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UNFPA Global Population Policy Update
Laws and Policies in Austria , Germany , U.K. , France , Switzerland and Ireland
ISSUE 55 - 24 August 2005
This issue of the UNFPA Global Population Policy Update highlights laws and policies relating to sex crimes, sexual and reproductive health, domestic violence and gender equality that were adopted in Europe in the latter part of 2003 and the beginning of 2004.
Austria Amends Penal Code on Sex Crimes
On 1 March 2004, Austria amended its Penal Code to increase protections against sex crimes. The amendments include provisions to: a) prohibit trafficking of persons for sexual purposes, the removal of organs or illegal employment; b) make it a crime to force a minor into prostitution or participating in pornography; and c) strengthen measures on crimes against sexual integrity and self-determination; sexual abuse of physically or mentally disabled persons; child pornography; the facilitation of sexual relations with minors for money; prostitution; and sexual harassment.
Germany Amends Penal Code on Sex Crimes
On 23 December 2003, Germany amended its Penal Code to strengthen protections against sex crimes. The amendments include provisions to: a) increase the minimum penalty of imprisonment for sexual crimes committed by persons who are responsible for the rearing, education, care, or institutional custody of the victims; b) increase the scope of sexual crimes committed against children and disabled persons and the penalties for these crimes; and c) make it a crime to distribute, obtain, or possess child pornography and d) make it a crime to disseminate child pornography through the media; adult pornography may be distributed so long as persons under the age of 18 do not have access to such media .
U.K. Issues Guidance on Sexual and Reproductive Health Services Provision to Adolescents Under 16
On 29 July 2004, the British Department of Health issued the Best Practice Guidance for Doctors and Other Health Professionals on the Provision of Advice and Treatment to Young People Under 16 on Contraception, Sexual and Reproductive Health . The Guidance specifically addresses health professionals' duties of confidentiality and care to patients under 16, recognizing that concerns about confidentiality are the biggest deterrent to seeking care for this age group.
The Guidance calls for all health facilities providing contraceptive services to young people to develop and prominently advertise a confidentiality policy that explicitly guarantees the right to confidentiality of those under 16 on an equal basis with adults. It condemns deliberate breaches of confidentiality, however minor, as serious disciplinary matters. The Guidance qualifies the duty of confidentiality in cases where health professionals believe there is a serious risk to the health, safety or welfare of a young person. In considering whether to disclose information, health professionals should weigh disclosure against factors such as the young person's right to privacy, the degree of current or likely harm, and the potential benefits of disclosure to the young person's well-being. In all but exceptional circumstances, the guidance advises health professionals to consult the young person and offer support for a voluntary disclosure before taking unilateral action.
With regard to health professionals' duty of care to patients under 16, the Guidance authorizes the provision of contraceptive and sexual and reproductive health services without parental knowledge or consent provided that two conditions are met: a) the young person should understand the advice provided and its implications; and b) the young person's physical or mental health would likely suffer if advice or treatment were not provided. The Guidance emphasizes health professionals' duty of confidentiality to the patient regardless of whether advice or treatment is ultimately provided. It also discourages health professionals from allowing personal beliefs prejudice their care to a young person; any provider who is unable to provide confidential contraceptive services should make alternative arrangements for the patient to be seen by another professional and prominently advertise such arrangements.
France Amends Civil Code on Domestic Violence
On 9 March 2004, France amended its Civil Code to address domestic violence. The amendment allows for a judge to adopt temporary measures to stop domestic violence within a marriage. These measures include removing one spouse from the family home and establishing rules on the exercise of parental authority and spousal contributions to the payment of the common expenses of the marriage. The amendment is part of a major reform to the French divorce law, which is designed to simplify procedures when the spouses are in agreement about divorce and to alleviate differences when they are not in agreement. The reform also attempts to separate the consequences of divorce from the allocation of fault, to provide for mediation, and to divide marital property at the time of divorce without resorting to spousal support payments.
Switzerland Amends Penal Code on Domestic Violence
On 3 October 2003, Switzerland amended its Penal Code to increase protections against domestic violence. The amendments require that legal proceedings be brought against persons who commit the following crimes against a spouse or cohabitant: a) physical injury; b) assault that does not involve physical injury or damage to the victim's health; and c) serious threats. In the case of married couples, such proceedings can be instituted during the marriage and within one year following the divorce. In the case of cohabitation, they can be instituted during cohabitation or within one year of separation.
Ireland Enacts Equality Act 2004
On 18 July 2004, Ireland enacted the Equality Act 2004 . The Act amends the Employment Equality Act 199 8 to strengthen provisions mandating the equality of treatment, including the equality of treatment of men and women. The Act includes provisions to: a) include self-employed persons and persons within business partnerships within the scope of protection of the 1998 Act; b) broaden the definition of discrimination to cover less favorable treatment on the grounds of pregnancy and maternity leave; c) broaden the definition of sexual harassment; d) strengthen measures against indirect gender-based discrimination; e) more strictly define the exceptions to the provisions against gender-based discrimination on the basis of genuine occupational requirements and family and personal matters; and f) broaden the definition of victimization under the Act. The Act also amends the Equal Status Act 2000 to strengthen protections against discrimination.
All previous issues of the UNFPA Global Population Policy Update can now be found on UNFPA's website at: http://www.unfpa.org/parliamentarians/news/newsletters.htm.
This newsletter is issued by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in its capacity as secretariat for the biennial International Parliamentarians' Conference on the Implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action (IPCI/ICPD). The first IPCI/ICPD was held in November 2002 in Ottawa, Canada and the second in October 2004 in Strasbourg, France. 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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