You are browsing the archive for China.

Here We Go Again: House Proposes Slashing International Family Planning Programs and Reinstating Global Gag Rule

11:57 am in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Chloë Cooney for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

The recent arrival of Chinese human rights advocate Chen Guangcheng has focused the world’s attention on the scourge of coercive reproductive policies in some countries. Now more than ever, U.S. foreign assistance should be directed toward those working to advance human rights. Yet, once again, the House Appropriations Committee voted to let politics interfere with lifesaving health care for women.

Last week, the House Appropriations Committee proposed to cut funding for international family planning programs and impose harmful restrictions on women’s access to essential health care — including the global gag rule and prohibiting U.S. contributions to UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. 

While this trifecta of funding cuts and restrictions now seems par for the course in the House, it comes in striking contrast to new evidence released the day prior by leading health organizations. A report from the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UNFPA, and the World Bank, once again confirms that birth control and reproductive health services are essential to saving women’s lives around the world. Thanks to these interventions, the report finds, maternal deaths declined by nearly 50 percent over the last 20 years.

As the report’s authors state, “[W]hen governments take a strategic approach to the safe motherhood challenge — by deploying trained midwives, ensuring adequate essential supplies, making family planning accessible and providing timely obstetric care to women with complications, we are getting results.”

In other words, evidence shows that family planning prevents the needless deaths of women worldwide.  One would think this would be cause to sustain or even increase U.S. investments in these programs.

Unfortunately, the House bill contains $149 million in funding cuts and would roll funding levels back to 2008 levels. These cuts would result in nearly eight million fewer women being able to access birth control, 745,000 more unsafe abortions, and nearly 6,000 more maternal deaths, according to recent Guttmacher Institute analysis.

In an effort to find common ground and protect women’s health, Representatives Nita Lowey (D-NY), Rosa DeLauro (D-NY) and Barbara Lee (D-CA), each offered amendments to the bill that would allow continued support for targeted programs. All three were voted down by the House majority (with Republican Representatives Charlie Dent (PA) and Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ) crossing the aisle to support all three).

That the House majority rejected all three of these compromise solutions reveals the extreme nature of their views and the lengths to which they will go to avoid working with UNFPA.

Critics of the agency claim that UNFPA’s work in China reinforces the Chinese government’s harmful one-child policy and the illegal practices of forced abortion and coerced birth control reported in some localities. In fact, as the Bush Administration’s own specially appointed fact-finding team confirmed, UNFPA’s work to promote voluntary family planning programs empowers women and families and works toward eliminating coercive practices. If we are serious about promoting a rights-based approach to reproductive health in China, we should be supporting UNFPA, not vilifying it.

The House proposal serves as an opening offer in the congressional debate over the FY13 budget.  This week, the Senate Appropriations Committee is presenting and debating their version of the bill, which increases support for international family planning without attaching restrictions that would undercut these efforts. The impact of the decisions made by this Congress will be felt in the lives of women and families around the world.

Who Owns the Farm? Land Rights Push in China Leaves Women Without a Plot To Stand On

2:56 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Photobucket

Written by Jessica Mack for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

In the Masterpiece series “Downton Abbey,“ Lady Mary Crawley, the eldest daughter of an Earl, cannot inherit the eponymous estate because she is a woman. She finds this demeaning and frustrating, but her future will be well taken care of regardless. This isn’t the case for millions of women around the world, who struggle to access, own, and inherit the tiny plots of land on which they live and work.

In China, women actually have equal rights to inherit and own land, yet rarely ever do. A recent survey in 17 Chinese provinces, undertaken by the global land rights group Landesa, found that only 17.1 percent of existing land contracts and 38.2 percent of existing land certificates include women’s names.

A gap-filled land registration system has meant that the country’s 700 million mostly poor and rural farmers often lack the legal documents for the land on which they toil. Rapid urbanization has set in motion a pattern of “land grabs,“ depriving an estimated three to four million farmers of their land every year.  While land rights in China remain a broad-scale class issue, of the few that do have legal protection for their land, hardly any are women.

“Women in rural China are still in a vulnerable position,” says Xiaobei Wang, a Gender and Land Tenure Specialist for Landesa. “Most of them are not fully aware of their legal rights on land or the importance of including their names in legal documents so they seldom assert their rights in land registration by requesting that their names be included.”

