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NGOs Call on European Governments and other Leaders to Protect the Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights of Women and Girls Fleeing the War in Ukraine

CDA/ODZ, 17. 3. 2022

CDA joined more than 60 local and global women’s rights, human rights and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) organizations working in Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine in calling on decision makers across Europe and the broader international community to take swift, effective and coordinated action to protect the human rights and address the sexual and reproductive health needs of women and girls and marginalized populations affected by the war conflict in Ukraine. The full text of the call to action is available here. Continue reading

Courts as actors of change in coping with discrimination in Slovakia (project)

From November 2021 till December 2022, we are implementing the project Courts as actors of change in coping with discrimination in Slovakia: informing, educating and sensitizing judges and the public to foster values of dignity and justice. The project is supported by the US Embassy in Slovakia within its Small Grants Program.

The main objective of the project is to strengthen the capability of courts to adequately deal with issues of inequality and discrimination and correspondingly with rights of those who are discriminated against and/or marginalized, and to increase the level of respect for and acceptation of these individuals and groups by the general public. Continue reading


Monitoring Report on Violations of the Human Rights of Women in the Provision of Childbirth Care in Healthcare Facilities in Slovakia During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Editor: Janka Debrecéniová

Authors: Janka Debrecéniová – Miroslava Kotríková Rašmanová – Lýdia Marošiová
The publication CHILDBIRTH – RIGHTS – PANDEMIC (published in Slovak in April 2021) presents the results of monitoring designed to identify and describe violations of the human rights of women in the provision of antenatal and childbirth care in healthcare facilities in Slovakia during the period between early March 2020 and the end of June 2020 (a period often referred to as the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic). The monitoring was carried out using several methods, the primary source of information being an internet survey among women about their experience with the provision of healthcare before, during and after childbirth during the said period. An English version of the publication will be published before the end of this year. Continue reading

Webinar: Women’s Human Rights in Childbirth in Slovakia and Norway with Focus on the COVID-19 Pandemic

CDA/ODZ, 28. 10. 2021

Webinar Women’s Human Rights in Childbirth in Slovakia and Norway with Focus on the COVID-19 Pandemic held on 28 October 2021 was organised by Citizen, Democracy and Accountability (CDA, Bratislava, Slovakia) in cooperation with the Institute of Nursing and Health Promotion at Faculty of Health Science, OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University (Oslo, Norway). The group of participants was quite diverse ranging from practicing professionals in the field of midwifery, teachers and researchers from academia to activists from non-governmental organisations.

Presentations opening the webinar were focused mostly on childbirth experience, human rights and institutional and state accountability as the cross-cutting issues and the principles grounding the research work. They served as the introductions to the contexts in Slovakia and Norway. Continue reading

Let’s Take the Needs of Women in Childbirth Seriously! (project)

From May 2019 till December 2021 we have been implementing the project Let’s Take the Needs of Women in Childbirth Seriously! Promoting Women’s Human Rights in Public Policies in the Field of Health. Project partners are the Faculty of Health Science of Oslo Metropolitan University and Slovak NGO Women’s Circles (Ženské kruhy). The project is supported by the ACF – Slovakia programme, financed from the EEA Financial Mechanism 2014 – 2021 and managed by the EKOPOLIS Foundation in partnership with Nadácia otvorenej spoločnosti – Open Society Foundation (NOS – OSF) and the Carpathian Foundation.

The main aim of the project is to contribute to increasing public control, NGO networking and exerting of coordinated pressure on the institutions with responsibilities. In cooperation with the partners both from Norway and Slovakia, we have been implementing research and monitoring activities. Within the project, we have been preparing proposals of solutions based on the results. In cooperation with media, we have been shaping public discourse and developing pressure also on institutions with powers. Continue reading

Violations of Women’s and Newborns’ Rights in Childbirth Getting Worse in Slovak Hospitals during Pandemic

CDA/ODZ + ŽK, 29. 10. 2020

Slovak non-governmental organisations Občan, demokracia a zodpovednosť (Citizen, Democracy and Accountability, CDA) and Ženské kruhy (Women’s Circles) warn of the increasing number of violations of the human rights of women and newborns in childbirth in Slovak hospitals during the current pandemic crisis. The separation of mothers from their newborns is one of the most severe forms of these violations. The organisations urgently stress that healthcare facilities and the state must ensure that childbirth care is provided in compliance with human rights and medical standards even in this complicated situation.

