Implementation of General Assembly Resolution 60/251 of 15 March 2006 entitled “Human Rights Council”
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Women in Tibet
China submitted its 83 page periodic report to the CEDAW on its 36th Session from 7th to 25th of August 2006. This report lacked clarity on the situation of ethnic minority women on many important areas, e.g. political participation of minority women in minority-based areas of present day China as required by CEDAW’s Article 7(b) and (c).
An Alternative report on the state of women in Tibet by India-based Tibetan Women’s Association (TWA) was submitted to CEDAW. This report’s critical areas of concern in Tibet were Education, Employment, Health, Reproductive Rights and Women in Prison.
In the concluding observation of the CEDAW expressed concern about the discrimination based on sex, ethnicity or cultural background faced by rural and ethnice minority groups including Tibetan women, with regard to access to education, health, employment, participation in leadership and ownership of land in China. The Committee also expressed concern that rural girls have disproportionate illiteracy and school dropout rates and at the lack of health care facilities and medical personnel in rural areas, the high maternal mortality rates and the rising costs for health care, such as user fees, which limit rural women’s access to health services.
The Committee made strong recommendations to China to provide, in its next report, comprehensive information, including sex-disaggregated data, on the situation of rural women, including ethnic minority women, especially with regard to their education, employment and health status and exposure to violence.
This statement seeks the UN Human Rights Council attention to urge China to implement the recommendations made by CEDAW and stop the grave situation of discrimination faced by Tibetan women because of their race and gender. In 2003 for instance, the Sepcial Rapporteur on violence against women in her report to the CHR concluded: “Women in Tibet continue to u ndergo hardship and are also subjected to gender-specifuc crimes, including reproductive rights violantions such as forced sterilization, forced abortion, coercive birth control policies and the monitoring of menstrual cycles. There have been many reports of Tibetan women prisoners facing brutality and torture in custody.”
We would also like to draw the Council’s attention to the critical areas of discrimination against Tibetan women on the following areas:
The current education policy of China is aimed at getting Tibetans to assimilate communist ideology rather than to preserve Tibetan culture, tradition, language, religion and history. Tibetan children who have escaped to exile report receiving amost no education regarding their cultural heritage, but say they were constantly and vigorously indoctrinated into Chinese culture and communism.
According to the data given in Table A11 (page 73), of China’s fifth and sixth combined periodic report to CEDAW, the enrollment and completion rates of school-age Tibetan children in primary school, paint a grim picture. The enrollment rate of girls in Tibet is the lowest and dropout rate is fourth highest in the nation, the highest being Ningxia. China’s report does not mention any attempts made to change this situation as is required according to CEDAW Article 10 (f). It is estimated that roughly 33% of all Tibetan children receive no education at all. This is a huge figure compared to the 1.5% of Chinese children who are illiterate. According to Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy’s 2006 Annual Report, “the education for Tibetans is overpriced, and under-funded. For example, the annual fees range from 20 to 6,000 yuan (US $3 to $750) per month. This is unaffordable for most Tibetans, especially those in rural areas, who earn an average of 800 yuan (US100) per month.
An internal Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) Party Committee document reveals that schools in the TAR are collecting as much as 13 different kinds of fees from students, six of which are illegal. A Tibetan teacher who was interviewed revealed that although the school in her area was supposed to be free, individual teachers demanded money from students or their parents.
Tibetan school children face additional obstacles such as language, and course content. Most schools in Tibet, particularly the secondary schools, use the Chinese language as the medium of instruction. This severly hinders Tibetan children’s ability to learn, and their desire to learn, as the majority of them grow up in households that speak only Tibetan. As a result of not being able to understand the Chinese language, Tibetan children are often tracked away from other students into inferior facilities and assigned less qualified teachers.
Today, Tibetan women are forced into prostitution as their only means of survival. It is believed that the rise in prostitution is due to the rapid urbanization and pattern of economic development in Tibet, the population transfer of Chinese settlers into Tibet with an increased tolerance of the sex trade. The growing tolerance for the sex trade in Lhasa in leading to the further degradation and exploitation of and violence against Tibetan women.
