Violence and Discrimination Against Tibetan Women

Executive Summary

This report evaluates China's compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women relative to Tibetan women. We find that China engages in gross violations of the rights of Tibetan women.

Our report begins with an overview of the history and political status of Tibet, because the human rights violations of Tibetan woman cannot be understood outside the context of Tibet's history or of the human rights abuses against the Tibetan people generally. Tibet was a sovereign state prior to the Chinese invasion in 1949. As a consequence, humanitarian law continues to apply during the entire period of the illegal occupation of Tibet. In addition, the Tibetan people have the right to self-determination, and the failure to recognize that right remains a root cause of the human rights violations against Tibetans generally and Tibetan women specifically.

Our substantive review of China's compliance with the Convention begins with the subject of torture, recognized by the Committee as a form of discrimination under Article 1. Relying not only on the evidence documented by our own organizations but on a wide range of other sources (including United Nations reports and the reports of other human rights groups) we conclude that China engages in systematic and serious torture of Tibetan women detainees. We take note that China does not address torture at all in its Report.

We next present the issue of violations of reproductive rights, noting once again that China fails to address this topic in its Report. Like torture, violations of reproductive rights are considered by the Committee to be discrimination under Convention Article 1. We first observe that "family planning" in the context of limiting the Tibetan population defies the reality of an already sparse population in a vast territory. Under these circumstances, further limiting the size of the Tibetan population and continuing the purposeful population transfer of ethnic (Han) Chinese citizens into Tibet present the possibility that the Tibetan people and culture will be destroyed within the coming century. We then document population control measures actually carried out against Tibetan women: forced or coerced abortion, sterilization and intrusive monitoring of Tibetan women's reproductive cycles, and eugenic laws and regulations. We note the sexually discriminatory nature of family planning measures, as women bear virtually all of the burden of family planning measures. The birth control measures imposed on Tibetan women constitute acts of genocide, and the evidence of intent to commit genocide is sufficient to warrant an immediate detailed investigation and urgent remedial measures.

Challenging China's assessment that prostitution is effectively controlled, we next show that prostitution in Tibet is widespread and apparently either promoted or condoned by the Chinese authorities. We express concern that places and buildings of great cultural or religious significance for Tibetans are chosen locales for prostitution.

Our report also documents discrimination in education against Tibetans generally and a lack of programs to promote education of Tibetan girls. We counter China's assertion that free schools for girls have been established in "minority-inhabited" areas. (Even China concedes in its Report that 36.6 percent of rural girls are illiterate). We find no evidence of any efforts to promote and encourage education among Tibetan girls. We also present one case of sexual harassment of a female Tibetan student, who reported no apparent remedy available.

Noting again that China fails to address employment of Tibetan women, we report some evidence of discrimination against Tibetan women in employment, including what we discovered to be an inherently gender-discriminatory practice of "virginity" testing as a precondition to employment. Employment is sometimes also conditioned on contracts to remain single. There is also evidence of discrimination against women in hiring and promotion, and one case of sexual harassment, again with no apparent remedy available. This evidence of discrimination specifically against Tibetan women is presented against a background of substantial evidence of discrmination in employment against Tibetans generally. We therefore express concern that Tibetan women are bearing a disproportionate burden of discrimination in employment in Tibet.

Our report then addresses discrimination in health care and we once again point out that China makes no mention of Tibetan women in its Report. We point out compelling evidence that health care for Tibetan women, especially rural women, is dismal. Information regarding AIDS and AIDS prevention (documented by testimony that as many as 50 patients share one needle) is non-existent. The little health care available is alleged to be too costly for most Tibetans. We provide further evidence of the degrading treatment of Tibetan women detainees by the denial of even the most basic of health and sanitary care.

Our report concludes that there is a systematic and widespread pattern of grave human rights violations as a result of discrimination against Tibetan girls and women in Chinese-occupied Tibet. We present two general recommendations: (1) that the Committee devote considerable time to the issue of Tibetan women in the course of its deliberations, including time for our organizations to make oral presentations; and (2) that the Committee specifically address ways to improve the quality of China's reporting. We then provide a number of written directives that we propose the Committee submit to China, focusing on precise information regarding the areas this report discusses: torture; reproductive rights abuse; prostitution; and discrimination in employment, education and health care. Finally we ask the Committee to urge China to halt all practices that violate the rights of Tibetan women and girls and to undertake a more constructive relationship with Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOS) seeking to monitor and protect the human rights of Tibetan women and girls.


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