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Peace, development and equality
August 1995 report, prepared by the Tibetan Government-in-Exile,
documents the conditions of Tibetan women inside occupied-Tibet as
well as in exile. It touches upon the concerns of Tibetan women.
The report, kindly released on the Internet by Nima G. Dorjee
(firstname.lastname@example.org), is available on-line in two electronic
(a) as a plain
text file (88 Kb); (b) as a set of three interlinked HTML
files (prepared by Dr T.Matthew
Ciolek) accessible from the URL http://www.ciolek.com/WWWVLPages/TibPages/TibetWomen-Report.html.
Est.: 21 August 1995. Last updated: 21 August 1995. The document is a part of the Tibetan
Studies WWW Virtual Library.
TIBETAN WOMEN UNDER CHINESE OCCUPATION
ONE. The status of Tibet before 1959
TWO. The status of Tibetan women before the Chinese occupation
THREE. The status of Tibetan women under Chinese occupation
- Tibetan women: Impact of population transfer and military
FOUR. Occupation and its impact on the political rights of Tibetan girls and women
- China's lack of commitment to internationally-recognized standards of women's human rights
- Claims of the equality: Discrepancy between theory and practice
FIVE. Birth-control policy in Tibet: Physical violation of Tibetan women
SIX. Increasing poverty and its consequence on Tibetan women
- The persecution of Tibetan women for the exercise of their fundamental civil and political rights:
- Women prisoners of conscience
- Young girls as political prisoners: abuse of human rights
- Documented abuses of Tibetan girl prisoners
- Violations of Chinese law and international human rights law
- Violence against Tibetan women: Torture and sexual abuse of women activists and those in custody
- Death in custody
- An overview of the political-economic situation in Tibet
- Poverty and women
- Tibetan women and education
- Education before the Chinese invasion
- Education in Tibet today
- Tibetan women and health
- Pregnancy and medical abuse:
- Medical neglect in Chinese prisons
- Threats to women's health due to life-threatening toxic materials, environmental hazards
- Tibetan women and unemployment
Part 3 of 3
IT has been estimated by the United Nations that there are
currently 123 million refugees in the world. More than eighty
percent of refugees are women and children. Amnesty
International, in a recently published report on the world's women,
stated that: "There is no doubt that refugee women, particularly
those on their own, are more vulnerable to exploitation and
deprivation of rights, at every stage of flight, than are refugee
men, according to Anne Howarth-Wiles, UNHCR Senior Co-ordinator for
There are 130,000 Tibetan refugees residing in over thirty
countries outside Tibet. During the year 1989-1993, about 10,626
refugees escaped from Tibet. The 1992 survey, conducted by the
Planning Council of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile, Dharamsala,
shows that the male/female ratio among the Tibetan exile population
in India is roughly 51:49. This composition of the Tibetan
population also reveals the socio-cultural status of our women.
The Tibetan refugee community in India and Nepal has done so well
that it is not only able to look after itself, but also provide
educational opportunities to thousands of new refugees from Tibet
to whom the Chinese government has not been able to give any
educational opportunity. The success of the refugee community
suggests that Tibetans in Tibet could do much better for themselves
if they had the freedom to live their lives they deem fit. In 1995,
the United Nations' Friends have recognized the Tibetan refugees as
one of the fifty exemplary communities.
Tibetan Women in exile
ONE. Women refugees in flight: A perilous journey
THE plight of Tibetan women escaping from Tibet and their
vulnerability to exploitation and violence has been documented by
various independent sources. Some of these Tibetan women are
fleeing Tibet with "a well-founded fear" of political persecution,
others are escaping poverty and seeking better social and economic
opportunities outside Tibet.
Since the occupation of Tibet by Chinese military forces, thousands
of Tibetans have escaped from Tibet and continue to do so each year
by travelling over high mountains, high passes and dangerous
terrains. For these Tibetans, the journey to freedom is a perilous
one and often ends in the loss of lives on the way. Women and
children suffer the most during these difficult journeys. Besides
the fear of being caught by Chinese military personnel, there is a
fear for life and property. Often half way through the journey, the
tired travellers find themselves short of food and have to go on
for days without food. The most common complaint of all those who
escape by road is frostbites. In many cases, frostbites have
resulted in amputation of hands and legs thus causing scars for
life. These experiences have proved very traumatic for women and
children who are innocent victims of circumstances.