In 1998, it was estimated that over 658 brothels existed on the 18 main streets of Lhasa. By 2005, it has increased to 1,600 brothels. It is estimated 25% of them are Tibetans. Therefore, China’s claims that prostitution is “under effective control” are unfounded, as the facts point to an uncontrolled expansion of prostitution in Lhasa. On January 1st 2004, Tibet Information Network (TIN) stated that “recent reports from Tibet indicate an increasing number of Tibetan women from rural areas, particularly in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), are working as prostitutes. A TIN report further found that Tibetan prostitutes are as young as 13 or 14, and often paid less than a dollar for sex.”
By all accounts, China has done little to combat the rising rate of prostitution in Tibet. To the contrary, Chinese businessmen have received low-interest loans for investment and, have been able to lease property from government offices and private landowners to use as brothels.
Historically in Tibet there were no brothels, no drugs and little alcohol abuse, few cases of TB and other infectious diseases, no sexually transmitted diseases and no HIV/AIDS. Tibetan men are now, in increasing numbers, frequenting brothels. As a result, the family system is breaking down with the divorce rate and domestic violence increasing. And while there are no statistics available, surely STD’s and the AIDS epidemic promises to spread to the Tibetan community leading to the increased impoverishment and destitution of Tibetan men, women and children.
Health and Violation of Reproductive Rights: Many Tibetan women have been subjected to compulsory abortion and sterilization, often with brutal indifference to their wishes and even their long term health. A Governing Body of medical “professionals” decides the reproductive rights of a Tibetan women in Tibet. In Tibet, those who do not comply with the coercive official policies, there are penalties in the form of fines, denial of benefits for children born outside of the established brith quota, loss of jobs or reduction of pay, and loss of housing. Women are given the ‘option’ of paying a fine or terminating a pregnancy. The fines imposed are often the equivalent of more than a month’s wages. For example, fines can reach up to 10,000 Yuan (US $1,200) and many women earn less than 600 Yuan (US $72) per month. Some women have reported that they were faced with the threat of their husbands being arrested and beaten or the threat of losing all of their possessions if ‘do not comply’ has also been cited.
It is estimated that between 4% to 20% of the Tibetan population inside Tibet is no longer able to reproduce, with thousands more being forced to accept contraception. This indicated that Chinese birth control policies are an attempt at not controlling the population, but at destroying a culture.
Women in prison
According to a 1999 report by the Tibet Information Network (TIN), one out of every 22 female political prisoners in Drapchi Prison is likely to die as a result of abuse under detention. It is also noted that Tibetan prisoners of conscience have been detained due to their religious and political views. These political prisoners expressed their views peacefully but were unjustly detained and subjected to dehumanizing detention. They enjoyed no right to counsel and in addition to gruesome torture, are subjected to invasive interrogations and indefinite detention.
Phuntsok Nyidron, a former-political prisoner from Tibet described the suffering of women prisoners in the following words in a statement to the final session of the UN Sub-Commission on the Protection and Promotion on Human Rights: “Whilst in prison, we underwent unimaginable torture. It was routine for prisoners to be beaten with iron bars and electric-shock prods for daring to express their views and for refusing to submit to communist political education. Sometimes we were beaten unconscious and had to be dragged back to our cells. During my initial months of detention, prison guards had my finger nails poked with the needle of the scho-sewing machine. Five nuns died from beatings and torture following a May 1998 prison protest at Drapchi Prison. I learn that although Amnesty International has called for an official investigation, the Chinese authorities have so far failed to provide a full account on how the five nuns died”.
In view of these grave situation faced by Tibetan women in Tibet, we urge the Chinese authorities to invite the Council’s Special Rapporteur on violence against women on an official fact-finding mission which will include extensive programme in Tibetan areas of present-day China.