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UNFPA Global Population Policy Update
Laws and Policies in San Marino, Spain, Sweden, Moldova, Portugal and United Kingdom
ISSUE 85 - 23 October 2008
This issue of the UNFPA Global Population Policy Update chronicles important laws and policies relating to violence against women, abortion, reproductive health care, HIV/AIDs, forced marriages and gender equality that were adopted in Europe throughout 2007 and 2008.
San Marino Approves Law on Prevention of Violence Against Women
On 20 June 2008, San Marino approved the law on the prevention and punishment of violence against women, including domestic violence. The law defines violence against women as any act of violence based on sex that creates or is susceptible of creating harm or suffering of a physical, sexual or psychological kind in public or private life, including threats, coercion, or the arbitrary deprivation of liberty.
The law amends the Penal Code to: a) increase the penalties for the crimes of homicide, violation of sexual freedom, and causing personal injuries when the perpetrator is a spouse or cohabitant; b) expand the scope of the crimes of reducing a person to slavery, including forced prostitution; the trafficking of persons; and the mistreatment of family members; and c) criminalize carrying out sexual violence as part of a group; stalking; and the kidnapping of minors by persons with custody of them. It also establishes measures for assistance to victims and provides them with legal support and for the issuance of protection orders against family abuse.
The law requires the offices of social and health services to report cases of sexual violence and provides special protections to complainants in court proceedings, including prohibiting questioning them about their private lives.Â Further provisions of the law include the prohibition of abusive images in the media and the intervention of police in domestic violence cases, among other things.
United Kingdom's General Medical Council Issues Guidelines on Conscientious Objection
In March 2008, the United Kingdom's General Medical Council, the independent regulator for doctors, issued new guidelines concerning conflicts between the personal beliefs of doctors or patients and the duties of doctors to provide medical services.Â The guidelines attempt to balance patients' and doctors' rights and advise doctors on how to address situations of conflict.
The guidelines stipulate that a patient is a doctor's first priority.Â It specifies that a doctor must not discriminate against a patient, and must provide treatment or medical advice, even if it conflicts with the doctor's personal, religious or moral beliefs. If a doctor exercises conscientious objection, he or she must inform the patient of the conflict of interest and the patient's right to see another doctor. The guideline also stipulates that the doctor must either provide the patient sufficient information to be able to find another doctor or arrange a referral directly.Â It further requires that at no point should the doctor inform the patient of his or her personal beliefs, whether political, religious or moral, in a way that is likely to exploit the patient's vulnerability or cause distress. The personal beliefs of patients are also discussed in the guidelines, which provide that acknowledging a patient's beliefs is an importance aspect of holistic medical care.
The guidelines also discuss several situations of conflict.Â In relation to reproductive health care, the guidelines stipulate that where a patient is awaiting or has undergone a termination of pregnancy and needs medical care, the doctor has no legal or ethical right to refuse to provide such care on the grounds of conscientious objection to the procedure.
Spain Adopts Law on Gender Equality
On 22 March 2007, Spain adopted Organic Law 3/2007 on Actual Equality between Men and Women, which is intended to codify and strengthen protections for women's rights throughout the country. Recognizing that formal equality before the law is necessary but not sufficient, the law aims to ensure genuine gender equality through two principal strategies: prevention of discriminatory conduct and the adoption of affirmative measures.
The law requires public policies at all levels (national, regional, and local) to reflect a gender perspective.Â It modifies a number of existing federal laws in order to ensure their compliance with its gender equality principles and provisions. These modifications affect women's rights in the private and public sector, particularly in the areas of labour rights and political participation.
They include provisions on: a) the availability of legal remedies to challenge gender discriminatory laws and conduct; b) the government's duty to incorporate a gender perspective in the design, execution and implementation of all laws; c) the principle of balanced participation in public life, with special focus on election processes as well as on appointments for public offices; d) access to housing and to rural development for women; e) inclusion of women in the benefits of advancements in information and communication technologies; f) equal rights in the area of labor, with special attention to sexual harassment (for example, companies with more than 250 employees are required to establish policies on gender equality; the law also grants paternity leave of 13 days and expands maternity leave) and g) the creation of organizational and administrative bodies to ensure gender equality, including an Inter-ministerial Commission on Equality of Women and Men.
Sweden Legalizes Provision of Abortion to Non-Residents
The Government of Sweden amended the Abortion Act 1974, making abortion services in Sweden available to non-resident women as of 1 January 2008.
