Tuesday, June 29, 2021
By Shelby Logan (June 29, 2021)
With a fast moving, targeted strategy, the Chinese government is successfully decreasing the population of Uyghurs in Xinjiang through permanent and temporary birth control measures. In November 2019, news broke worldwide that China had begun a gendered campaign of ethnic cleansing, separating male and female Uyghurs into internment camps, or “reeducation centers” and threatening women with prosecution or torture if they did not agree to birth control measures. Survivors of the camps claim to have experienced extreme conditions from nonconsensual sterilization to physical abuse.
Recent reports document plans for forced IUD placement, mandated abortions, and sterilizations and injections that reportedly cease menstruation cycles. Uyghur women deemed to have too many children are forced into labor camps for “training purposes.” In one instance, a Uyghur woman from Urumqi paid a fine for having had three, instead of two, children and was offered free surgical sterilization. At first the sterilization was only a suggestion, but after she did not go through with it, the government threatened to place her in an internment camp if she did not submit to the procedure. Another woman, a Uyghur mother of triplets, said that during detention she and other women were given unknown drugs and injections that caused irregular bleeding and the loss of their menstruation cycle. U.S. doctors later confirmed that she had been sterilized.
Through a program called the “Free Technical Family Planning” project, sterilization surgeries are widely available to all Uyghur women. Alongside the project, counties in the region are waging a campaign to ensure women with three or more children are sterilized. Additionally, authorities actively encourage interethnic marriages between Han Chinese men and Uyghur women in an effort to dilute Uyghur cultural identity, and likely the bloodline. With a majority of Uyghur men interned in camps and labor facilities, the Uyghur women have fewer choices, and are often coerced into relationships with Han Chinese men. The mass sterilization movement and the forced relationships, already raising concerns of eugenic practices, have led human rights experts to call for an investigation of genocide.
The reproductive rights and freedoms of Uyghur women are under fire in Xinjiang. The international community continues to discuss next steps but is constricted by the lack of legal mechanisms available for accountability. Meanwhile, the situation continues to deteriorate as China furthers its tactics to control reproductive health in the country.