These are timely findings given that a nascent land rights revolution in the country has begun. In late-2011, the continued struggles of dispossessed farmers came to a head with an historic village rebellion, signaling to the Chinese government and to the world that something finally had to change. Now, government officials are rolling out a massive initiative to register each plot of land with certificates of ownership in the hopes of protecting poor farmers. Read the rest of this entry →

House GOP Renews Misguided Effort to Defund UNFPA, Risking the Lives of Millions of Women

1:02 pm in Uncategorized by RH Reality Check

Written by Valerie DeFillipo for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

 

On the heels of Vice President Biden’s recent trip to China, the GOP leadership of the House of Representatives issued a misguided ultimatum to President Obama: defund UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, or else.

UNFPA is an international development agency that promotes the right of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity. UNFPA supports countries in using population data to develop policies and programs to reduce poverty, to strengthen reproductive health programs, and to ensure that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV, and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect.  In a world where 215 million women want access to family planning services but do not have it, in which women make up the majority of those infected with and affected by HIV and AIDS, and in which complications of pregnancy remain the leading cause of deaths among women in many countries, UNFPA is needed more than ever before.

This is not a controversial agenda.  In fact, it is one shown to be supported by the vast majority of Americans. As noted by a Guttmacher Institute Report, 91 percent of Americans believe that “every woman on the planet deserves access to quality maternal and reproductive health care.” Another found 89 percent in favor of “health care services, including access to basic health care and family planning services” as a way to promote economic development and advance the status of women and girls.

But as a result of misguided ideology and politics, and at a time when women’s most fundamental rights are under assault, we have been thrust into a dangerous game of falsehoods versus reality- and the stakes are high. What is the life of one woman worth? When reproductive rights are politicized, the health and safety of every woman hangs in the balance.

Each year, over 150 countries around the world contribute to helping UNFPA carry out the vital tasks it has been assigned by members of the United Nations, including the United States of America. As a global leader, the U.S. should continue to show the way.  U.S. financial support to UNFPA affirms the United States’ long-held commitment to save lives, slow the spread of HIV and encourage gender equality. Yet partisan politics continues to play an leading role in U.S. contributions to UNFPA. Despite systematic attempts in past Administrations to link UNFPA’s promotion of voluntary family planning services to China’s one child policy, no such connection exists. In 2002, both a UK parliamentary delegation as well as an independent blue-ribbon delegation sent to China by the U.S. State Department found no evidence that UNFPA supported China’s coercive birth policies. Indeed, the delegation reported that UNFPA advocated against and was a force for changing those policies. Still, UNFPA received no contribution from the U.S. from 2001 to 2007.

To be clear, UNFPA does not support coercion in family planning, coercive abortions or forced sterilizations anywhere.  The rejection of these practices is a fundamental principle of UNFPA’s mandate from members of the United Nations members, and as part of the mandate of the International Conference on Population and Development (Cairo, 1994), the development of which the U.S. played a critical leadership role.

In reality, UNFPA promotes voluntary family planning and opposes all forms of coercion, targets or quotas. Americans support the work of UNFPA and recognize that the ability to make important decisions about childbearing is one of the most basic human rights. Supporting voluntary family planning and reproductive health care programs is a critical step toward improving the status of women and upholding these basic human rights around the world. And, as about one fifth of the world’s population, Chinese men and women have the same right as peoples elsewhere to learn about and gain from the voluntary approach family planning. And this is exactly what Americans want UNFPA to continue doing on the ground.

Claims attempting to link UNFPA with a gender imbalance resulting from son preference in China are equally unfounded. The UN and UNFPA in particular have made strong declarations against gender imbalance. In fact, UNFPA broke the taboo on this issue and became the first international agency to highlight the problem to Chinese authorities. Along with other UN agencies, UNFPA is coordinating an initiative on joint work to tackle the root causes of son preference. UNFPA’s 2008-2013 Strategic Plan calls for issues around sex preference and sex-selection to be included in analyses of efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals, in reproductive health-care studies, and in international forums. Today, UNFPA continues to promote gender equality in China and leads efforts to reduce discrimination and violence against women.

UNFPA’s core programs help mothers survive pregnancy and childbirth, and deliver healthy newborns. The programs also encourage and enable couples to determine the number and spacing of their children and reduce the incident of HIV/AIDS. When U.S. funding is withheld, UNFPA’s lifesaving work will unquestionably dwindle, making women the pawns in this dangerous game. We simply cannot allow this to happen in the spirit of ideological demagoguery and ultimatums.