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Poland urged not to criminalise sex education or tighten access to abortion

GENEVA (16 April 2020) – Poland must reject two bills before parliament one of which could be used to make sexuality education of children an offence punishable by jail and the other would further restrict access to safe and legal termination of pregnancy, say UN human rights experts*.

“We are deeply concerned about the impact that these two bills could have on sexual and reproductive health and rights of women and girls in Poland,” the experts said. The “Stop Paedophilia” bill could result in criminalising sexuality education in schools and possibly criminalising the sharing of information about sexual and reproductive health and rights, they said.

“Professionals who work with children, including teachers, psychologists, doctors, publishers, social workers and human rights defenders could also be at risk of imprisonment,” the experts said.

The “Stop Abortion” bill, which triggered widespread national protest when initially proposed in 2018, removes one of the three grounds for terminations in the existing law – “severe and irreversible foetal impairment or untreatable disorders threatening its life”.

“Poland has already one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe. Instead of further restricting access to safe and legal abortion, we encourage Poland to secure safe access to termination of pregnancy.” 

They said removal of the fatal foetal impairment ground would be devastating, driving women and girls into clandestine and unsafe abortion. Data showed that 96 per cent of pregnancy terminations in Poland were on this ground.

This is particularly alarming in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, making safe and legal termination of pregnancy virtually impossible, the experts said.

“The issue before us is about the fundamental rights of women and girls,” the experts said.

The Working Group on Discrimination against Women and Girls had earlier raised a number of questions about sexuality education and access to safe and legal termination of pregnancy in Poland after a visit to the country in December 2018.

ENDS

(*) The UN experts:  Ms. Meskerem Geset Techane (Chair), Ms. Elizabeth Broderick, Ms. Alda Facio, Ms. Ivana RadačIć, Ms. Melissa Upreti, Working Group on  discrimination against women and girls; Ms. Karima Bennoune, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights; Mr. Dainius Pūras, Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health; Ms. Dubravka Šimonović, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences;

The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page – Poland 

For more information and media requests, please contact Hannah Wu (+ 41 22 917 9152 / hwu@ohchr.org) or write to wgdiscriminationwomen@ohchr.org

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Xabier Celaya (+ 41 22 917 9445 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.

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