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UNFPA Global Population Policy Update
Laws and Polices in Argentina, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Colombia, Nigeria, Romania, Serbia and South Africa
ISSUE 17 - 16 March 2004
As part of its efforts to monitor the commitments made at the International Parliamentarians' Conference on the Implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action (21-22 November 2002, Ottawa), UNFPA continues to follow developments taking place at the national level that help create an enabling environment for the achievement of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Programme of Action. This issue of the newsletter highlights laws and policies on such ICPD-related issues as maternal and child care, human trafficking, gender equality, HIV/AIDS and family violence that were recently enacted in Argentina, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Colombia, Nigeria, Romania, Serbia and South Africa.
Argentina Issues Rules on Maternity Services
In May 2003, the Ministry of Health issued Resolution No. 348/2003, which approves rules for the provision of maternity services incorporated into the National Programme to Guarantee the Quality of Medical Care. These rules aim to improve the organization and functioning of maternity services, which includes care during pregnancy, childbirth and puerperium, as well as care for newborns. The resolution emphasizes the importance of gynecological examinations for women; the early detection of pregnancy; identification of potential prenatal problems related to the mother's health and nutrition level; the categorization of risks for pregnancy and childbirth; and the institutional attention to providing the necessary care for mothers and children. The resolution includes provisions on: the basic principles underlying care; essential obstetric and neonatal conditions; the organization and essential requirements of maternity services; and the description of services to be offered.
Bangladesh Approves Programme to Prevent the Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children
In February 2002, the government of Bangladesh adopted the National Plan of Action Against the Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children including Trafficking. The National Plan of Action (NPA) includes such prevention objectives as: adopting educational measures, with an emphasis on human rights and life skills; increasing economic alternatives for families; instituting legal reform; and eliminating child marriage. To improve child protection, the NPA calls for the reactivation of the birth registration system, better mechanisms and structures for reporting abuse and the creation of safe havens for victims and children at risk. It notes that special protection is needed for children affected by natural disasters and for child refugees. The NPA also calls for the recovery and reintegration of trafficking and sexual abuse victims by improving children's access to necessary support services and creating a receptive environment for reintegration among families, local community leaders and the public. Moreover, to increase the arrest and prosecution of child traffickers, the NPA emphasizes a coordinated approach to monitoring and law enforcement, particularly regarding cross-border trafficking, and calls for increased coordination among Bangladesh ministries, other governments, embassies in "receiving" countries and concerned non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Finally, the NPA cites measures to address the risks of HIV/AIDS, sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) and substance abuse faced by the abused, exploited and trafficked children.
Bulgaria Passes Law on Human Trafficking
In May 2003, Bulgaria enacted a law to combat human trafficking. The law defines human trafficking as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, concealment or acceptance of human beings, regardless of their own will, by means of coercion, abduction, deprivation of liberty, fraud, abuse of power, abuse of a state of dependence or by means of giving, receiving or promising benefits to obtain the consent of a person who has control over another person when it is carried out for the purpose of exploitation. It includes provisions on:
-The powers and objectives of state authorities involved in combating trafficking in human beings;
-Measures to prevent and fight human trafficking;
-Measures aimed at protecting and supporting the victims of human trafficking, especially women and children;
-The status and objectives of the shelters, centres and commissions established under the law to protect and support human trafficking victims; and
-The placement under special protection of victims who collaborate with an investigation.
The law is intended to ensure cooperation and coordination among the state, the municipalities and the NGOs, with a view to developing a national policy to combat human trafficking.
Combating Trafficking in Human Beings Act
Colombia Passes Law on Equal Opportunities for Women
On 10 July 2003, Colombia enacted Law No. 823, which provides an institutional framework and guidance for government policies and measures that will promote equal opportunities for women. Based on this law, the government will execute a plan to promote and guarantee women the full exercise of their rights, eliminate obstacles that prevent women from fully exercising their rights and incorporate policies relating to gender equity and equal opportunity for women in all government services.
More specifically, the government will:
-Adopt equal opportunity policies for women and strengthen institutions responsible for executing these policies;
-Improve women's access to urban and rural employment and promote equal pay;
-Carry out activities to increase women's access to integral health services, including sexual, reproductive and mental health services;
-Provide special assistance and protection for women during pregnancy and after childbirth (including establishing a food subsidies programme for pregnant women who are unemployed or have been abandoned);
-Incorporate a gender perspective into the education and training of health personnel;
-Guarantee all women equal access to academic and professional programmes; and
-Design special credit and subsidies programmes to allow women access to housing.
