Many female activists today celebrate International Women’s Day and may be arranging last minute travel arrangements to attend the United Nations’ Commission On The Status Of Women’s meeting (CSW59) beginning March 9. Meanwhile in a world far away from the chrome and tinted glass gatherings scheduled to reflect on two decades since the Beijing Declaration was agreed; which in theory secured and advanced women’s human rights, in occupied Tibet and indeed China itself women continue to be subject to a range of disturbing human rights atrocities.
On Friday March 6, in the Ngaba area of Amdo region of occupied Tibet, a 40 year-old woman, named as Norchuk died following her self-immolation protest against the illegal and violent occupation by China of her homeland. Her body was confiscated by Chinese paramilitary and hastily cremated, denying her relatives any chance to conduct traditional Buddhist ritual.
Her sacrifice and the oppressed condition of women inside Tibet though is absent from the Twitter streams on the subject of International Women’s Day and CSW59, you will find virtually no mention of the suffering relating to Tibetan women. Nor indeed reference to China’s forced sterilizations, a gross violation of women’s human rights that has been greeted by evasion, silence and denial from the mass ranks of the ‘Concerned Sisterhood’.
The same day that Norchuk offered up her life a team of Chinese security police raided the Beijing home of activist Ms Li Tingting and arrested her. Yet a deafening silence seems to have greeted news that she and three other Chinese female activists, who were planning to hold a peaceful protest in Beijing against sexual harassment, have been jailed, their whereabouts presently unknown and facing possibly disturbing consequences. http://www.livenewspak.com/china-detains-at-least-4-feminists-ahead-of-international-womens-day/ Despite this latest example of state oppression against women by China’s regime instead of outrage and opposition from those attending the CSW59 we witness a callous indifference.
Will anyone attending the CSW59 meeting raise a word in protest or concern about such injustice? Can we hope that the tyranny, inequality and marginalization suffered by Tibetan women since China invaded Tibet in 1950 will be condemned? Is it likely that women’s NGOs will be speaking out against China’s vicious policy of population control, in which women are brutally denied the most basic of rights and forcibly sterilized? What words of opposition will be made against the censorship, and torture that targets any women who express the slightest dissent against the grim excesses of the Chinese regime?
Women do not enjoy human rights under the totalitarian nightmare enforced by the Chinese regime, there exists only fear, pain, repression, censorship, you comply to the dictates of the state or suffer the consequences. That their plight is consistently ignored, denied and evaded by women NGO’s and the United Nations, makes a mockery of any claim that such bodies are dedicated to championing women’s human rights.
It’s the international day against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and various social networking platforms are buzzing with discussions and comments in opposition to this issue. Anyone concerned with women’s human rights is naturally promoting this important event and demanding an end to the practice of FGM. The global outrage surrounding a vicious disfigurement and abuse of a woman’s freedom of control over her own body has attracted concerted and fierce opposition. Such a response contrasts starkly with the subject of China’s medical atrocities. While feminists, women’s NGOs and bodies such as the United Nations Fund for Population and United Nations Commission On The Status of Women are rightly campaigning against FGM they are virtually invisible when it comes to China’s forced sterilization of women.
Is the slicing open of a woman against her will, forcibly sterilized through such ‘surgery’, any less an atrocity than the practice of FGM? Clearly not as both constitute a violent abuse of women’s human rights. Yet the influential and agitated voices of condemnation on FGM, maintain a cold-hearted silence on the countless numbers of women forcibly sterilized by China.
While we support and respect all who are campaigning to end FGM such efforts are somewhat demeaned by the worrying absence of equivalent action against China’s program of forced sterilizations. Surely all violence against women should be equally and forcefully opposed?
What are reproductive rights? Well if you ask the majority of women attending #csw61 in New York, (a back-slapping festival hosted by the United Nations Commission On The Status On Women-UNCSW), the response would focus on making available family planning education and resources. Which by extension enables a woman to determine freely when to give birth and how many children she wishes. The consequences of such provision include improved health, along with economic and social benefits for women currently denied such choices, that access to family planning. Not only that but in providing family planning to women it seems we can also tackle the major environmental issue of climate change, a topic that has been woven into the reproductive rights argument at recent UN discussions, partly as a political move to enhance the arguments being presented and as an encouragement for further support from within the environmental movement. If you had any doubts at the global impact of family planning as a supposed panacea to the world’s primary challenge be convinced by the words of Huffington Post contributor Diane MacEachern.
