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National Report on Tibetan Women

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 (tibet@acs.ucalgary.ca), is available on-line in two electronic formats: (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.

This report is also available from the www.grannyg.bc.ca site in Canada. Online ocuments and press releases pertaining the participation of Tibetan women's delegation at the UN 4th World Conference on Women, Beijing, China, 4-15 September 1995 are available from Tibetan Women's Association. (www.grannyg.bc.ca, Canada). For other current affairs materials see Tibetan Current Affairs page at ANU, Australia.

Est.: 21 August 1995. Last updated: 13 October 1995. The document is a part of the Tibetan Studies WWW Virtual Library.


This national report on Tibetan women is the first of its kind, prepared by the Women's Issues Desk of the Department of Information and International Relations, Tibetan Government-in- Exile. The report documents the conditions of Tibetan women inside occupied-Tibet as well as in exile. It touches upon the concerns of Tibetan women.

Traditionally, Tibetan women enjoyed a higher social status than their counterparts in many other societies. They also played an active part in the affairs of family and society. Since the occupation of Tibet by Chinese military forces, Tibetan women have suffered oppression, exploitation, subjugation and discrimination.

Women in occupied-Tibet are the innocent victims of the policies of a powerful force that seeks to completely wipe out the Tibetan national identity. While the world debates the legitimacy and morality of abortions, women in Tibet are subjected to involuntary and forced abortions and sterilizations, designed to reduce the growth of the Tibetan population as part of a larger strategy to destroy Tibetan national and ethnic identity. Abortions and sterilizations are conducted without adequate medical facilities or in unhygienic conditions. Furthermore, Tibetan women suffer disadvantage in areas of education, employment, health and administrative services.

Tibetan women also played a leading role in the Tibetan national movement and they continue to oppose the Chinese colonial rule in Tibet as a result of which they are subjected to arbitrary arrests, long prison sentences without trial, severe torture and abuse in police custody. Many women prisoners of conscience, including teenagers, have succumbed to death from severe torture in custody.

Tibetan women in exile also suffered as a result of displacement and dislocation of normal life. However, in comparison with those in Tibet, women in exile enjoyed equal opportunity in education and job. They were given special consideration in political representation to encourage greater role in public affairs.

We hope that this brief report on Tibetan women will give an overall view of the status of women in Tibetan society and in particular the true situation of women in occupied-Tibet. When the women's conference is taking place in Beijing, it is important to have a closer look at the actual situation of Tibetan women living under Chinese occupation.

Tempa Tsering
Department of Information and International Relations
Central Tibetan Administration

Tibetan women
Peace, development and equality

Part 1 of 3


THE Women's Desk at the Tibetan Government-in-Exile's Department of Information and International Relations has compiled this report to highlight the particular concerns of Tibetan women inside Tibet and those living as refugees in exile. In doing so, it is our hope that the deplorable situation of Tibetan women under Chinese military domination and exploitation will be taken into consideration whilst the Draft Platform for Action is being discussed. This report also includes a list of recommendations which, it is hoped, will serve as inputs to the discussions for the Draft Platform.

Under the Chinese Communist regime, the Tibetan people have suffered and continue to suffer inconceivable atrocities. Tibet and the Tibetan people are victims of military occupation, human rights abuse, and discrimination. Reports received from Tibet, including reports from Amnesty International and other human rights groups, testify to massive violation of human rights in Tibet. Discrimination is cast large over the Chinese policy in Tibet. Violence and torture are often used in silencing Tibetans. It is against these larger problems of the Tibetan people that this report concerning Tibetan women both inside occupied Tibet and in exile must be seen.

Tibetan women suffer from two kinds of violations: those that are shared by all Tibetans, regardless of gender; and those that are specific to women.

As Tibetans, they are victims of occupation, arbitrary arrest, torture, violation of freedom of speech and assembly, restrictions on freedom of religion, and on freedom of travel. As women they are subjected to forced birth control, abortions and sterilization against their wishes or without informed consent. Tibetan women are the victims of a coercive birth-control policy aimed at reducing the Tibetan population in Tibet into an insignificant minority. This is done on the one hand by increasing the number of Chinese settlers inside Tibet and on the other hand by decreasing the number of Tibetan inhabitants through birth-control policy. They are arbitrarily arrested, detained and tortured in custody for peaceful expression of their political beliefs. They suffer rape and sexual violence while in police custody which sometimes results in deaths. Three custodial deaths of Tibetan women have been recorded in this year alone. Tibetan women are discriminated in the field of education, employment, and health.

The Chinese occupation of Tibet has also placed Tibetan women in a low socio-economic class, where before they were economically stable. It is true that before the Chinese occupation of Tibet, the position of women in Tibet was not one of equality. But compared to most of our Asian neighbours, especially China, the position of Tibetan women was considerably good if not one of equality. There has been some improvement in the relative position of women in Tibet in the past forty years, but progress has been much slower than elsewhere in the world and definitely much slower than the Tibetan community in exile

Tibetan women's access to education is limited: first, because the medium of education is the Chinese language, and secondly, the price of education in Tibet is very high. In fact, many women and girls are escaping to India, to seek adequate education in exile. Unemployment is also a problem as a large proportion of jobs and small businesses are reserved for the Chinese settlers who are given economic incentives to settle in Tibet to the disadvantage of Tibetans.

