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Belgrade, September 30, 2019 – Marking the 25th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD25) the United Nations Population Fund in Serbia organized a discussion titled What Has Changed? looking at sexual and reproductive health and rights in the country and further over the past 25 years.

Prof. Dr. Slavica Djukic-Dejanović, Minister without portfolio responsible for demography and population issues opened the discussion: „Our society must be free from prejudice and fear, to speak openly about sexual and reproductive health“ she said. „Sexual activity of young people starts at the age of 13, and that limit is increasingly shifting. That is why we need to provide education from an early age, but we must also do more to prevent cervical cancer and sexually transmitted infections.

The discussion panel was also attended by Prof. Dr. Mirjana Rašević, Director of the Center for Demographic Research at the Institute of Social Sciences. Dr. Rašević was present at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo 25 years ago. „The Cairo Summit was very important because it introduced the concept of reproductive health and rights, that is, the insistence on the quality of life of present and future generations. Since then, research in Serbia shows that progress has been made. We see falling numbers of cases of maternal mortality, of infants and children up to 5 years, as well as the rate of juvenile pregnancies. However, in Serbia we still have a very high rate of induced abortions and sexually transmitted diseases, low birth rate, while over the past 12 months 9% of women have reported some form of violence”, explained Dr. Rašević.

Looking from the angle of persons with disabilities Ms. Emila Spasojevic, Senior Advisor at the Office of the Commissioner for Equality Protection, pointed out that a satisfactory legislative and strategic framework exists, however the state lacks concrete implementation measures. „Discrimination is still present. For example, gynecological surgeries do not have the necessary equipment for women with disabilities. Elderly citizens, whose number is growing in Serbia, should not be treated as a burden. Their potential should be valued and used as a resource for the community.“

The fourth panelist and a peer to ICPD25, Ms. Irena Vari, project coordinator at Infopark, shared her experience and observations from the angle of a young person growing up in Serbia. "When it comes to sexual and reproductive health education, gender equality and other relevant issues, it is important to work with boys as much as with girls because they are partners. Young people need to be better informed, involved and supported by the state."

Present during the discussion were also experts, civil servants, representatives of international and civil society organizations, as well as representatives of associations dealing with the younger population. Live streaming was ensured on social networks and is available on the UNFPA Serbia YouTube channel.