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Posted by PoliticsWTF on April 13, 2008

This year, it has been well publicised about the resistance faced over the Olympic torch relay. While stories like this are truly inspirational, there is the issue of Tibet. Free Tibet demonstrations have been carried out along the route of the torch with, in my opinion, good reason. Since their ocupation of Tibet in 1950, China has seriously violated the rights of the Tibetan people in what seems to be an attempt to completely destroy the race.

Before 1950, the Tibetan economy was mainly supported by agriculture, to which both men and women contributed. The woman’s role in the home was seen as important, yet work was not divided along gender lines and there was some flexibility. Marriage arrangements included monogamous, polyandrous and polygamous alliances. Divorce and remarriage were considered acceptable as was the posibility of remaining unmarried. The Chinese authorities try to portray the Tibetan way of life as backward so as to justify their “liberation of a nation which endured in backwardness even in this modern age”. Yet this was not the case.

Tibetan women share with Tibetan men the violations of human rights imposed on them. This reportissued by The Tibetan Administration in Dharamsala, India for the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing from 1995 highlights the main problems faced by Tibetan women. Tibetan women are suffering in prisons in Tibet, undergoing forced-abortion and sterilization and a discriminated against in health, education and employment opportunities:

  • Prisons: Arrests common for peaceful protests, e.g. 50 nuns in 1945. Whilst in jail, many female political prisoners sexually abused via torture techniques, e.g. thirteen-year-old Gyaltsen Pelsang. Tibetan women are sexually assaulted in an organized and systematic way by the Chinese authorities. The largest group of female political prisoners known to Amnesty International in China is imprisoned in the Tibet Autonomous Region.
  • Forced abortion and forced sterilization.Buddhists believe that to practice abortion is to deprive a human being of that opportunity and to submit to sterilization is to prevent a person who deserves to be born from being so born. So forced birth control and abortion not only deprives Tibetan women of their reproductive rights but this policy is a serious infringement of their religious rights as well. In July 1990, it was found that in Bhuchung, 1,092 women out of 2,419 were sterilized.
  • Increasing poverty, rampant inflation and widespread corruption. Much of the development projects and policies in Tibet reveal that the largest proportion of investment activity is focused on large scale industrial and infrastructural projects and the exploitation of natural resources, and strengthening of China’s control in Tibet. In Sog County, Nagchu, located in the northern rim of the Tibet Autonomous Region, 4,446 people are said to be in a state of severe hunger and forty percent of the population lives below the poverty line.
  • Tibetan women, like women in many other countries, suffer from low levels of health care as a result of economic, social and political factors such as foreign occupation. In occupied Tibet, the health service is not only urban-biased, but also serves the Chinese colonists and the rich better than the predominantly poor Tibetans. Tibetan women need social support systems for health, family planning and education. Abject poverty exposes Tibetan women to extreme hardship in gaining employment and educational opportunities.
  • Education in Tibet today is neither free nor universally available. Overwhelming numbers of Tibetan girls still do not go to school either because there are no schools or, where they are available, parents cannot afford the fees.
  •  Increased economic activity in Tibet has not substantially increased employment opportunities for Tibetans. As a consequence, unemployment is becoming endemic amongst Tibetans, especially for Tibetan women who face double discrimination.

The Tibetan people want and need international support and consistent international pressure on China so that Tibet is not silenced. With the upcoming Olympics, China can put on a show for the world and hide Tibet behind the Olympic banner. But the question is: Will the world continue to turn a blind eye to Tibet?

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