The government will also provide subsidized health coverage for women who are heads of households and belong to marginalized or discriminated groups. In addition, the government will carry out programmes to provide information on women's sexual and reproductive health and reduce the levels of women's mortality and morbidity associated with their sexual and reproductive health.
Nigeria Adopts National Policy on HIV/AIDS
In June 2003, the Federal Government of Nigeria issued its National Policy on HIV/AIDS. The goals of the policy are to control the spread of HIV/AIDS, provide equitable care and support for those infected by HIV and mitigate the impact of the disease. To achieve these goals, the government commits itself to pursuing a number of specific objectives, including: promoting a national multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary response to the epidemic and assigning appropriate roles to the different sectors; increasing awareness among the general population about HIV/AIDS and encouraging behavioral change to control the epidemic; fostering acceptance of every person's responsibility to prevent the transmission of HIV and to support those who have been affected; providing cost-effective care for and protecting the legal rights of those infected; removing all barriers to HIV/AIDS prevention and control; empowering those infected or affected by HIV/AIDS; developing standards and guidelines to institutionalize best practices for mitigating the impact of AIDS; stimulating research and monitoring and evaluation of programmes; and developing prevention programmes that target vulnerable groups.
As a means of monitoring and evaluating the progress and implementation of the policy over time, the main target of achieving at least a 25% reduction in the adult HIV prevalence every five years has been set to guide programme planning and implementation.
Romania Issues Law on Family Violence
On 22 May 2003, Romania approved a law to prevent and combat family violence. The law defines family violence as a physical or verbal act carried out by one member of a family against another that causes serious physical, psychological or sexual harm, as well as violence that impedes a woman from exercising her fundamental rights and liberties. The law establishes a National Agency for Family Protection under the Ministry of Family and Health to:
-Promote the value of the family and prevent and combat family violence;
-Assist family members in difficulties;
-Assist victims of family violence in the recovery of their health and reintegration into society;
-Provide various kinds of treatment for perpetrators; and
-Protect victims, particularly minors.
The law also describes the activities of persons providing family assistance; preventive measures to be undertaken by various public agencies, including educational and informational measures; the activities of family counselors, including efforts at mediation; the activities of centres for victims of family violence; and offenses and penalties.
Serbia Adds Provisions to its Criminal Code Protecting Women and Minors from Sexually Motivated Crimes
In April 2003, Serbia issued a law amending its criminal code with provisions to protect women and minors from sexually motivated crimes. Whoever sexually harasses, or, through sexual conduct, otherwise offends the dignity of another person shall be punished with a fine or up to six months imprisonment. The law also imposes imprisonment of one to five years to persons who produce, sell or distribute pornographic materials featuring minors or induce a minor to take part in a pornographic show. Finally, the law prohibits human trafficking for the purpose of obtaining some gain, exploitation of labor, criminal activities, prostitution, begging, pornography, removal of organs for transplantation or exploitation in armed conflicts. Persons convicted of such crimes are subject to one to ten years imprisonment.
South Africa Adopts Plan for Care, Management and Treatment of HIV/AIDS
On 19 November 2003, the South African government adopted the Operational Plan for Comprehensive HIV and AIDS Care, Management and Treatment. The goals of this plan are to provide comprehensive care and treatment for people living with HIV/AIDS and to facilitate the strengthening of the country's national health system. The plan aims to establish at least one service point in every health district in South Africa by the end of the first year of implementation. Within five years, the plan aims to ensure equitable access to care and treatment to all South Africans and permanent residents living with HIV/AIDS. The plan seeks to ensure comprehensive care and treatment by addressing the needs of individuals at all stages of HIV infection, expanding voluntary counseling and testing services, promoting prevention programmes, monitoring the health of HIV-positive patients seeking treatment and, where medically prescribed, by providing the option of antiretroviral therapy. In order to strengthen the national health system, the plan calls for significant investments in developing the necessary human resources and physical infrastructure, improving access to laboratory services and developing new strategies for drug distribution and procurement.
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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