UNFPA-Failing Women’s Rights

Empty Assurances from UNPFA?

Empty Assurances from UNPFA?

Addressing the UN Commission on Population and Development April 3 2009 Purnima Mane (above) Deputy Executive Director of UNFPA, speaking on behalf of Executve Director Thoraya Obaid informed delegates that:

“We will work to ensure the right of women to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health free of coercion, discrimination and violence.”

These principles were ratified in two major international covenants, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)   http://tibettruth.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/cedaw.pdf  adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly and the Programe of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) 1994

In particular the ICPD is presented as the authoritative global instrument protecting women’s human rights as they apply to reproductive freedoms and rights. The agreements and commitments the document formalises are held-up as demonstrable proof that women’s rights are recognised, and more importantly protected. Governments and multi lateral agencies such UNFPA, IPPF and Marie Stopes International celebrate it as an international concensus affirming consent over coercion.

“….We have never questioned China’s right or need to implement family planning policies but believe these should be based on the principle of consent not coercion, as espoused by the International Conference on Population and Development.

(Statement from British Government Human Rights Report-2007)

Indeed there are a number of elements in the ICPD which emphasise such rights, however all is not what it seems, and the assertion that the International Conference on Population and Development champions and guarantees such freedoms is betrayed when examining the document in detail  http://tibettruth.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/icpd_eng.pdf 

So what does it state concerning reproductive rights?

 5.5. Governments should take effective action to eliminate all forms of coercion and discrimination in policies and practices….

Notice that ‘coercion’ is not formally defined nor are forced sterilizations proscribed here, no definition of what action should be applied, nor formal requirement of governments to commence such action within an agreed time, no reference to any monitoring system to ensure accountability or compliance.

7.3. Bearing in mind the above definition, reproductive rights embrace certain human rights that are already recognized in national laws, international human rights documents and other consensus documents. These rights rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health. It also includes their right to make decisions concerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence, as expressed in human rights documents. In the exercise of this right, they should take into account the needs of their living and future children and their responsibilities towards the community.

While this key section again asserts reproductive freedoms, without coercion or violence, which significantly it chooses not to define, it concludes with a puzzling qualification, that notes such rights must be exercised with due responsibility towards the community. Within a liberal democratic society that would not raise too many objections perhaps, however within a draconian and totalitarian regime such as communist China it endorses the rights of the state over the individual. Since China imposes a coercive birth-control program references here to freedom from coercion and violence are worthless gestures.

7.24. Governments should take appropriate steps to help women avoid abortion, which in no case should be promoted as a method of family planning, and in all cases provide for the humane treatment and counselling of women who have had recourse to abortion.

 Yet Communist China’s family planning laws at a national and regional level not only do not forbid abortion as a means of family planning but actually incorporate it within a range of coercive measues aimed at compliance.

” . . Pregnancies that do not comply with the legal requirements for childbirths shall be terminated in a timely manner.” (Hunan Province Population and Family Planning Regulations, Article 22)

“Article 41 Citizens who give birth to babies not in compliance with the provisions of Article 18 of this Law shall pay a social maintenance fee prescribed by law. Citizens who fails to pay the full amount of the said fees payable within the specified time limit shall have to pay an additional surcharge each in accordance with relevant State regulations, counting from the date each fails to pay the fees; with regard to ones who still fail to make the payment, the administrative department for family planning that makes the decision on collection of the fees shall, in accordance with law, apply to the People’s Court for enforcement”. (China’s Population and Family Planning Law 2002)

 7.14. The objectives are: (a) To help couples and individuals meet their reproductive goals in a framework that promotes optimum health, responsibility and family well-being, and respects the dignity of all persons and their right to choose the number, spacing and timing of the birth of their children

Respecting dignity and freedom are not principles which feature within China’s population program, and receive little tolerance within national family planning law, which prefers coercive enforcement over free and informed choice:

“Article 43 Anyone who resists or hinders the administrative department for family planning or its staff members in their performance of their official duties in accordance with law shall be subject to criticism and be stopped by the administrative department for family planning….” (China’s Population and Family Planning Law 2002)

 7.22. Governments are encouraged to focus most of their efforts towards meeting their population and development objectives through education and voluntary measures rather than schemes involving incentives and disincentives.

Yet targets and quotas continue to feature within family-planning inside China, and were being applied a year after the introduction of the 2002 Population and Birth Control Law, which according some defenders of China’s population program introduced moderation. Document Number 43 implemented by Jieshi Township in Guangdong Province (released on August 26, 2003) ordered:

The fall 2003 family planning assignment should begin on August 26, and within 35 days (ending on September 30), certain goals must be achieved: to sterilize 1,369, fit 818 with an IUD, induce labor for 108, and carry out 163 abortions. During this period, each five days there should be a count and each ten days there should be an evaluation, and there must be a 100 percent success rate. Party secretaries and village heads who failed to fulfill this task would have their salaries cut by half, and other responsible cadres would suffer the withholding of their entire salary.”