CDA and Women’s Circles had already warned of the deteriorating situation with respect to the violations of the rights of women and children in birthing facilities during the first wave of the pandemic. The same was observed in the second wave as well. “For example, newborn babies continue to be separated from their mothers, and this practice gets even worse if the woman giving birth has tested positive for COVID-19 or shows its typical symptoms. In a number of cases, women with COVID-19 have been discharged from hospital the next day after giving birth, but their babies remained in the hospital without any contact with their mothers whatsoever. There are also cases where parents have no contact with their infants kept at intensive care units for several days or even weeks. Continue reading

When gynecologists gaslight women

ŽK, 17. 9. 2020

From the UK to Ukraine, women are forced to endure traumatic reproductive health procedures without adequate pain relief because their pain “is not possible” or not important enough to prevent. In some cases this leads to torn uteruses and PTSD.

“This is what happens when you like men too much.” These words were spoken by a Zagreb doctor to a young woman during a surgical abortion. The woman then had her womb scraped without anesthetic, while the surgeon joked with his medical team about her sex life.

Her devastating testimony is recorded in a complaint to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right To Health by the Croatian Parents’ Rights organization RODA. The organization invited women to submit their experiences of enduring reproductive healthcare without anesthetic under the campaign banner “Breaking The Silence” (#PrekinimoŠutnju). In the space of a weekend, they received 400 handwritten submissions.

“The stories involved women who had biopsies on their uterus, cervix or vagina without anesthetic,” RODA’s Head of Reproductive Rights Daniela Drandic told me over the phone. Continue reading

Coronavirus: Women denied abortions because of the pandemic

BBC News, 24. 6. 2020

In some European countries, hospitals have stopped performing abortions. In others, where abortion is severely restricted, women have been unable to travel to get treatment elsewhere. In the past few weeks we’ve spoken to women who have resorted to backstreet abortions, and others left with no choice but to continue with unwanted pregnancies. Human rights organisations are now urging countries to make sure abortions are safely available.

See the BBC News report about the current struggle of women in some European countries to get abortions during the pandemic, due to restrictions of leading decision-makers. The reporters found a similar situation in countries across Europe – in Romania, Italy, Croatia, and Slovakia. According to Jean Mackenzie, the BBC Europe Correspondent, “in these countries it had been already difficult for women to get an abortion, and this crisis has just put more obstacles in their way”.

Continue reading

Denied beds, pain relief and contact with their babies: the women giving birth amid Covid-19

The Guardian, 28. 5. 2020

Following reports worldwide, experts are warning that pandemic is pushing back progress on prenatal and maternity care

After Denisa’s son was born premature at 26 weeks she was unable to hold him, but spent as much time as possible near his incubator so he could get used to her voice. By the time he was well enough to be held by his mother, a state of emergency had been declared in Slovakia and Denisa was told to vacate her bed and leave the hospital to make way for Covid-19 patients.

The rush of patients never came, but strict rules meant she was unable to see her baby until he was discharged six weeks later. “Instead of a hug, I went home empty-handed only with my head full of questions,” she says. “Each day without my baby was taking away my strength and harming my mental health.”

Unable to have a birth companion, coerced into undergoing medical interventions, denied pain relief and separated from their newborns. This is the new reality for expectant and new mothers in many countries, as experts warn the coronavirus outbreak is leading to an infringement of women’s birth rights. Continue reading

COVID-19: Ensure women’s access to sexual and reproductive health and rights

Council of Europe, 7. 5. 2020

Statement by Commissioner Dunja Mijatović

It is already clear that the pandemic will deepen existing gender inequalities, given women’s over-representation in professions (and other unpaid activities) which expose them to a high risk of infection and in low-paid and precarious jobs which will be particularly badly affected by the ensuing economic crisis. Worryingly, the lockdown imposed in several European countries has also increased the exposure of women to gender-based violence, in particular domestic violence and sexual violence. While many member states are taking laudable measures in an attempt to mitigate the negative effects of the crisis on women’s rights and gender equality, they should not neglect women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. Full respect of women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights is an essential component of Council of Europe member states’ obligations to guarantee women’s human rights and advance gender equality. Continue reading