Is The Beijing+15 NGO Forum Truly Committed To Human Rights?

Cai Yiping


Final day on the Women’s Global NGO meeting on Beijing+15 and already a number of concerns have been raised. Apart from yesterday’s singular silence on the issue of China’s program of forced sterilizations, which has traumatized the lives of countless women in China, occupied Tibet and East Turkestan, the meeting has been seen by younger women as being out-of-touch, too willing to celebrate the supposed achievements of the Beijing Declaration of 1995 and failing to make genuine progress on a range of key issues, most notably reproductive and health rights. 

Outside the confines of the somewhat dreary surroundings of the venue itself,  many women have expressed dismay at the lack of advancement of such issues. If yesterday’s performance is anything to go by they will be disappointed too at the absence of  any rigourous demand for governments to protect and implement their commitments to sexual and reproductive rights, enshrined in the Beijing Declaration. As noted by one crititic:

“A review conference, a celebration, is an opportunity to move forward and really get everyone to make commitments to challenge all these heads of states – not all of them are terrific – and to say that until and unless there are national action plans, until and unless there are implementation programs, we’re still going to sit here year after year and it’s not good enough.” .

Whenever the subject of  reproductive rights is raised attention is naturally turned towards China, the nation that hosted the 1995 UN World Forum on Women, while across China, occupied Tibet and East Turkestan women were (and still are) denied freedom of choice or control over their own bodies are are forced to submit to the dictates of a male dominated totalitarian state. It is reasonable to consider that this issue,which so closely touches upon a central plank of feminist ideology, would be given prominent exposure, yet as was witnessed yesterday there was a merciless absence of any reference to the subject, nor criticism of China’s program, which causes untold misery and suffering for millions across the Chinese Empire.

May we expect better things today, will the suppressed and violated voices of Chinese, Tibetan and Uyghur women be given exposure? Can we hope to see the assembled NGOs reach a consensus and issue a forceful condemnation of such violations and call upon the Chinese government to honour the commitments it made in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action to eliminate coercive practices?

Before we get to hopeful perhaps we should take note-of-the fact that the opening guest speaker will be Chinese national. Ms Cai Yiping, who will be representing Asia and the Pacific in a presentation titled ‘Voices From Around the World’.

Ms Cai was formerly a journalist with the All China Women’s Federation (ACW) a national organization that with China’s State Family Planning Commission is responsible for implementing China’s coercive population control program! What are the prospects therefore of any balanced and unbiased asesssment of women’s human and reproductive rights in China, from an individial, who in all probability was responsible for drafting propaganda for an organization that inflicts forced sterilizations upon countless numbers of women!

“By far and away the most important mass organization involved in birth planning is the Women’s Federation (fulian). In the villages, where the great majority of the population still lives, the women in charge of women’s affairs, known as “women’s heads,” have had the duty of enforcing the policy throughout their villages, which means imposing birth restrictions on their neighbors and even relatives. Given the unpopularity of the policy and the drastic measures sometimes ordered from above, enforcing the policy has beenan onerous and unpleasant task at best. While grass-roots Women’s Federation cadres have been responsible for the day-to-day work of birth planning, during birth planning campaigns all the major mass organizations including those for workers, youth, and students have been enjoined to contribute to the effort to mobilize the population to achieve population-control targets”  

(Source: Greenhalgh, S. & Winkler, E. 2001, Chinese State Birth Planning in the 1990s andBeyond, Resource Information Center, Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), USDepartment of Justice, Perspective Series, September, pp.77-79 –Attachment 17).

Imagine hosting a conference on women’s rights in the Black townships of Soweto, and having as  a prominent  speaker, a supporter of the racist policies of the Apartheid Regime of South Africa!  Such is the staggering hypocrisy and troubling ethical questions raised by Ms.Cai’s prominence within the Beijing+15 NGO Forum. Perhaps however she is now committed to women’s human rights, that being so we look forward to hearing her condemnation of China’s population policies, which continue to deny and violate women’s reproductive and human rights. Anyone wishing to see Ms Cai Yiping’s address (around 9/9.30 PM. EST) should visit:

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