“Because ensuring that women have full reproductive rights creates one of the most desirable “two-fers” on the planet. Complete access to voluntary family planning is among the quickest, simplest, and most affordable ways to improve women’s quality of life. It is also one of the most direct, immediate and cost-effective ways to reduce climate change. In fact, studies show that slowing population growth by giving women access to the contraception they already want could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by between 8 and 15 percent — roughly equivalent to ending all tropical deforestation.” (Source: Women Leave Rio+20 Motivated to Galvanize Sustainability Around Family Planning and Reproductive Rights. 7.02.2012
It is an attractive and persuasive argument and no doubt embraced with zeal by environmentalists and feminists, yet in the clamor to press the logic and justice of such reasoning the debates at UN forums, while articulating reproductive rights consistently fail to address a hugely important element of women’s reproductive freedoms, a woman’s right to be able to determine, without coercion, the spacing and number of children. Now this right (which was formalized at the ICPD and is reflected in CEDAW) is purely theoretical for the countless millions of women who suffer China’s forced sterilizations and forced abortions, for them there are no reproductive freedoms, only a highly draconian and totalitarian system that enforces a range of coercive measures upon women to make them comply with the dictates of the state. Should financial penalties, arbitrary arrest, confiscation of property or loss of employment and housing rights fail women face the horrors of forced sterilization.
Unfortunately, as occurs regularly at the UNCSW, this gross violation of women’s human rights remains a taboo subject, marginalized,evaded and callously ignored by women’s NGOs during debates on reproductive rights. Yet without ensuring human rights are central to the provision of population control policies and practice, arguing for greater reproductive choice and services is divested of credibility and ethical authority. Yes reproductive rights are advanced by providing family planning resources and associated education programs, but they must also include the right of a woman not to be viciously assaulted by the state, denied control over her own body and suffer harrowing medical atrocities under the name of population control. Nor is it enough to claim such rights are enshrined in international statutes such as CEDAW and the ICPD while China enforces a program that so violently trashes those principles, yet the champions of reproductive freedoms offer not a word of opposition or condemnation. Informed and free choice yes, education and access to family planning by all means, but should not those who campaign on such issues be demanding those freedoms and services are extended to women suffering China’s population control policies?
Well are you that surprised that the UN General Assembly today voted in favor of China taking a permanent seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council? The world has observed the vomit inducing hypocrisy of that failed institution for decades, a weary resignation and sense of powerlessness has greeted the UN’s troubling record. It’s history in places such as Bosnia, Rwanda, the Congo and Afghanistan is a disgraceful litany of various atrocities, including reports of sex-trafficking, rape, extortion and corruption, hardly the glittering principles it so loudly declares! Such a resumé makes it a perfect bed-fellow for China’s regime of course, whose genocidal actions have been ignored and tolerated by the UN for decades.
China’s representatives now taking their place upon the United Nations Human Rights Council, do so contemptuously indifferent, as indeed is the Organization itself to the views of world opinion, that this appointment makes a mockery of the values and ethics upon which the UN claims to be founded. In allowing China an influential, and no doubt censorial voice on the issue of human rights, however credible it was viewed as an international guardian of human rights is seriously corroded.
We should take time-out to consider again the selective and distorted focus of the UN in regard to human rights. Most particularly as they apply to women. As readers of this Blog may know each year in New York the United Nation’s Commission On The Status Of Women (UNCSW) hosts an international meeting of representatives, and facilitates a parallel event for Non-Governmental participants to address issues of equality, human rights, education, health and justice. Did however you realize that despite being fully aware of a major violation of women’s human rights there’s one subject assiduously avoided and never featured on the agenda of the UNCSW or its NGO associates?
It may seem hard to take in, after all these bodies are dedicated to human rights principles and advancing women’s freedoms and rights, but a collective silence shrouds the subject of China’s population control program and its well documented abuse of human rights and reproductive freedoms. When informed of atrocities generated by that program, which have been reported by respected organizations such as Amnesty International, the UNCSW and women’s NGOs exhibit a staggering and callous indifference. See HEREYet various groups have since the early 1990s been submitting reports, and media accounts on the abuse suffered by women in China and occupied lands such as Tibet, East Turkestan,Southern Mongolia and Manchuria, whose lives have been blighted by the horrors of forced sterilizations.
Tibettruth too has been highly active on the issue for the past few years, lobbying participants at the UNCSW, researching and publishing briefing documents and releasing a major report on coercive birth control in occupied Tibet. Many of our friends on Twitter are engaged in raising awareness of this subject and conduct an online lobby of the UNCSW, generating an international debate and questioning the silence. Appeals and research material has been sent directly to the UNCSW, prominent representatives, and key note speakers attending its annual forum, such outreach is met with an evasion and reticence that surpasses the Free Masons!
