Source: TOWARD FREEDOM, Title: “China’s War on Women,” Date: March/April 1998, Author: Natasha Ma
SSU Censored Researchers: Dan Bluthardt and Corrie Robb
SSU Faculty Evaluator: Laxmi Tewari
Since China’s invasion of Tibet in 1959, women have been at the forefront of the nonviolent struggle for independence nearly half of the protests staged over the last decade have been led by nuns. During that time, however, thousands of Tibetan women have been arrested, incarcerated, sexually abused, tortured, and publicly executed.
Ma’s story reveals that the Chinese “Strike-Hard” anti-crime campaign, which began in April 1996, has been directed particularly against monks and nuns in Tibet. According to the International Committee of Lawyers for Tibet, at least 1,295 had been expelled from their monasteries by January 1997. The expulsions reportedly occurred after they refused to denounce either the Dalai Lama, specific religious vows, or the Panchen Lama, the occupied nation’s second most important figure.
In direct opposition to the U.N.-recognized rights to freedom of religion and education, these expulsions are carried out by “work teams” sent even to remote areas of Tibet to conduct political and religious re-education. Human Rights Watch/Asia recently noted reports that it is now official Chinese policy to prevent the admission of new monks and nuns to monasteries.
According to Amnesty International, nuns, once they are incarcerated, are treated more sadistically than monks—raped, sexually abused, and subjected to attacks by dogs. Forms of torture reserved especially for women include electric batons applied to the pudendum and lighted cigarettes to the torso and face. There have also been numerous reports of rape with electric cattle prods. New methods of torture have been added in the last few years including exposure to extreme temperatures and special “physical training” sessions in which nuns, on the pretext that they are “soldiers,” are brutally beaten. When released, the victims are forbidden to return to their nunneries or participate in public religious activities.
Women in Tibet’s general population are also being mistreated. In October 1994, China’s National People’s Congress adopted the Mother and Child Health Law, which can prevent marriages and births based on the mental and physical health of the parents. As a result, the illnesses and family histories of political prisoners who have been interred in psychiatric hospitals are being used as an excuse to subject children to sterilization.
Mistreatment of Tibetan women also exists outside of the medical and prison environment, says Ma. Young girls often face coerced sterilizations, and abortions are performed on married women. Between September and October 1996, for example, over 300 Tibetan women were involuntarily sterilized in the Chushar district of Lhasa alone. The author reports that one of these, 27-yearold Nyima Dolma, died as a result.
Another area of abuse is the methods of birth control which China employs. These include surgical abortion, sterilization (conducted without consent and often performed when women enter the hospital for other surgery), and infanticide. In China, it is legal to inject women nine months pregnant in order to induce abortion, and to kill infants still in the birth canal with a lethal injection.
International laws and conventions such as the U.N.’s 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrim-ination Against Women (CEDAW)—which China ratified—have specified that reproductive choice is a basic human right, and that population policies must consider not only economic interest but other political, social, and cultural impacts. Officially, China’s “one family, one child” policy covers only nationalities in China with populations over 10 million. Thus, Tibet, with a population of six million, should be exempt.
UPDATE BY AUTNOR NATASHA MA: “We as Americans can do much to protest and work toward a change for women whose culture within Tibet is close to extinction. First, we can boycott products made in China (many of which are made by prisoners to fund military operations in Tibet). Second, we can lobby the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women to investigate the plight of Tibetan women in Tibet. Third, we can urge all appropriate local, regional, national, and international bodies to address the issue of violence against Tibetan women.
“The International Committee of Lawyers for Tibet has just completed a year-long project focusing on the plight of Tibetan women. A summary of findings is available on their Web site, as well as in their recent newsletter. Four young Tibetan nuns died in Drapchi Prison on June 7, 1998. All had been under solitary confinement. Two others reportedly died around the same time. On June 18, 1998, Gyaltsen Wongmo, a Tibetan nun, testified before the House Sub-committee on International Operations and Human Rights about religious persecution in Tibet. Now living in retreat in the mountains of Dharamsala, in northern India, she welcomes new female arrivals from Tibet, many of whom are victims of severe punishment and torture.”
For more information on this issue, contact International Committee of Lawyers for Tibet at 2288 Fulton Street, Berkeley, CA 94704, Tel: (510) 4880588; http://www.tibetielt.org., and International Campaign for Tibet at 1825 K Street, NW, Suite 520, Washington, DC 20006, Tel: (202) 785-1515; http://www.savetibet.org.