Tibetan Women also have to face many problems in the health care system which is discriminatory. There have been reported cases of medical abuse of pregnant women and inadequate medical facilities and attention for women and girl prisoners of conscience. The absence of adequate medical care has been the cause of several reported deaths of women and girl political prisoners. Threats to Tibetan women's health also exist due to health threatening toxic materials and environmental hazards from the nuclear dumping and testing that China conducts in certain areas of Tibet.

To tackle the issue of human rights violations suffered by Tibetan women and all women, women all over the world need to come together to chalk out strategic goals and their means of implementation. There is much to be done in upgrading the status of women in the developing countries and countries under foreign occupation. Tibet is an occupied country and Tibetan women continue to suffer due to this fact.


ONE. The status of Tibet before 1959
  1. Tibetan women: Impact of population transfer and military exploitation

TWO. The status of Tibetan women before the Chinese occupation

THREE. The status of Tibetan women under Chinese occupation
  1. China's lack of commitment to internationally-recognized standards of women's human rights
  2. Claims of the equality: Discrepancy between theory and practice
FOUR. Occupation and its impact on the political rights of Tibetan girls and women
  1. The persecution of Tibetan women for the exercise of their fundamental civil and political rights:
  2. Women prisoners of conscience
  3. Young girls as political prisoners: abuse of human rights
  4. Documented abuses of Tibetan girl prisoners
  5. Violations of Chinese law and international human rights law
  6. Violence against Tibetan women: Torture and sexual abuse of women activists and those in custody
  7. Death in custody
FIVE. Birth-control policy in Tibet: Physical violation of Tibetan women

SIX. Increasing poverty and its consequence on Tibetan women
  1. An overview of the political-economic situation in Tibet
  2. Poverty and women
  3. Tibetan women and education
  4. Education before the Chinese invasion
  5. Education in Tibet today
  6. Tibetan women and health
  7. Pregnancy and medical abuse:
  8. Medical neglect in Chinese prisons
  9. Threats to women's health due to life-threatening toxic materials, environmental hazards
  10. Tibetan women and unemployment


ONE. Women refugees in flight: A perilous journey

TWO. Economic displacement and women in exile
  1. Employment
  2. Primary employment
  3. Secondary employment
  4. Affirmative action in exile
  5. Education
  6. School enrollment ratio
  7. School graduates
  8. Further education/technical education
  9. Health
THREE. Power sharing and decision making


WHILE women all over the world suffer discrimination, violence and other violations, the struggle they are voicing is largely one of women's liberation. Tibet's own struggle embodies another element - national survival, reversal of genocide, the fight to return to our own occupied homeland.

Tibetan women are innocent victims of forced military occupation. Inside Tibet, Tibetan women are discriminated as minorities, tortured as prisoners of conscience, involuntarily subjected to the Chinese policy of birth control, whereby pregnant women are aborted and women of child-bearing age are sterilized under painful and unhygienic conditions. Women in Tibet are the silent spectators of cultural genocide which the Chinese policy of population transfer is aimed at. Their views and thoughts could forever be ignored and forgotten with the passage of time, for these women have lost their right to freedom of speech and expression.

As refugees, Tibetan women are displaced people who cannot return home for fear of persecution. Tibetan women refugees have had to adapt to a new way of life and at the same time struggle to maintain our culture and identity.

As a peace-loving people committed to "ahimsa" (non-violence), we Tibetans do not take up arms. Our voices are our only weapons. We raise our voices in exile for our sisters suffering in prisons in Tibet, undergoing forced-abortion and sterilization, discriminated against in health, education and employment opportunities. But our voices are not enough. We need international support and consistent international pressure on China so that Tibet is not silenced in history.


  1. Tibetan women have suffered immensely under the Chinese occupation. Many have been forced to flee their country so that they can freely practice their culture without fear of persecution. We urge actions to be taken which take into consideration the plight of Tibetan women and to adopt strategies which will eliminate the suffering of all Tibetan women and restore our basic human dignity.

  2. We encourage delegates to pressurize countries such as China to ensure respect for the right of all women to control their own fertility and to be protected from unsafe and involuntary abortions.

  3. We recommend that strategies that seek to eliminate all forms of repression, be they political, religious or cultural, that exclude women from internationally-accepted norms of human rights and make women targets of extreme violence be initiated at the conference on behalf of Tibetan women.

  4. We urge that the Draft Platform for Action take into consideration the perspectives of Tibetan women when discussing strategies for increasing the participation of women in peace-making processes. Without this input the platform for action is in danger of becoming too narrowly focused.

  5. We encourage the participants to persuade the international community to document military abuses against women so as to promote peace in the world.

  6. We advocate the creation of social, economic, legal and political conditions under which women's reproductive rights are protected, including the right to freely decide the number and spacing of their children and the eradication and condemnation of all forms of coercion in reproductive health laws, policies and practices.

  7. We encourage the conference to focus on the rights of the girl child particularly those rights that protect the girl child from being arbitrarily arrested, detained and tortured and that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child be considered when discussing the rights of the girl child.

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