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UNFPA Global Population Policy Update
Laws and Polices in China, Ecuador, Mexico, New Zealand and Russia
ISSUE 11 - 03 November 2003
This issue of UNFPA's newsletter introduces laws and policies recently enacted at the national level in China, Ecuador, Mexico, New Zealand and Russia that deal with sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), gender and other related social issues.
China Simplifies Procedures for Marriage and Divorce
In August 2003, the State Council of China issued new, simpler regulations on marriage and divorce procedures. Under the regulations, couples planning to marry no longer need to undergo compulsory medical examinations or provide letters from their employers stating that they are single. To marry, couples will need only to provide identification and residence documents and sign a statement affirming that they are single and are not related. Couples must register their marriages in this way in order to be guaranteed the rights and benefits protected by the law. Under the regulations, couples wanting to dissolve their union will immediately be issued a divorce certificate if both parties agree to the divorce, settle their property and any debts amicably and make provisions for the care of their children, if they have any.
Ecuador Issues Orders to Help Combat Sexually Transmitted Infections
In 2003, Ecuador’s Ministry of Health issued two orders designed to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDS. The first order, issued 7 March and amended by another order on 10 July, requires the proprietors of discotheques, bars, gambling houses and other leisure establishments for adults to install vending machines that sell condoms in order to prevent the spread of STIs. Institutions of higher education must also abide by this order, although Catholic universities are exempt from complying. The second order, issued on 23 June, directs condom importers to install condom-dispensing machines in universities, public places and health services. These importers must also maintain stocks of condoms that conform to national public health standards, carry out campaigns on STI and HIV/AIDS prevention, place announcements about STI prevention on public roads and at airports, disseminate information in colleges and universities on the prevention of STIs through abstinence and fidelity and educate youth on questions of sexuality and protection from HIV/AIDS, sexual abuse and the consumption of drugs.
Mexico Institutes Programme on Development and Population
On 27 March 2003, Mexico approved its National Population Programme, 2001-2006. The programme’s general objectives are to confront the challenges facing Mexico as its population expands and to help improve the welfare and quality of life of its people. The programme, which is to be carried out with full respect for human rights and the individual rights guaranteed by Mexico’s Constitution, includes the following specific objectives:
- To strengthen population programmes with strategies that promote social development and defeat poverty;
- To promote the free, informed and responsible exercise of individuals’ sexual and reproductive rights;
- To address the social demands caused by an aging population and create conditions that ensure better opportunities and dignity for the elderly;
- To empower and provide opportunities for families and their members through social services so that they may achieve their goals in life;
- To help achieve sustainable development in all regions by encouraging a better distribution of the population throughout the country;
- To advance the establishment of a dignified, safe and orderly immigration system between Mexico and the U.S.; and
- To intensify international cooperation and increase Mexico’s involvement in global and regional forums on population and development.
To reach these objectives, the programme sets forth a number of detailed strategies on: HIV/AIDS, sexual and reproductive health services, family planning, prevention of abortion, maternal and child health services, adolescents, education, gender equality, improvement of the status of women, immigration and the indigenous population.
New Zealand Enacts Law to Protect Health and Human Rights of Sex Workers
In June 2003, New Zealand enacted the Prostitution Reform Act 2003. The act decriminalizes prostitution and aims to create a framework that: safeguards the human rights of sex workers and protects them from exploitation; promotes their welfare and occupational health and safety; and is conducive to public health. Under the act, prostitution is defined as “the provision of commercial sexual services involving physical participation by a person in sexual acts with, and for the gratification of, another person for payment or other reward, irrespective of whether the reward is given to the person providing the services or another person.”
The act requires that all people involved in the commercial sex industry, including prostitution business operators, sex workers and their clients, adopt safer sex practices. All parties involved must take reasonable steps to ensure that condoms or other appropriate barriers are used in services that involve a risk of STIs. According to the act, no one should state or imply that a person is not infected, or is unlikely to be infected, with a STI simply because he or she underwent a medical examination. In addition, operators must give health information to sex workers and clients and prominently display such information in brothels. Failure to act accordingly is punishable with a fine of up to NZD 10,000 (around USD 6,100) in the case of an operator, and up to NZD 2,000 (around USD 1,200) in the case of a sex worker or client. Under the act, advertisement of commercial sexual services is restricted. Additionally, the act prohibits inducing or compelling another person to provide commercial sexual services or payment for such services (punishable with up to 14 years of imprisonment) and protects the right of sex workers to refuse to provide or continue to provide these services, regardless of any contract for such services. The act further specifies that it is a crime to cause a person younger than 18 to provide commercial sexual services. Deriving a profit from, contracting for or receiving commercial sexual services from a person under 18 is also prohibited. Parties that violate these prohibitions may be punished with up to seven years in prison, except for those under the age of 18, who are excluded from criminal liability.
Russia Issues Decree Restricting Conditions for Legal Abortion
On 11 August 2003, the Russian Federation issued Decree No. 485 on the list of Conditions for Induced Termination of Pregnancy, restricting the circumstances under which women may legally obtain abortions from the end of the 12th week until the beginning of the 22nd week of pregnancy. The decree lists four conditions for legal abortion during this period:
- A court ruling suspending or restricting one’s parental rights;
- Pregnancy resulting from rape;
- Incarceration in a detention center; and
- Severe disability or death of the woman’s husband at the time of pregnancy.
The decree voids Decree No. 567 of 8 May 1996, which listed eight additional indications, including: unemployment of either spouse; the unmarried status of the pregnant woman; dissolution of marriage at the time of pregnancy; lack of housing or residence in a hostel or sublet apartment; a woman’s status as a refugee or displaced person; a woman’s status as a mother of three or more children or of a child with a disability; and per capita family income below minimum regional standards. Decree No. 485 co-exists with longstanding abortion legislation and regulations that make abortion legal without restrictions through the 12th week of pregnancy and permit the procedure at later stages when continued pregnancy endangers the mental and physical health of a woman or the life of the woman or the fetus.
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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