CEDAW Committee Recommends To Bulgaria To Systematically Promote Education On Sexual And Reproductive Health And Rights (SRHR)
"On the 12.07.2012, within its 52nd regular session /09 - 27.07.2012/, the UN Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee) considered the combined fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh report of Bulgaria. The combined State report synthesizes a period of more than 10 years.
Since 1998 the country hasn’t fulfilled its obligation to report on its efforts aiming at the elimination of discrimination against women through implementing legal, social and economic mechanisms in that direction. Although the CEDAW Committee recognizes positive developments in the country among which there are the fight against trafficking, discrimination, domestic violence, and promotion of gender equality through a National Strategy, it also expresses criticism on the report by noting the lack of statistics disaggregated by sex and qualitative data on the situation of women in a number of areas covered by the Convention, in particular in respect of women belonging to disadvantaged groups.
Less than two weeks later, on the 27th of July 2012, the CEDAW Committee issued its Concluding observations to Bulgaria. The list of observations include also recommendations1 which are more than 50 in number and cover a large scope of principal areas of concern with regard to women’s rights in Bulgaria, including SHRH.
Concerning the reproductive and health status of women in Bulgaria, the CEDAW Committee “remains concerned about the increased number of early pregnancies and the high rate of abortion, in particular among teenagers and women aged under 20 years, which indicates that abortion continues to be used as a method of birth control. The Committee is further concerned about the lack of information on the inclusion of Roma women in the reformed compulsory health-care system”. It urges Bulgaria under recommendation #36 “to step up its efforts to systematically promote education on sexual and reproductive health rights and to target adolescent girls and boys, including in vocational training schools, paying special attention to the prevention of early pregnancy, and to provide adequate family planning services and affordable contraceptives, in line with the recommendations made during the universal periodic review of Bulgaria by the Human Rights Council in November 2010 (A/HRC/16/9, para. 80.30). The Committee requests the State party to provide information on access to health care for Roma women in its subsequent periodic report.”
We believe such recognition is a step forward to the realization and implementation of the sexual and reproductive health and rights in Bulgaria – an area that still lacks understanding and the majority of the young people don’t have full access to accurate information and youth friendly services.
Such success further motivates our team to continue protecting women and girls’ best interests in the area of SRHR.
Furthermore, as representatives of the nongovernmental sector, we are particularly happy that the Committee took into account the recommendations prepared by the Bulgarian NGO delegation, present on the 52nd regular CEDAW session in July 2012. It consisted of representatives of the Gender Alternatives Foundation and the Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation who presented their alternative reports and recommendations for change in the legislation. Both organizations were the voice of all the actively participating women's NGOs in Bulgaria which have been collaborating for years with regard to respecting women’s rights in all the areas under the Convention. Their attendance was made possible thanks to the international organization IWRAW – Asia Pacific within the framework of the program “Global to Local”. Bulgarian NGO delegation’s success during the New York session was also based on the contribution of prominent international organizations and networks which in their alternative reports2 focused on different topics such as Roma women and girls’ integration and education, access to information and social services, stereotypes in the media etc.
All in all, the Concluding recommendations of the CEDAW Committee to Bulgaria evidence the fact that the international community acknowledges the existing gender inequalities in Bulgaria which hinders women’s rights realization in both private and public areas. On the other hand, the recommendations generate actual opportunities to increase and intensify collaboration between the State and the NGO sector which is being involved with supporting women in implementation of the Convention.