologies, specifying that couples must jointly agree on the use of these technologies. Subsequent sections of the law address the use of these treatments and technologies in greater detail.
The remaining provisions of the law deal primarily with the administration of reproductive health services, mentioning certain services that are provided free of charge. The law specifies that pregnant women enjoy free medical care during pregnancy, delivery and the postnatal period, referring in particular to mandatory pre- and post-natal examinations. The law further specifies that children under six years of age are entitled to free preventive health care. Finally, under the law, adolescents receive reproductive health and sexual education services free of charge.
On 26 September 2002, the King of Nepal signed the Country Code (Eleventh Amendment) Bill, which, among other things, sets forth the conditions under which abortion may be performed. Abortion is now legal in Nepal at the woman’s request during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. It is permitted during the first 18 weeks of pregnancy in cases of rape and incest and at any time in the case of fetal impairment and when a woman's life or health is in danger. The law prohibits and sets forth penalties for both sex-selective abortion and prenatal testing for the purpose of sex selection. Prior to the enactment of this code, Nepal had a maternal mortality rate of 540 per 100,000 live births – one of the highest in the world. It is estimated that 50 percent of maternal deaths were due to unsafe abortion, and 20-50 percent of all admissions to gynecological wards in hospitals was due to abortion complications.
On 23 December 2002, Ecuador enacted a new Code on Children and Adolescents. The Code sets forth provisions on integral protection guaranteed by the State, society and the family to children and adolescents in order to achieve their integral development and the full exercise of their rights within a framework of liberty, dignity and equality. The Code provides that all children and adolescents through the age of 18 are equal before the law and may not be discriminated against on the basis of birth, nationality, age, sex, ethnic origin, color, social origin, language, religion, political opinion, economic status, sexual orientation, state of health, disability or cultural diversity. It guarantees children and adolescents the following rights, among others: the right to life; the right to live in a family; the right to be breastfed; the right to care during pregnancy and childbirth; the right to physical, mental, psychological and sexual health, free-of-charge; the right to social security; the right to personal identity; the right to free education through the secondary level, including education on responsible maternity and paternity; the right to information; the right to personal integrity, including respect for their personal, physical, psychological, cultural, emotional and sexual integrity; the right to privacy; and the right to freedom of expression, thought, association and religion. The Code requires professionals and officials to report cases of mistreatment, abuse, sexual exploitation and trafficking in children and adolescents, all persons to intervene in such cases, and the State to adopt measures for the protection of affected children and adolescents. It sets forth detailed rules on the employment of children and adolescents, the rights of children within the family and the exercise of parental authority, child custody, child support, the right of pregnant women to support from the fathers of their unborn children, adoption, children taken into care and protection, children and adolescents who have committed offenses, the organization, administration and responsibilities of government agencies responsible for the protection of children and adolescents and penalties for violation of the provisions of the Code. It prohibits discrimination against pregnant adolescents and adolescents who are mothers, the dissemination of pornography to children and adolescents and their involvement in pornography and the medical or genetic manipulation of fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses.
On 22 November 2002, Bolivia enacted a Law on universal mother-child insurance. The Law creates a system of universal, integral and free insurance to provide health care for women from the beginning of their pregnancy through the six-month period following childbirth and for children from birth through age five. The health care is to be provided by means of a network of health services established within primary, secondary, and tertiary health care establishments throughout the country.
On 17 January 2003, India amended its Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994. The 1994 Act was designed to regulate the use of pre-natal diagnostic techniques for the purpose of detecting genetic or metabolic disorders, chromosomal abnormalities, certain congenital malformations and sex linked disorders and to prevent the misuse of such techniques for the purpose of pre-natal sex determination leading to the abortion of female foetuses. The 2003 amendments are designed to strengthen the provisions of the Act by doing the following: a) broadening the scope of procedures and tests that are prohibited and categories of clinics and laboratories that are subject to the provisions of the Act; b) prohibiting any procedure, technique, test or the administration of anything for the purpose of ensuring or increasing the probability that an embryo will be of a particular sex; c) prohibiting the sale of any ultrasound machine or imaging machine or scanner or any other equipment capable of detecting the sex of a foetus to any clinic or person not registered under the Act; d) requiring persons carrying out tests allowed by the Act to keep records; e) prohibiting the causing of sex selection before or after conception; f) creating state boards to monitor the implementation of the Act; g) enlarging the powers of officials to enforce the provisions of the Act; and h) broadening advertising prohibitions.
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.
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If you have any questions or comments on the content of this newsletter, please contact Harumi Kodama at email@example.com or Stirling Scruggs at firstname.lastname@example.org. We wish to take this opportunity to thank the Center for Reproductive Rights and Dr. Reed Boland of the Harvard University School of Public Health who have agreed to provide regular input on the newsletter content.