A report published by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation reveals that the Chinese government is imposing birth control measures to sterilise Uyghur women in Xinjiang for exceeding the standard birth limit. Before 2015, it was common for Uyghurs to have children beyond the state’s limit; however, in July 2017, the family planning policy in Xinjiang changed.
In 2016, the National People’s Congress abolished the one-child policy and permitted families to have two children. However, the relaxation of reproductive restrictions excludes ethnic minorities. The report shows that Uyghur women undergo regular pregnancy check-ups and are forced to implant uterine devices and undergo sterilisations and abortions. Experts call this tantamount to ‘genocide‘.
China’s forced sterilisation of Uyghur women violates the international human rights treaties to which the People’s Republic of China is a signatory. For example, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “no person shall be discriminated based on race, color, sex or religion & not be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.” Likewise, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination against Women recognises similar condemnations and protections, as does the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the Rome Statute Also, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantees the “Right to life & Right to be Free from Torture, cruel & degrading treatment.”
Moreover, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has held that preventing birth rates in a particular group through forced sterilisation, abortion, or birth control to influence racial composition is tantamount to genocide. Also, forced sterilisation under the Rome Statute is considered a crime against humanity. Sterilisation without consent is genocide if committed with the intent to destroy a particular group.
Yet in China in particular, the practice violates the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The Declaration urges the international community to enforce women’s reproductive rights as a means of economic and social empowerment by providing appropriate counselling and access to information, privacy, and informed consent. The World Health Organization and Pan-American Health Organization have internationally recognised forced sterilisation as an act of sexual violence against women. In 2017, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights established that female genital mutilation is an act of sexual violence that amounts to inhuman treatment. Therefore, the impropriety of what the Uyghur women face is legally incontrovertible. Forced sterilisation is discriminatory and violates several fundamental rights, such as the right to health, to privacy, and to form a family.
Forced sterilisation often targets multiply-disadvantaged women. In 2018, 80% of new intrauterine device across all of China were implanted in Xinjiang, even though that province consists of only 1.8% of the country’s population. There has been a drastic decline in population growth in Xinjiang. The growth rate in the two provinces with the densest Uyghur population fell by 84% between 2015 and 2018, with a further decline in 2019. By 2020, the Uyghur region has set a zero population growth target. This drastic decline in Xinjiang’s Uyghurs through birth control measures reflects the Chinese government’s ethnic cleansing
The Chinese government’s treatment of Uyghur women in concentration camps has continued for years. As the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation’s report makes clear, the Chinese government’s policies require immediate intervention.
Note: This article gives the views of the authors, and not the position of the Social Policy Blog, nor of the London School of Economics.