October 27, 2014
Earlier this month, UNPO submitted its Alternative Report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women on the occasion of its 59th Session, documenting the violations of the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women by the Chinese Government. The report discusses the systematic ethnic and religious discrimination endured by Uyghur and Tibetan women in particular. According to UNPO, the human rights situation of minority women in China remains of high concern on all levels: political, civic, social, economic and cultural.
The Alternative Report aims to evaluate compliance with and implementation of the provisions of the Convention by the Chinese Government with regard to particular cases of the Tibetan and Uyghur communities, as ethnicity and gender can intersect and create new vulnerabilities and disadvantages, and maintain disparities, oppression and marginalization. Despite the fact that China’s report to the Committee presents significant efforts to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women, there are no specific measures focusing on women belonging to ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities.
The report draws special attention to systematic religious discrimination faced by women of the Uyghur and Tibetan minorities. For example, Uyghur women are banned from wearing headscarves and veils. In addition, Tibetan women are discouraged by the Chinese Government to practice their religion and they are forced to denounce their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. Human trafficking, forced abortion and sterilization, as well as discrimination in the field of education and employment have not only negative consequences on women and their families, but are also embedded in a broader population transfer and control strategy conducted by the Chinese authorities.
Considering that little attention is given to minority issues in China, especially pertaining to equality and empowerment of minority women, the report discusses sequentially the articles of the Convention considered to have been violated by the Chinese Government with recommendations on how to rectify and/or prevent further breeches. Some recommendations are listed below:
Article 3: Guarantee of Basic Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
- Officially recognize the situation currently faced by Uyghur and Tibetan women in terms of violations of their human rights and fundamental freedoms;
- Guarantee the practice of religion without any restrictions or abuses.
Article 6: Trafficking and Prostitution
- Intensify efforts to investigate and prosecute cases of trafficking and prostitution of women, in particular for forced labour;
- Coordinate with civil society actors to set up relevant services to protect and empower victims to access fair labour markets.
Article 7: Political Participation
- Abolish the practice of detaining politically active nuns (and monks);
- Ensure the implementation of National Human Rights Action Plan of China for the period of 2012-2015 in terms of political activism and provide relevant indicators for tracking progress.
Article 10: Education
- Ensure that the ‘bilingual education’ policy signifies an equal opportunity to study in the Tibetan and Uyghur language, as well as Mandarin;
- Adopt and implement measures, which would make education more accessible for non-Chinese-speaking minorities.
Article 11: Employment
- Ensure that employment requirements apply equally for Uyghur, Tibetan and ethnic Han candidates;
- Guarantee a broad access to job opportunities, for women and men, from rural and urban areas.
Article 12: Health Care
- Facilitate the spread of knowledge and information about sexually transmitted diseases;
- End discrimination in Han Chinese managed hospitals.
Article 16 Marriage and Children
- Cease forced abortions and sterilizations and encourage a voluntary approach to family planning;
- Abolish the practice of forcing women to use contraceptive methods against their own will.
photo courtesy of: lylevincent@flickr