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I Dont Have a Choice over My Own Body The Chinese Government Must End its Abusive Family Planning Policy

A new report by CHRD, “I Don't Have a Choice overMy OwnBody,” documents the continuing suffering of countless women acrossChina from forced insertions of intrauterine devices (IUDs), sterilizations,abortions (including late-term abortions), as well as periodic testsforpregnancy. Although some international media reports in the past yearhavecharacterized the Chinese government’s “one child policy” as losingsteam as itmarks its 30th anniversary this year, CHRD finds that theproblemsare ongoing and egregious, and that the violence is directed mostlyagainstwomen. This report includes an analysis of human rights abusesassociated withthe implementation of the policy from the past five years,demonstrating thatserious violations continue to occur. 


“It doesn’t matter if a couple is allowed to haveone or twochildren, the fact is that the government continues to use coercion todictatenot only the number of children a couple may have but also the birthcontrolmethods they must use,” said Renee Xia, CHRD’s International Director,“thepolicy, which affects hundreds of millions of Chinese men and women, isaserious violation of Chinese people’s reproductive rights.” 


In this report, CHRD finds that: 

  • Married women are urged to insert IUDs or be sterilized when they have reached their birth quotas,[i] thus depriving them of their choice over birth control methods;
  • Women who are pregnant out-of-quota—which includes premarital pregnancies—are often forced to abort the fetuses, even in advanced pregnancies;
  • Men and women who have violated the policy, as well as their families and relatives, have been punished with arbitrary detention, beatings, fines, and property seizures; others have been fired from their jobs and their out-of-quota children have been denied household registration permits (hukou);
  • Both parents and children face discrimination as a result of the policy, as education and employment opportunities and even social services are linked to compliance with the policy. The highly arbitrary and uneven way it is being carried out across the country also results in unequal treatment between couples in similar situations.

 Family planning officials at the local level are given incentives aswell aspressure by their superiors to fulfill certain targets in theimplementation ofthe family planning policy. Most of the abuses, therefore, occur incampaignslaunched by these officials to crack down on non-compliance with thepolicy.The women and men whose bodies bear the brunt of these governmentefforts aretreated as statistics, rather than individuals whose reproductivechoicesshould be respected.  


“The policy is enforced in ways that encourage theuse ofviolence against women,” said Renee Xia, “there is little evidence thatlocalofficials are being held accountable for the abuses they perpetrate astheystrive to meet their quotas.” 


The implementation of the policy is extremelyuneven acrossthe country. Not only do provincial governments adopt differentregulations,but the work of implementing the policy is subject to various localpolicydirectives, as well as the whims and interpretations of localofficials. Awoman bearing her second son might be forced to abort the fetus in onearea,while a similarly situated woman in another area might be required topay afine. Fines levied against violators of the policy, called “socialmaintenancefees,” are an important source of income for local governments andfamilyplanning offices, especially in rural areas. The fines are also highlyarbitrary, as local officials have wide latitude in setting the levelsof thefines, thus providing an opportunity for corruption. 


CHRD concludes its report by calling on theChinesegovernment to abolish its family planning policy, and for officials whohaveviolated the rights of Chinese citizens while enforcing the policy tobe heldaccountable.  


We also call on the Committee on the Eliminationof AllForms of Discrimination against Women as well as the Committee onEconomic,Social and Cultural Rights to focus on the family planning policy intheir nextreviews of the Chinese government’s compliance with its obligationsunder theConvention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination againstWomen andthe International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,respectively. The two committees should also call on the government toabolishthe current policy in order to conform with international human rightsstandards. Moreover, CHRD urges the Chinese government to extend aninvitationto the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women to visit China. 


Please click here to read the full report in .pdf format.


Media Contacts:

Renee Xia, International Director (English andMandarin),+852 8191 6937 or +1 301 547 9286

Wang Songlian, Research Coordinator (English andMandarin),+852 8191 1660

David Smalls, Researcher (English) +1 747 448 5285

[i]Birth quota refers to the number of children a couple is permitted.Mostcouples are limited to one, but some may have more than one child ifthey meetcertain criteria. Please see section A of the report for a lengthierdiscussionon this topic.

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