TWO. Economic displacement and women in exile
THE population of thirty eight Tibetan settlements in exile is
56,084 (29,686 males and 26,686 females). This represents eighty
one percent of the total population in the settlements.
The unemployment (defined as not having any gainful work for over
six months in a year) rate among the settlement population between
the ages of sixteen and fifty is 18.5 percent. This figure,
although high, corresponds to the fact that only 79.7 percent of
the adult population is engaged in primary employment.
In the scattered communities, unemployment rate of 1.3 percent was
recorded. This figure is clearly too low; however, it is to be
expected that the unemployment rate would be less in scattered
communities than in the settlements because many live in scattered
communities because of better job opportunities there.
2.1.a. Primary employment
AMONG the exile population, 52.4 percent is engaged in primary
employment, defined as being engaged in gainful work for more than
six months of the year. Data on primary employment covering 29,368
working persons (15,524 males and 13,844 females) indicates that
the ratio of the work force is 52.9 percent male and 47.1 percent
In exile, agriculture continues to be the primary occupation for a
little less than half of the working population. This is expected
as life in many settlements is organized around land cultivation.
Other settlements have handicraft production as their focus, which
explains the high percentage of the working population employed in
carpet weaving. Carpet weaving is important as an occupation for
women in particular. It is striking that the participation of women
in the work force in the Tibetan refugee community is almost as
high as that of men: 51.8 percent of the female population is
employed as against 52.8 percent of the male population.
2.1.b Secondary employment
Data on secondary employment, covering 12,041 working persons (6352
males and 5689 females), indicate the profile of secondary
occupations. Once again, female participation rate in secondary
employment is almost as high as that for males. Among secondary
occupations, agriculture is also the largest activity. This is
partly because the lack of irrigation facilities confines
agriculture to single crop cultivation.
Sweater-selling in autumn and winter seasons is the next largest
activity _ just under a third of all women participate in it. This
is a statistical corroboration of a well-known fact of life in the
2.1.c Affirmative action in exile
THE Tibetan Government-in-Exile has ensured the high participation
rate of female workers in the government by ensuring that their
rights are protected, and by adopting an affirmative action policy
aimed at increasing the number of female government workers. At
present Tibetan women constitute one-third of the total employees.
As provided under the Civil Service Code of the Tibetan
Government-in-Exile, Tibetan women employed in the administrative
field receive equal pay for equal work.
The right to leave in connection with birth is laid down in the
Civil Service Code, Clause 28 of Article 6. It states that a female
employee may be granted from one to three months maternity leave
with full pay.
THE education of Tibetan refugee children is always a major source
of concern for the Tibetan Government-in-Exile. His Holiness the
Dalai Lama started the first school for Tibetan refugee children at
Mussoorie on March 3, 1960. The Council for Tibetan Education was
established to look after educational needs of refugee children. In
May 1960, His Holiness the Dalai Lama started a nursery for
orphaned and semi-orphaned children in Dharamsala, India. This
nursery was placed under the care of his elder sister, the late Mrs
Tsering Dolma. The following year the Tibetan Homes Foundation was
started in Mussoorie for older orphans.
Traditionally, on account of the existing social set up, girls in
Tibet received fewer educational opportunities than boys. However,
in exile universal education has been an important priority and has
influenced the lives of a great number of women, opening equal
opportunities to them. Tibetan women have now made unprecedented
strides in assuming positions of responsibility and leadership in
In the field of religious education too, women are given equal
opportunities to study and obtain the highest degree if they so
wish to. Facilities and opportunities for the study of religion are
being made avaivable by the Department of Culture and Religion and
NGOs like Tibetan Nun's Project.
2.2.a School enrollment ratio
ACCORDING to the 1993-1994 school enrollment data collected by the
Department of Education, there were 22,886 students in the eighty
five Tibetan schools in India, Nepal and Bhutan. Female students
constituted fifty one per cent of the total number of students.
2.2.b. School graduates
BETWEEN the years 1990 and 1993, a total of 1,642 Tibetan students
completed their school. For every 100 male school graduates, there
were 117 female school graduates. The choice of subjects however
differed between male and female students. More male students chose
commerce and science, while more female students opted for arts
(humanity) and vocational studies. See Table 1.
School graduates (1990-1993)
1990 1991 1992 1993
Subject M F M F M F M F
Arts 93 128 114 166 123 168 116 147
Commerce 13 11 16 13 10 18 34 17
Science 31 14 33 18 65 33 48 37
Vocation 4 12 27 43 10 31 19 30
141 165 190 240 208 250 217 231
Choice of Subject at college level (1994-1993)
Subject Field Male Female
Arts & Social Sciences 53 44
Education 12 28
Legal & Business 32 15
Science and Technology 38 16
Vocational 2 14
2.2.c.Further education/technical education
However, more men than women went on to pursue universityeducation.
