UHRP Statement during UN CEDAW 80th Pre-Sessional Working Group

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CEDAW Committee (80th PSWG)
Date: March 1, 2021
Speaker: Zubayra Shamseden
Organization: Uyghur Human Rights Project

Thank you.

I want to raise two issues in relation to Uyghur women: participation in public and cultural life, and forced labor.

In 2014, the Committee called on China to “vigorously pursue” efforts to eliminate intersecting forms of discrimination experienced by Uyghur women. China has taken the opposite approach.

In law and in practice, Uyghur women have been prohibited from wearing certain clothing like the hijab or other face or body coverings, and the government promotes preferred forms of dress. Fear of arbitrary detention in internment camps compels Uyghur women to conform to these preferred standards.

All religious practice has been restricted to state-approved mosques in the Uyghur region. As a result, Uyghur women who take up leadership positions and provide religious education to children at home have been arrested, as this activity is now illegal.

In 2014, the Committee called on China to compensate women who were subjected to the re-education through labor system. This was a system that was officially abolished, but it has re-emerged once again and targets Uyghur women in particular.

For three years, many Uyghur women have been subjected to forced labor, some who had previously been detained in internment camps, or are forced to live in dormitories while they are forced to work in factories nearby.

Finally, we also have deep concerns over:

  • Plummeting birth rates in the Uyghur region, shown by government data
  • Sexual violence in the camps; and
  • Sterilizations and the forced or coerced use of IUDs among Uyghur women—which is significantly higher than anywhere else in China.

We would appreciate focus from the Committee on:

  • Government prohibitions on cultural and religious expression
  • Prohibitions on Uyghur women teaching religion to children; and
  • Uyghur women conscripted into forced labor

Thank you.

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