Statement by TWA President to the UN Committee for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women on the Combined Fifth and Sixth Reports from the Government of China, 7th August 2006

In reference to the complete NGO Alternative Report on the status of Tibetan Women

Honorable Chairperson,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to address the Committee. I am B. Tsering, the President of Tibetan Women’s Association and I speak on behalf of Tibetan women in Tibet. The discrimination exercised against Tibetan women is a matter of great concern as they are discriminated against because of their race and gender. The sinocization of Tibet is a grave threat to the survival of Tibetan identity. Discriminatory policies and practices are preventing Tibetans from being part of daily social, political and economic life in Tibet.

Today, I would like to raise three critical areas of systematic gender and racial discrimination against Tibetan women in Tibet. These are Education, Employment, and Health.

1. Education

The education for Tibetans is aimed at getting them to assimilate communist ideology rather than to preserve Tibetan culture, tradition, language and history.

Investigations reveal that Chinese culture is promoted at the expense of Tibetan culture. Tibetan children that have escaped to exile report receiving almost no education regarding their cultural heritage, but say they were constantly and vigorously indoctrinated into Chinese culture and communism. Tibetan children are forbidden to wear Tibetan clothing, observe Tibetan holidays or to eat Tibetan food. The course content and medium of instruction hinders Tibetan children in their education.

According to the data given in Table A11 (page 73), enrollment and completion rates of school-age children in primary school, paint a grim picture of the education of Tibetan children. The enrollment rate of girls in Tibet is the lowest and drop-out rate of girls is fourth highest in the nation, the highest being Ningxia.

It is estimated that roughly 33% of all Tibetan children receive no education at all. This is a huge figure compared to the l.5% of Chinese children who go uneducated. … According to Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy’s (TCHRD) 2006 Annual Report, the education for Tibetans is over-priced, 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 (US $100) 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 not legal. 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 severely hinders Tibetan children’s ability to learn, and their desire for learning, as the majority of them grow up in households that speak only Tibetan. As a result of not being able to understand the language, Tibetan children are often tracked away from other students into inferior facilities and assigned less qualified teachers.

Reports state that the History of Tibet course at the University of Tibet (which is now under the direction of Chinese authorities) is taught in Chinese, despite the fact that the majority of students and teachers are Tibetan, and the course is part of the Tibetan Language Department. Tibetan identity and culture are being inexorably destroyed and Tibetan women along with them.

It is our submission that the Chinese government must comply with Article 10 of CEDAW and eliminate all forms of discrimination against Tibetan children, particularly girls, in the field of education, especially in rural areas.

Please refer to pages 17-18 of the Summary of the Alternative Report submitted by TWA.

2. Employment

Since 1995, various international organizations have found evidence of widespread discrimination against Tibetans in the field of employment in Tibet which is a gross violation of Article 11 of CEDAW. In 1996, CERD criticized China for employment discrimination against Tibetans, specifically naming discrimination based on the Tibetans’ lack of understanding of the Chinese language.

Unemployment amongst Tibetans in Tibet is said to be rising at a rapid rate, as incoming Chinese settlers are receiving preferential treatment in the job market. Consequently, there is increasing poverty amongst the Tibetan community. Many Tibetans cannot find employment unless they speak Chinese. Tibetan women seem to be at the bottom of the employment hierarchy, behind Chinese women, Chinese men, and Tibetan men. Reports abound of Tibetan women being paid less for equal work compared to Chinese workers and Tibetan men. Tibetan women have lost jobs because they, or their family members, have been associated with political activities – what the Chinese authorities call “separatist activities”.

We recommend strongly to CEDAW to ensure that Chinese government comply with the Article 11 of CEDAW and eliminate all forms of discrimination against Tibetan women in the field of employment.

Please refer pages 14-15 of the TWA Alternative Report.

3. Health

In 2004 Amnesty International listed 145 Tibetan political prisoners in Chinese prisons who were arrested for peacefully protesting the PRC’s illegal occupation. It is estimated that one in seven of these prisoners is a victim of severe torture, and a significant number have died due to injuries sustained from torture.

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 subject to invasive interrogations and indefinite detention.

According to TCHRD, most deaths due to torture are because of lack of medical care which is in contravention to the Article 12 of CEDAW. Furthermore, TCHRD has also found that often a person is released from prison when she is close to death so that the Chinese prison authorities will not be held accountable. Despite United Nations’ decree on the right of pregnant women to special accommodation while in prison, many cases of pregnant Tibetan women being beaten until they have a miscarriage have come to light which is clear case of violation of Article 12 of CEDAW.

There have been no reports of nuns using violence in any demonstration, yet they are routinely and arbitrarily arrested and subjected to torture.

Among the nuns who underwent such torture are Ven. Ngawang Sangdrol, a Tibetan Buddhist nun from the Garu Nunnery in Lhasa, and Ven. Phuntsok Nyidron, a former Mechungri nun from Lhasa who won the Reebok Human Rights Award in 1995. Ngawang and Phuntsok are among the women political prisoners who served the longest prison terms in Tibet.

Ngawang was originally arrested at the age of 10 for participating in a peaceful demonstration in support of Tibet’s freedom. She was arrested several times thereafter for the same reason, then detained and eventually released in 2003 after serving 11 years of her 21-year sentence in Drapchi prison.

Phuntsok was arrested along with Ngawang, and released in 2004 after she had suffered 15 years of imprisonment and torture.

Decisions about a Tibetan woman’s reproductive future in China are made by a governing body of medical professionals and without any consultation with the woman or her family. There is a birth control office in each district in Tibet responsible for the execution of the policies. Investigations show that the number of children permitted to Tibetans varies according to their region and occupation.

Research has shown that when women in a society are educated, the birth rate decreases. If promoting a decrease in birth rate is the true goal of the Chinese government, then it would follow that its officials would educate Tibetan women in this regard. However, there is no reference to sex education or contraception education in any of the official documents on the birth control policy in Tibet contrary to the Article 12 (h) of CEDAW which mandates access to educational information to help to ensure the health and well-being of families…

In keeping with Article 12 of CEDAW, we submit that the Chinese government should stop violating the reproductive rights of Tibetan women in Tibet.

Please refer to pages 9 and 11 of the TWA Alternative Report.

Thank you Honorable Chairperson and the experts for your attention.

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