Universal Periodic Review at the Human Rights Council: Poland

The 27th session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) was held at the UN Human Rights Council, in Geneva, from 1-12 May 2017. Eleven countries were reviewed during UPR27, among them Poland. The Federation for Women and Family in collaboration with the Sexual Rights Initiative submitted a report (read it here) to the Human Rights Council, focusing on violations of women’s sexual and reproductive rights in Poland – including restricted access to abortion and contraception, biased and poor quality comprehensive sexuality education, poor antenatal care and lack of access to medically assisted reproduction. The escalating violations of Polish women’s sexual and reproductive rights place their lives and health at risk and undermine their rights to bodily autonomy and integrity, privacy, to be free from torture, to education and to self-determination.

Deferred recommendations from other countries during the session included:

  • Amend the Act on Equal Treatment in order to prohibit discrimination, in a comprehensive manner, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, in all areas and sectors, in particular, taking into account access to education, health, social protection and housing (Mexico)
  • Expand the scope of the compulsory course on family life education, to provide a comprehensive and age-appropriate education on sexual and reproductive health and rights and to ensure unimpeded access to sexual and reproductive health services, including to safe and legal abortions (Slovenia)
  • Strengthen the elimination of all forms of violence against women by criminalising domestic violence and marital rape (Belgium)
  • Ensure that women are provided the necessary medical and professional service to exercise their legal right to termination of pregnancy, and ascertain that women have the right to decide over their own bodies (Sweden).

This was the first review of Poland in five years, and the first since the 2015 election of a populist government that is facing accusations from the European Union of violating the rule of law. On 6 May 2017, a “Freedom March” was organised in Warsaw by the main opposition parties in a protest against the ruling Law and Justice party and to support European Union ideas.

On 22-24 May, members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality visited Poland. They observed the situation of women’s rights in the country with a special focus on the implementation of the Istanbul convention and victims of violence, sexual and reproductive rights and women’s economic empowerment.

SOURCES: Astra CEE Bulletin on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, No.6 (165), 2017 ; Fox News Associated Press, 9 May 2017 ; European Parliament ; PHOTO