Op bezoek in Vilnius.

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Het parlement in Litouwen is bezig met een wetsvoorstel over reproductieve gezondheidszorg.
In het wetsvoorstel worden zaken als abortus, reproductieve gezondheidszorg voor tieners, inseminatie, seksuele voorlichting op scholen en dergelijke geregeld.
Reden voor de Litouwse parlementaire overleggroep “Bevolking en Duurzame Ontwikkeling” en de Familie Planning en Seksuele Gezondheid Associatie om een internationale conferentie over Reproductieve Rechten en Wetgeving te organiseren.
Ik was gevraagd om te spreken over reproductieve gezondheidszorg in Nederland.

Hieronder volgt mijn bijdrage.

Senator Ans Zwerver
Chair of the Development Committee of the Dutch Senate
Member of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly

Presentation for International Conference on Reproductive Health Law, Vilnius 9 October 2002

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very pleased and honoured to speak to you today. My name is Ans Zwerver and I am a member of the Senate of the Netherlands.

I would first of all like to start by thanking the Lithuanian parliamentarians in the group on Population and Development, as well as the Family Planning Association for having invited me to this Conference.

I have been active on reproductive health issues for quite some time, and it is one of my priorities in my work as a parliamentarian. At national level, I am working to create a Dutch Parliamentary group on sexual and reproductive rights and AIDS, at European level I am working on a Report on the impact of US funding cuts to family planning organisations and internationally I have briefed the US Congress on the need to support international reproductive rights and done a field visit to India on this subject.

But I am here today to share with you some lessons which we have learned in the Netherlands, with a view to contributing to your debate on a National Reproductive Health Law.

In my country, the Netherlands, we have a strong commitment to ensuring access to reproductive health care information and services. This commitment is reflected in both our domestic policy and our international development policy.

My country has one of the lowest teenage pregnancy rates in the world and also one of the lowest abortion rates in the world. There are approximately 7.7 births per 1,000 women aged 15-19 in the Netherlands, in the United States there are 55.6. In the Netherlands there are 7 abortions per 1,000 women, in Russia (which does not have a Reproductive Health Law), there are almost 10 times the amount—62 per 1000.

We have managed to reduce teenage births by 72 percent in the past thirty years.

What does the Dutch experience have to teach us? First, I would like to say, that we did not reach these achievements by restricting access to information to youth or by denying women the right to choose abortion. Our achievements in reducing abortion rates and unwanted pregnancies are a direct result of a pragmatic policy that emphasizes sex education at an early age and access to contraceptives in a supportive and understanding atmosphere.

We have tremendous political support for the prevention of unwanted pregnancies, and it is clear by the numbers that we have been quite successful in this regard.

In the Netherlands, we place great value on education --a majority of our primary schools teach sex education, all of our secondary schools do so. The central message that we send in our schools is one of responsibility—that if one decides to have sex, one must learn to care for their health and the health of their partner and to respect one another. So you might be thinking that Dutch teens are having sex at an early age and all the time. In fact, youth in the Netherlands have a higher average age at first intercourse than teens in other developed countries.

Another reason for our success has been a policy that takes an integrated approach to reproductive health in that it understands the best way to prevent unwanted pregnancies is to reach out to women who have unwanted pregnancies. So, contraceptive services are an integral part of safe abortion services. The Dutch policy in no way promotes abortion-- it prevents it. Our aim is to avoid the need for abortion—and we have. The result has been that my country has some of the highest levels of contraceptive use in the world and as I have noted, low and still declining abortion rates.

We have also mirrored our international development policy on our successful domestic policy. Thus, we fund clinics that provide abortion services because we know that the best way to prevent repeat abortions is make sure contraceptives are distributed to women who have experienced unwanted pregnancies.

We should take up the recommendations of the European Parliament and share experiences - and I present to you the Dutch experience on how to address sexual and reproductive health. We will see reduced abortion rates, reduced rates of unwanted pregnancies and healthier societies.

In conclusion, as elected members of parliament, we have a specific role, and more importantly a duty to ensure that each individual has the best opportunities to live a healthy and prosperous live.

All too often, women’s rights in sexuality and reproduction are subject to the control of others, either for ideological or commercial reasons. A woman’s right to control when to have a child and how many children is a fundamental part of our work. This right should not only be seen in light of the very sound arguments that by ensuring this right, families, children and the whole society prospers. We should also recognise this right as a basic Human Right for half of the population.

In turning to young people, this means providing young people with all the information on sexuality and reproductive health and, most importantly, their rights. Young people must also be able to access the full range of reproductive health services – this is not only so that they can protect themselves from AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, but also to that they can learn to appreciate an important part of every person’s personality.

Regardless of how we as adults may feel about the sexuality of young people, whether we are comfortable with this notion or not, we must recognise that they are Individuals, with rights all to themselves. Most importantly, we as adults must do what we can to help young people achieve adulthood safely and well prepared.

Our common goal is to provide women, men and young people with the information, education, resources and tools that enable them to realize their full potential. To achieve this goal we need to support policies that promote high standards of health, particularly reproductive health, and the right to decide feely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children.

Thank you Ladies and Gentlemen.

1 reactie

Kia ora

I'm a journalist with investigative current affairs magazine North & South, and I'm doing a story on teenagers and sex in New Zealand.

I came across an article in a Family Planning Association publication about your visit to New Zealand last year.

Could I possibly interview you via email for my story? With the Netherlands' remarkable record in the area of teen pregnancy, I'd be interested to hear your views on the best way to deal with sex/sexuality education.

My contact details are: +64 9 366 5328 (work phone); nshepheard@acpmedia.co.nz.


Warm regards

Nicky Shepheard

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