Lawyers Slam Forced Birth Control

Women rights advocates call on China's population planning officials to de-link household registration from compulsory fitting of IUDs.
2012-12-07
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A woman walks with her grandson past a propaganda pavilion for family planning services and the one-child policy in Qingdao, Oct. 12, 2011.
IMAGINECHINA

China's draconian family planning controls continue unabated, with women routinely required to use intrauterine contraception as a condition of registering their first-born child, rights lawyers and activists said.

Twelve women rights lawyers, including Beijing-based Huang Yizhi, wrote a letter this week to the public security ministry and the population and family committee, calling for the act of registering a baby in one's town of origin to be de-linked from the compulsory fitting of intrauterine devices (IUDs).

"In China, babies must be entered onto the household registration documents soon after they are born," Huang said in an interview. "This gives them a 'hukou' in that locality, and most babies must be registered within a month of birth."

"When the mothers take their babies to be registered, they are required to have an IUD fitted," she said. "This is a coercive requirement for contraceptive purposes, to stop them having a second child."

Forced sterilizations and other forms of official abuse are still commonly reported in rural areas of China, where family planning officials try to avoid fines from higher authorities if their region exceeds local birth quotas.

Unsanctioned births under China's population controls usually incur large, and often arbitrary fines, as well as the loss of access to certain welfare services.

Huang said that Chinese law clearly states that changes to household registration documents must be made with no conditions attached.

In practice, however, many local governments have adopted the tactic of forcing parents to make a trip to their local family planning bureau before they would add newborns to the registration booklet.

Women's rights

"We think that babies born in China should have the right of registration, and that making this conditional on having an IUD fitted has no basis in law," Huang said.

"This practice is curbing women's reproductive rights; after all, men can use contraception too -- why do they insist that the woman have an IUD fitted?"

Guangzhou-based rights lawyer Tang Jingling said local family planning officials would often use any means at their disposal to meet birth quotas imposed on them from above.

"They use coercive measures by making one thing tied up with another," he said. "This forces citizens to accept unjust and inhumane rules."

"This method of law enforcement should be immediately abandoned."

Tang said some parents who had succeeded in having their babies registered without fitting an IUD were faced with the same demand when the time came to enroll them in a local school.

"This sort of conditional practice happens across many areas of Chinese law enforcement, so that people's interests are affected when it comes to sending their kid to school, or [their elderly relatives] claiming their old age pension," he said.

He said the sole purpose of household registration should be to establish a child's date and place of birth, and its family relationships.

Under the "hukou" registration system which dates back to the Mao era of collective farming and a planned economy, every household accesses services, including healthcare and education, from its place of registration.

Reported by Gao Shan for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.