U.S. Report on Combating Gender-Based Violence Fails to Mention Forced Abortions and Sterilizations in China

By Elizabeth Harrington | August 23, 2012 | 11:47am EDT

Hu Xia was forced to undergo an abortion in China. (Photo: Southern Metropolis Daily/ChinaAid)

(CNSNews.com) - The Obama administration’s new strategy to address gender-based violence worldwide makes no mention of China’s one-child policy, which has resulted in millions of forced abortions involving females, forced sterilizations of women and a male population surplus of at  least 32 million.

Nor does it mention India, where an average of 11 million abortions take place each year, or around 900,000 a month. Like China, India also faces a skewed gender ratio with nearly 40 million more males than females as a result of the traditional preference for male children.

The first-ever “United States Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence Globally” was released by the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on Aug. 10, after President Barack Obama signed an executive order that same day promoting gender equality and women's empowerment as a “core focus” of American foreign policy.

The State Department document twice mentions “female infanticide” and once mentions “gender-biased sex selection,” but only in passing, as follows:

Gender-based violence “can include female infanticide,” the report notes on pages 6 and 48; The reference to “gender-biased sex selection” is mentioned once on page 24, where the State Department says it “regularly coordinates with other government agencies on issues including…gender-biased sex selection…”

According to the report, "intimate partner violence" is the most common form of violence experienced by women globally. The report also notes that children "are particularly vulnerable to violence, especially sexual abuse."  It also mentions the vulnerability of disabled women and “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons.”

The report singles out “displaced women risking attacks to collect firewood” as an example of how the U.S. government is working with other stakeholders (in this case, USAID and the United Nations) to combat gender-based violence.

‘China’s war on women’

Reggie Littlejohn, the founder of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers, said China’s one-child policy “causes more violence against women and girls than any other official policy on earth.”

“It is China’s war on women,” said Littlejohn in a complaint against China to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) on Aug. 1.  “Any discussion of women’s rights, or human rights, would be a charade if forced abortion in China is not front and center,” she said.

Littlejohn’s complaint documents forced abortions, sterilizations and physical abuse of women who have violated China’s one-child policy in recent months.  One case, in Linyi City in the Shandong Province, came to light after a photo surfaced of a full-term baby that was forcefully aborted and drowned in a bucket.

The administration’s new strategy to prevent gender-based violence globally states that its “guiding principles” are prevention, protection and accountability.  The strategy seeks to focus on “lessons learned” from past U.S. policies: For example, “Recognize that violence can occur throughout the life cycle.”

The plan commits the U.S. to “deepen engagement and coordination with host governments,” and vows to use “diplomatic engagement” as part of its strategy.

But in a discussion of its bilateral and regional efforts, the report does not mention talks with China or India at all, although it does include a comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The strategy also mentions “region-specific” efforts to curtail violence against women, “from Latin America and the Caribbean to the Middle East and North Africa.”

“Ultimately, the United States’ goal is to eliminate gender-based violence,” the strategy concludes.  “Such an achievement would not only help ensure that individuals across the globe can reach their full potential but also strengthen the United States’ foreign policy and foreign assistance priorities.”

The State Department says the strategy “provides a blueprint to guide the United States’ next steps in working to end gender-based violence.”

Although China’s one-child policy is not mentioned in the United States Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence Globally, human rights abuses stemming from the one-child are documented in the State Department’s annual country reports.

The “Reproductive Rights” section of the Human Rights Practices Report on China for 2011 states that “intense pressure to meet birth limitation targets set by government regulations resulted in instances of local family-planning officials using physical coercion to meet government goals.”  The report also cites cases of mandatory use of birth control and forced sterilizations.

According to the State Department, those who violate the policy by having an “unapproved child” face disciplinary measures such as job loss, social compensation fees, and the destruction of private property.

The report also notes that, “regulations requiring women who violate family-planning policy to terminate their pregnancies still exist in the 25th, 42nd, and 22nd provisions of the Population and Family Control Regulation of Liaoning, Jilin, and Heilongjiang provinces, respectively.”

The State Department also noted there are approximately 590 female suicides a day in China, a rate three times higher than for males.  The report says high suicide rate for women may stem from “the traditional preference for male children” and birth-limitation policies.

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