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
During previous activities to mark International Women’s Day on the 8th March much focus was rightly given to a range of themes. Unfortunately absent from the orchestrated championing of women’s human rights has been any prominent exposure concerning communist China’s treatment of women, and in particular its coercive population-control program. This year’s program looks likely to again ignore China’s sate engineered violence against women, indeed the only visible reference to China on the International Women’s Day website is a trumpeting that this day is a Chinese national holiday, hardly a cause for celebration given the harrowing reality of China’s targeting of women for forced sterilizations.These atrocities grossly violate the principle of freedom of choice and a woman’s right to control over her own body. In occupied Tibet, East Turkestan, Southern Mongolia, Manchuria and communist China women are denied these freedoms and subject to the dictate of a male-dominated regime that inflicts a series of draconian penalties; including financial/mental/physical coercion, forced sterilizations and forced abortions.
The extent of these state-engineered abuses is staggering, yet the collective apathy from the women’s movement is puzzling and alarming. Imagine the response if just one woman was dragged from her home in Washington DC, Paris or London, beaten, tied to a medical slab and forcibly sterilised. There would be riots on the streets and rightly so! Such barbarity is a central element in China’s population program and has traumatised countless women across the communist Chinese Empire and yet all we have from the concerned sisterhood is silence! How can supposed feminists claim to be genuinely concerned about human rights and yet ignore or deny the plight of women subject to this brutality?
What possible motivation or reasons may begin to understand such a troubling position? We must firstly discount any absence of evidence or testimony, as a wealth of detailed documentation has been assembled over the years, and material continues to emerge. Much of this has been made available to a number of women’s organisations, yet the indifference remains. Faced with years of in-action and fudging from women’s groups it seems we dealing, not with an absence of evidence, but a singular lack of integrity.
On an individual emotional level this is indeed an appalling subject and perhaps too horrific for some, better perhaps to pretend its not happening? For others not softened by such humanity it would appear that reducing global population levels is worth any price, including human rights violations (even the devastated lives of women across Tibet, East Turkestan and Communist China).
Perhaps others may hold all things Chinese, or socialist, in fond regard and so shunt any inconvenient or odious manifestations of that culture or dogma into a siding, far away from any prying conscience. It appears easy for some, driven by their chosen world-view, to exclude any fact, which may destabilize a perspective that places economic rights above other freedoms. Surely all are equal and interdependent?
Consideration should also be given to the health of bank-balances, which for some women’s organisations may well have prospered considerably. As the saying goes ‘Silent Mouths Stuffed with Gold’ and one can only wonder to what degree the cynical and adamantine silence which has surrounded this issue is explained by merciless self-interest. Whatever the reasoning, this issue lies at the sensitive core of feminist ideology, touching, as it does, on freedom of choice and women having control over their own bodies. Such fundamental rights do not exist under communist Chinese rule, the state’s needs are seen as greater than those of the individual. It’s nearly eighteen years since delegates arrived in Beijing for the UN Conference on Women, fuelled by the noble vision of furthering women’s rights.
Yet during that time the systematic abuse against women has continued, making a mockery of the recommendations and agreements of the Platform for Action and Beijing Declaration. We were assured by the massed ranks of women’s groups, who attended, that active engagement with the Beijing Conference would help moderate the grim excesses of China’s totalitarian machine and improve the plight of women. As predicted by those organizations which boycotted the event the violations resulting from the program remain; forced sterilizations, torture, arbitrary arrests, forced abortions and infanticide.
Well one action you may wish to consider is contacting International Women’s Day and ask them, why each year they and their associates are silent on the subject of China’s forced sterilizations? They maybe contacted via Twitter at @womensday
However abhorrent this harrowing human rights issue, what is equally offensive is the cold-blooded response, which is shared by a considerable section of prominent women academics, campaigners and organizations. In remaining silent on the plight of Muslim-Uighur, Tibetan and Chinese women their inaction attracts the charge of complicity in a deliberate effort to conceal these atrocities.
Unlike the US Senate, Amnesty International USA,Congressional Committe on China, the British Medical Association, UK Parliamentary Foreign Parliamentary Committee and many other leading human rights groups and individuals, such as Dr Harry Wu, all of whom have acknowledged and condemned theses violations, many women’s organizations seem unwilling to engage this issue or campaign in support of their ‘sisters’. The traumatised women of East Turkestan, Tibet and communist China have little to thank them for and no reason to look forward to International Women’s Day.