The commitments and human rights principles contained in the International Conference on Population and Development,which at times are vague and lacking any significant substance, in terms of definition, are consistently violated by the policy, implementation and nature of communist China’s population program. A fact that does not appear to trouble governments, multi-lateral population agencies,  or a number of women’s organisations and environmental groups, who continue to claim that the agreements of the IPCD are a forceful defense of women’s human rights. They prefer to uncritically accept as fact the deceits of communist China, which disingenuously claims any abuse within its program is due to overzealous and uninformed local officials.

 “A few grassroots family planning workers are still possessed by the old views and concepts which prevailed before the adoption of the National Population and Family Planning Law, namely that as long as it is for the implementation of the family planning policy which is a fundamental state policy occasional violation of people’s rights should not be considered as a serious mistake. With such ideas still in the minds of the few family planning workers, incidents in violation of peoples’ reproductive rights do occur from time to time in some remote, bordering and economically underdeveloped areas” (Chinese Family Planning Association-2009)

That the international family-planning movement chooses to believe, defend and promote such propaganda, while fully cognisant of the extent and nature of violations resulting from China’s population policies is a breath-taking display of its craven bias towards communist China. Meanwhile the clock is ticking away, since the objectives featured in the ICPD Programme of Action, must reach a target date of 2015 in order to accomplish the agreement made in 1994. Yet, through a merciless process of denial that such violations exist within the program, and a callous sacrifice of the facts, no doubt UNFPA its neo-Malthusian supporters will convince themselves, on that date,  that the goals of the ICPD have been realized. As they congratulate themselves in the air-conditioned comforts of New York’s  United Nations Plaza, the traumatized women of China, Tibet and East Turkestan, whose lives have been forever blighted by the brutalities of forced sterilization will have little to thank them for.

They also cite the claims of progress offered by UNFPA,  in its extremely limited county program in China,  as evidence of the application of the principles of the IPCD, yet as prominent Chinese dissident Harry Wu notes:

“The UNFPA states that birth targets and quotas were lifted in the 32 Chinese counties supported by its programs. It also notes a “shift from an administrative family planning approach to an integrated, client-oriented reproductive health approach in the project counties.” We have heard charges that the UNFPA has provided computers and vehicles to the Chinese government to enforce China’s family-planning policy. Regardless of what has taken place in the 32 counties the UNFPA operates in, they constitute only about one percent of China’s more than 3,000 counties. There is no major change taking place in China, and these 32 counties are being used as a showcase by the Chinese government. (Laogai Research-2004) 

Recall too that the reproductive principles featured in the ICPD are themselves lacking detail and conviction, moreover they are sufficiently vague as to permit a disturbing tolerance of China’s coercive birth-control policies. Rather than guaranteeing “principles of free and informed choice” the ICPD serves as a smokescreen, employed by Governments and supporters of the Chinese program, to justify the continued presence of UNFPA in China, on the basis of its apparent commitment to reproductive freedoms and individual rights. Yet significantly ICPD

1) Failed to specify practices NOT complying with the principles of reproductive freedom.

2) Does not condemn forced abortion/forced sterilisation.

3) Fails to endorse the right to reproductive freedom as absolute.

4) In exercising the right of reproductive freedom it proposes the “responsibility” of the individual “towards the community”, what does that signify in communist China?

Within the marbled corridors of the United Nations  we have international gatherings,  where UNFPA , demographers, women’s organisations and environmentalists convene to affirm their committment to the principles of reproductive freedoms enshrined, albeit vaguely and tentatively, by the ICPD. It matters little to such guardians of women’s human rights that  their sisters in China are brutally denied freedom-of-choice and must comply to the totalitarian dictates of a highly coercive population program.

So psychologically and emotionally attached are they to the cause of population-control, that human rights abuses arising from China’s population policies are seen as some form of inconvenience, to be concealed behind the deliberately obscure terminology of instruments such as the ICPD, which promise so much yet lack any genuine substance.   The last words on this must go to the late Doctor John S Aird, a China specialist and authority on the Chinese population program, who once noted:

“They exemplify the venality, the self deception, the profound corruption of mind and spirit that has pervaded the family-planning community ever since it rushed into bed with the Chinese program and allied itself with the Chinese government against its people. I doubt it will ever find the the moral strength to climb out again”

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