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UNFPA Global Population Policy Update
Laws and Polices in Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines and the United Kingdom
ISSUE 23 - 27 April 2004
As activities heighten to mark the 10th anniversary of the 1994 Cairo International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) this year, the UNFPA Global Population Policy Update continues to focus on the various laws and policies enacted or amended at the national level that promote the building of an enabling environment for the implementation of the ICPD Programme of Action. This issue of the newsletter covers laws and policies enacted or amended in the latter part of 2003 and the beginning of 2004.
Chile Adds Provisions on Child Pornography to Penal Code
On 5 January 2004, Chile amended its Penal Code to strengthen provisions dealing with sexual offenses committed against minors. The newly enacted law adds provisions to the code that prohibit the use of children in pornography and in the sale and distribution of materials containing child pornography, including through electronic means. The law also increases penalties imposed on certain offenses including: under-age prostitution, the insertion of objects in minors, and sexual offences against minors committed by personnel in educational institutions. Finally, the law provides for the closure of places where sexual offenses against minors have been committed, and grants new powers to the police in the investigation of sexual offences perpetrated against minors.
Mexico Revises Family Planning Regulation to Include Emergency Contraception and Female Condoms
On 21 January 2004, the federal government of Mexico amended its Official Family Planning Regulation NOM-005-SSA2-1993 to include emergency contraception (EC) and the female condom. The regulation refers to EC as post-coital hormonal contraception, which it defines as a method that may be used by women within three days following unprotected sex in order to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. The definition specifies that post-coital methods should not be used regularly and are indicated solely under the circumstances outlined in the regulation. The regulation, which approves several different post-coital contraceptive methods, indicates that EC is appropriate for women of child-bearing age, including adolescents, who wish to avoid an unplanned pregnancy under the following circumstances: after voluntary or forced sex without contraceptive protection; after delay in administration of injectable contraception; and after presumed contraceptive failure.
The regulation specifies that prescribing EC must be accompanied by intensive guidance and counseling regarding its effects. In particular, providers should emphasize that EC cannot interrupt an already established pregnancy, and that even when a pregnancy occurs despite the use of EC, the product will have no harmful effects on the pregnant woman or the fetus. Counseling should also emphasize that EC is less effective than conventional oral contraception, and that it does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDS. The regulation further stipulates that it is not necessary to conduct a gynecological examination or a pregnancy test prior to prescribing EC. It does, however, call for counseling on regular birth control methods, as well as an evaluation of the patient's risk of having acquired an STI.
The regulation also approves the female condom as an effective barrier method. It provides instructions on its use, emphasizing that it is important for women to familiarize themselves with it prior to using it during intercourse. The regulation states that female condoms may be made available through community distribution and social marketing programmes. They may also be sold in pharmacies or other commercial establishments.
New Zealand Puts Forward HIV/AIDS Action Plan
In December 2003, the government of New Zealand adopted the HIV/AIDS Action Plan: Sexual and Reproductive Health Strategy to respond to the AIDS pandemic in the country.
The action plan sets forth four goals and sets of measures to address each goal:
1. To increase societal awareness and understanding of the risk-factors and implications of HIV/AIDS, as well as community-wide commitment to preventing HIV transmission. In order to do this, the action plan advocates measures to ensure that HIV awareness and prevention training is a key component of sexual and reproductive health education programmes, particularly those targeting young people. It also emphasizes the importance of addressing the stigma and discrimination surrounding HIV/AIDS and calls for legislative and policy frameworks for HIV/AIDS that maximize the impact on public health while minimizing the impact on human rights and privacy.
2. To ensure that persons, particularly those in such target groups as men who have sex with men, refugees from high-prevalence countries, injecting drug-users, sex workers and people living with HIV/AIDS, have the knowledge, skills and confidence to protect themselves. To this end, the action plan calls for measures that include: building upon existing HIV/AIDS prevention, education and skills training programmes; ensuring that the target groups have access to condoms, clean needles and syringes; ensuring that peer education and community-based leadership is maintained within the target groups; and providing information on the availability of voluntary HIV testing and counseling to the target groups.
3. To establish accessible and effective programmes and services that work together at the local and national levels to prevent HIV transmission. The action plan thus provides for measures to improve access to and coverage of services, create pathways of care between preventative, primary and specialist health care and strengthen services at every level.
4. To create an information and evidence base to enable policy and programme development, surveillance of HIV/AIDS, monitoring of progress and clinical decision-making. To achieve this goal, the action plan emphasizes the need to better understand the trends of HIV/AIDS prevalence, the behaviours that drive increases in HIV incidence and the trends in groups at the highest risk of HIV infection. The action plan underscores the importance of ensuring that monitoring methods are flexible enough to adapt to people's needs and changes in the trends of the epidemic.
The Philippines Adopts Law to Eliminate the Worst Forms of Child Labour and Protect Child Workers
On December 19, 2003, the Philippines approved Republic Act no. 9231 aimed at preventing child labour in its worst forms and affording stronger protections for working children. The law uses the definition of the worst forms of child labour set out in the International Labour Organization Convention 182, which the Philippines ratified in November 2000. Among the types of child labour included in this definition are all forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery such as: the sale and trafficking of children; using, procuring, offering or exposing a child for prostitution, for the production of pornographic materials or for pornographic performances; and any work that is hazardous or likely to be harmful to the health, safety or morals of children, including work that â€œexposes a child to physical, emotional or sexual abuse, or is found to be highly stressful psychologically or may prejudice morals. The law also prohibits the use of children in advertisements promoting alcoholic beverages, tobacco, gambling or any form of violence or pornography.
The law sets a minimum age of employment at 15 with some exceptions, and stipulates the maximum number of hours a child may work, with some variations according to the child's age. The law also addresses the proper use and administration of a child's income. Employers of children are required to ensure access to at least primary and secondary education, and the Department of Education is charged with promoting the education of working children by taking such measures as designing courses and conducting training for the implementation of appropriate curricula. Employers that violate the law are subject to penalties that include imprisonment and fines. Parents and legal guardians who violate the law are subject to fines and/or community service. Businesses face immediate closure if violation of the law results in death or serious injury of children, or if they are engaged in prostitution or in obscene or lewd shows involving children.
The U.K. Passes Act on Sexual Offenses
On 20 November 2003, the United Kingdom enacted the Sexual Offences Act 2003 which strengthens existing laws relating to the prevention and punishment of sexual offenses and the protection of children from harm arising from sexual acts. It contains provisions on rape, sexual assault, sexual offenses committed against children, abuse of a position of trust involving sexual acts, incest, sexual offense perpetrated against persons with mental disorders, abuse of children through prostitution and pornography, exploitation of prostitution, human trafficking, and sexual offenses committed outside of the country.
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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