A Generation in Peril: The Lives of Tibetan Children Under Chinese Rule
IV. The Effects of Women's Rights Abuses on Children's HEALTH AND EDUCATION

In 1998, Lawyers for Tibet submitted a report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women that documented pervasive violence and discrimination against Tibetan women. It described a pattern of coerced or forced abortions and sterilizations, as well as discrimination against women who violate China's family planning regulations. These regulations are enforced irregularly and vary by district, but they generally limit Tibetan families to two or three children, depending on their occupation and location. Violations can result in 'fines, denial of benefits for unauthorized children, public criticism, loss of jobs or reduction in pay, and loss of housing.' In addition, the Chinese government often subjects violators to coerced abortions or sterilizations to prevent further unlawful births. But apart from the penalties for Tibetan women, 'unauthorized' children also suffer discrimination-as a matter of law. Under Chinese law, children of couples that violate family planning regulations are 'disqualified from benefits, such as subsidized child day care, healthcare, housing, and education.'

Recent reports indicate an increase in measures to limit births of children in the TAR, particularly in rural regions. Nomads and farmers, who require greater numbers of children to sustain their livelihood, have been subjected to heightened enforcement of a three-child limit on 'legitimate' births. Chinese officials refuse to issue birth certificates to Tibetan children born in excess of this quota. They are denied state assistance in medical care and education.

China justifies these policies by citing its reservations to article 6 of the CRC, which stipulate that the PRC's 'family planning' policies take precedence over the Convention's clear instruction to states to 'ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.' UNICEF observes that the Convention deliberately neglects to define the 'starting point' of childhood in order to provide states with latitude on the controversial issues of abortion and family planning. On the other hand, this reservation in no way permits the PRC to avoid its obligations toward children already born. As legal commentator Timothy Fitzgibbon has pointed out, to deny children healthcare and other forms of state assistance on the basis of their 'unauthorized' status violates China's independent obligations (1) not to discriminate against children 'on the basis of status,' (2) to 'ensure that no child is deprived of his or her right of access to . . . health care services,' and (3) to provide 'a standard of living adequate for the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral, and social development.' Violations of Tibetan women's reproductive rights, by relegating 'unauthorized' children to an inferior legal status, violate children's rights to receive an adequate education, healthcare and other necessary state assistance.

It should also be emphasized that no family planning policy can justify acts of violence against women. Furthermore, acts undertaken against a woman's will that terminate otherwise viable pregnancies arguably constitute infanticide. In Lawyers for Tibet's 1998 mission, several women described instances of coerced late-term abortions:

They injected a needle where the baby's head was. She was in labor pain for one hour. The baby was born and cried. Then it started bleeding from the nose and died. . . . She had the abortion because she couldn't pay the fine.

They injected a needle in her stomach, and she gave birth. The baby was delivered and put in a bowl. The baby moved for a few minutes and then died. The baby had a hole in its head.

As Lawyers for Tibet emphasized in its study of Tibetan women's rights, Tibet remains -historically and presently - one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. Fewer than six million Tibetans (and now roughly 7.5 million Chinese) occupy a land area the size of western Europe. Legal restrictions on the number of Tibetan children, viewed in the context of China's ongoing transfer of Chinese into Tibet, tends to reinforce the inference that the family planning policy is not intended to relieve pressure on an overpopulated land, but to diminish the number of Tibetans in Tibet.

On to Section V - JOURNEYS INTO EXILE -->