Most female students tend to enroll in education andvocational
studies. A few of them choose arts and social sciences, legal and
business studies and science and technology. See Table 1.1 2.2.d.
Scholarships for further education During the four-year period between
1990 and 1993, the Department of Education of the Tibetan
Government-in-Exile alone provided scholarships to 286 students who
left or completed schooling to pursue further education. 121 (or 42%)
of the total number of scholarship recipients were female.
Education has helped in changing existing gender roles as Tibetan
women are now more educated and informed and are increasingly
becoming more optimistic about their prospects. The participation
rate of women in the public life has risen; women are now working
in government service as civil servants, welfare workers, and
teachers. They work as doctors, nurses, administrators and artists.
Today two of the biggest educational institutions of the Tibetan
Government-in-Exile are headed by two very capable women who have
shown their strength and capability in various other capacities
HEALTH care is a basic need for the overall welfare and development
of a community. Recognizing the need for good health care for the
Tibetan refugee community, the Tibetan Government-in-Exile has
taken consistent steps towards creating curative and preventive
health care services. The earliest rehabilitation projects included
some health care centers which were funded by non-governmental
organizations. When these organizations handed over the
administration of the health centers to the respective settlements,
there was a need to establish an apex body within the Tibetan
Government-in-Exile to finance and manage the health centers as
well as to plan a comprehensive health care system for the Tibetan
refugee community. The Department of Health was thus established in
Due to financial constraints, the overall health situation of the
Tibetan refugee community in India and Nepal, especially for women,
is still not satisfactory. This is mainly due to the stress and
tension of refugee life, economic constraints, poor nutrition, poor
hygiene, poor sanitation, illiteracy among the older generation,
the language barrier, and an overall low level of health awareness
in the community.
According to the Department of Health, the life expectancy for both
men and women is above sixty. Infant mortality rates for both male
and female infants under one year of age is twenty seven deaths per
thousand live births. Child mortality rates for both boys and girls
aged from one to four years is twenty five deaths per thousand.
According to medical reports, fifty percent of pregnant women were
found to be with haemoglobin level below 11grams/dl. As of
September 1994, ninety percent of pregnant women were fully
immunized against tetanus, and other infections. Sixty percent of
births were attended by trained personnel/midwives in clinics and
forty percent of births were attended by experienced elder women or
community health workers.
Tuberculosis is a major problem. Over 33,000 cases within the
Tibetan refugee community have been reported since 1959. A
concerted effort with international assistance has greatly improved
TB detection and treatment. Other health problems include
dysentery, diarrhoea, hepatitis, skin disorders, and respiratory
diseases resulting from unhygienic conditions, malnutrition, and
the change of environment after the purity of the Tibetan plateau.
THREE. Power sharing and decision making
HIS Holiness the Dalai Lama has always encouraged women to
participate in the administration at all level.
Today Tibetan women in exile comprise one-third of the workforce in
the Tibetan Government-in-Exile. The status of Tibetan women was
given a further boost in 1988, when a Tibetan woman was appointed
as one of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's overseas representatives.
The ultimate pointer to the full assertion of the role of women in
political office came in 1990 when a Tibetan woman was elected as
a Cabinet Minister.
A gradual yet distinct increase of women in administrative service
has been observed over the years. It is expected that by the year
2000, the number of women employees in the administrative service
will equal the number of male employees. Some of the finest
institutions of education set up for refugee children are being run
successfully by women. Between 1990 and 1994 two women have been
elected to the highest post of Cabinet Ministers.
Although women in the past had received less representation in the
Assembly of Tibetan People's Deputies, the major reforms in Article
37 of the Charter for Tibetan in Exile ensures a minimum of six
female parliamentarians in the current 11th Assembly. With the kind
of encouragement and opportunities that Tibetan women have received
from all sectors of the Tibetan community in exile, it is expected
that women will play a major role in shaping the political and
socio-economic destiny of future independent Tibet.
The Eleventh Assembly (Tibetan parliament in exile) is composed of
46 members, of whom nine are women. In fact women candidates from
the province of Amdo and U-Tsang received the maximum votes from
their respective constituencies.
Recommendations for the Draft Platform for Action
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