Before anyone dismisses such a claim as exaggeration consider this, the theme of the 2013 UNCSW meeting was centered on the elimination of violence against women, and many issues were given forceful and detailed examination, apart that is from China’s forced sterilizations. Leading UN agenciesissued a declarationand absent was even an oblique mention of that gross example of violence.This disturbing unwillingness to discuss what is clearly a serious violation of human rights is not restricted to the forum of the UNCSW, indeed there would seem to exist across the fabric of United Nations an institutionalized policy that ensures no mention or criticism of China’s coercive population control program and its forced sterilizations. On June 27/28 2013 The UN held a twenty year revision of the accords and progress arising from the World Conference On Human Rights held in Vienna. This review was titled ‘Advancing The Protection Of Human Rights’ and we shall come back to its shortcomings presently, however before doing so it’s important and instructive to note that the 1993 Conference while devoting considerable attention to women’s human rights, significantly failed to include any reference to violations of reproductive rights or mention of forced sterilizations:
“38. In particular, the World Conference on Human Rights stresses the importance of working towards the elimination of violence against women in public and private life, the elimination of all forms of sexual harassment, exploitation and trafficking in women, the elimination of gender bias in the administration of justice and the eradication of any conflicts which may arise between the rights of women and the harmful effects of certain traditional or customary practices, cultural prejudices and religious extremism. The World Conference on Human Rights calls upon the General Assembly to adopt the draft declaration on violence against women and urges States to combat violence against women in accordance with its provisions. Violations of the human rights of women in situations of armed conflict are violations of the fundamental principles of international human rights and humanitarian law. All violations of this kind, including in particular murder, systematic rape, sexual slavery, and forced pregnancy, require a particularly effective response.” Source: UN World Conference On Human Rights 1993
It’s a fairly detailed list of issues yet the UN deemed that the horrors of China’s forced sterilizations were unworthy of criticism or inclusion at a conference dedicated to human rights! This illustrates not some disappointing administrative oversight by the United Nations, nor is it reflecting a lack of awareness, it is demonstration of censorship, informed by an agenda that refuses to oppose, condemn or even acknowledge China’s population control program as constituting a violation of human rights.
Let’s return to the assembled UN delegates who gathered during June 2013 to discuss the advancement of human rights, their report also included a section on women and specifically recommendations on how to oppose violence. What issues did they consider of importance for inclusion? Well again there was the generalized platitude on eliminating all forms of violence against women followed by more specific details:
“Address the intersection of gender based discrimination, poverty, socio-economic marginalization and violence, as well as the links among trafficking in human beings, corruption, terrorism, militarism, small arms and gender-based violence…Give special attention to women and girls in all situations of vulnerability and multiple
forms of discrimination who are particularly at risk of gender-based violence….Prevent and eliminate all forms of harmful practices, including female genital mutilation, and make such acts punishable in national legislation and ensure their prosecution.” Source: VIENNA+20: ADVANCING THE PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS Achievements, Challenges and Perspectives 20 Years after the World ConferenceJune 27/28 2013
So there we have it two decades after the first World Conference On Human Rights chose to ignore the atrocities of China’s forced sterilizations its UN successors issued another report that made no mention of these violations. Seen in parallel with the adamantine silence of the UNCSW and associated Women’s NGOs on the subject, and mindful that highly detailed information on such abuses is available, and considering too that such organizations have been lobbied on this issue for many years, we are in the presence of mindset that refuses to accept such practices as an abuse of human rights. Given such a corruption of thinking and this callous disregard for its ethical responsibility and obligations towards human rights, the United Nations while posturing as champion of individual freedoms, and issuing platitudes on Tibet, is a suitable partner in crime with China’s regime.
At various times on Twitter the British Foreign Office (equivalent to the State Department) and its sister organization the Department For International Development (DFID) trumpet their commitment to opposing, and ending gender-based violence against women. Such declarations are its social media contributions towards UN forums, such as the United Nations Commission On The Status Of Women. These assertions though have a hollow and hypocritical ring to them when considering that its chief Secretary, Philip Hammond and his Department are virtually silent upon the issue of forced sterilizations in its Human Rights Country Report On China. The solitary reference slyly implies such atrocities are the actions of individuals and not the result of centrally engineered policy of the Chinese Government.
“There were continued reports of illegal coercive implementation of family planning policies, including forced abortions and sterilisations.” (Emphasis Added) SOURCE
We understand that both the Foreign Office and Department For International Development has been presented detailed material on this harrowing subject for many years and are acutely aware of the horrors it inflicts upon Chinese, Uyghur,Tibetan, Mongolian and Manchurian women. These department’s however are more concerned with trade considerations, and appeasing China, to facilitate ‘positive relations’, even at the expense of ignoring the reality of these sickening atrocities.
Anyone wishing to ask either of these individuals how they justify maintaining a silence on these harrowing violations, while claiming to be dedicated to opposing violence against women, may contact them on Twitter:
@JustineGreening UK Secretary of State for International Development