Under the act, women not residing in Sweden may obtain an abortion under the same terms and conditions as apply to Swedish nationals and residents.Â However, non-resident women must pay a fee of 1,000 Euros, a charge not applicable to those residing in Sweden.
Under the amended law, Swedish nationals and residents, as well as non-residents, are able to request an abortion before the end of the eighteenth week of pregnancy so long as the procedure does not pose a serious danger to the woman's life or health on account of her having an illness.
After the end of the eighteenth week of pregnancy, an abortion may be performed only if the National Board of Health and Welfare has granted the woman permission for the procedure in light of special circumstances. Under the current Swedish law, women must be offered counseling before and after an abortion is performed.
Moldova Enacts Law on Prevention and Control of HIV/AIDs
On 16 February 2007, Moldova enacted a new law on the prevention and control of HIV/AIDs.Â The purpose of the law is to establish a legal framework for HIV/AIDs infection aimed at decreasing vulnerability to infection, stopping the exponential growth of HIV/AIDs. It also aims at reducing the impact of infection impact by ensuring medical, social, and psychological care to people living with HIV and their family members and guaranteeing their rights, as well as by sustaining prevention and control efforts.
The law stipulates that the State shall provide free anonymous testing for all persons with pre-and post-testing counseling, informed consent, and protection of confidentiality. Mandatory testing is prohibited except upon a court order when a person who is charged with the crime of willful transmission of HIV or rape does not give consent for testing. Persons who test HIV-positive are required to notify their partners. If they refuse to do so, health personnel may make this notification only if a real risk of infection exists.
The law also prohibits discrimination in the workplace, educational institutions, and in the provision of medical care, access to credit, insurance, and loan services.Â A person aware of his or her HIV status and knowingly endangering another person can be charged with a criminal offence. It also contains provisions on treatment, palliative care, universal provision of antiretrovirals, raising public awareness, and education, including the institution of mandatory education on HIV/AIDs prevention in all schools.Â Specific measures are directed at groups at risk, among them children and youth, intravenous drug users, prisoners, and immigrants.Â HIV-positive women are eligible for free contraceptive methods, including voluntary sterilization.
Portugal Approves Law Addressing Gender Equality
On 12 March 2008, Portugal passed Law No. 14/2008, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in accessing goods and services and punishes acts that violate the principle of equality between men and women.Â The law applies to public and private institutions that furnish goods and services to the community whether for remuneration or free-of-charge.Â It proscribes discrimination in the form of acts, omissions, and contractual provisions, as well as sexual harassment.Â Affirmative action is not considered discriminatory.Â Nor are acts that serve to protect pregnant and nursing mothers.Â The law prohibits asking women seeking goods and services for information on pregnancy, except for the protection of their health.Â It also prohibits taking into consideration costs related to pregnancy and maternity in setting insurance premiums or in determining rates for financial services. Further provisions of the law deal with specific sanctions, proof, defenses against charges of discrimination, and procedures for bringing complaints, among others.
United Kingdom Approves Act on Forced Marriage
On 26 July 2007, the United Kingdom approved the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007. The act is designed to protect individuals from being forced to enter into marriage without their free and full consent, as well as individuals who have been forced to enter into marriage without such consent.Â It amends the Family Law Act 1996 to insert provisions that authorize a court to issue a protection order with respect to the above individuals.Â The scope of such an order is broad.Â It may contain any prohibitions, restrictions, or requirements that the court deems appropriate to protect individuals.Â It may be directed at any person aiding, abetting, counseling, procuring, encouraging, or assisting another person to force, or to attempt to force, a person to enter into a marriage; or conspiring to force, or to attempt to force, a person to enter into a marriage.
An order may be requested by the person who is being or has been forced to marry or by any relevant third party. If violence has been committed or is threatened, the court may order the person against whom the order is made to be arrested.Â Further provisions of the act deal with procedures, the variation and discharge of orders, appeals, and failure to comply with orders, among others.
All previous issues of the UNFPA Global Population Policy Update can now be found on UNFPA's website.
This newsletter is issued by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in its capacity as the 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; the second in October 2004 in Strasbourg, France; and the third in November 2006 in Bangkok, Thailand. These dispatches are intended to highlight important developments taking place around the world so that parliamentarians can stay informed of and learn from the successes, setbacks and challenges encountered by their fellow counterparts 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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