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  • Writer's pictureThe Gender Security Project

Analysing The Uyghur Genocide Report From a Feminist Lens

An Examination of China’s Breach of the 1948 Genocide Convention

By Sanskruti Yagnik

Source: The Independent

In times of conflict, women have faced injustice and humiliation throughout history by those who seek to erase and destroy all aspects of their identity. In Europe, during World War II, for example, women were forced to undress in front of Nazi German guards, sexually assaulted and raped by the SS, sterilized, forced to undergo abortion when discovered pregnant, and often immediately killed. Women have historically been traumatised, humiliated, and degraded in times of armed conflict and in peacetime alike. Shockingly, the treatment of women wasn’t examined in the IMT Nuremberg Trials or even acknowledged until much later. The atrocities committed during World War II led to the adoption of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Genocide Convention), an instrument of international law that codified the crime of genocide for the first time. The Genocide Convention marked a crucial step towards the development of International Human Rights Law as being the first human rights treaty to be adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations.

73 years later, China’s on- going treatment of the Uyghurs, an ethnic minority is in breach of the Genocide Convention under international law. Over a million Uyghurs have been detained in re-education camps in disguise of ‘vocational and educational trainings’. However, a recent report highlighting the condition within the camp states a breach of article II of the Genocide Convention.

Application of Article II of the Genocide Convention

China’s treatment of the Uyghur women, specifically through its strategy of forcibly sterilizing those who are of childbearing age and interning Uyghur men of child-bearing years, aims at preventing the regenerative capacity of the group. This appears to show intent to destroy the group, in contravention Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide as it defines genocide to mean “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.

The report present first- hand testimonies from the detainees. After being subject to brutal violence, one was reportedly told, “You don’t look like a human”. Institutionalized sexual assault and rape has become commonplace within this internment program. The report comprises accounts of gang rapes perpetrated by security officials, of female being forced to routinely undress, and squat in the nude, and forced to face a range of other brutalities. During the height of China’s COVID-19 outbreak, detainees were reportedly forced to strip naked on a weekly basis as guards hosed them down with “scalding” and corrosive disinfectant.

Article II (d) of the Genocide convention prohibits the imposition of measures intended to prevent births within the group. Uyghur women, however, are subject to sexual violence through coercive birth prevention procedures, including forced sterilization, IUD placements, abortions, and unknown injections or medication to stop their menstrual cycles. Systematic forms of sexual violence causing serious bodily and mental harm are used to target Uyghur women outside of camps.

Since 2013, an Uyghur doctor in Turkey examined 300 exiled Uyghur women from Xinjiang officially Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and found that nearly all of them had been subjected to some form of birth control and about 80 had been sterilized – with most being unaware of the procedure they had each undergone.

Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group

The Chinese Government began building state-run, highly securitized “child welfare guidance centers” in early 2017, in order to confine Uyghur Children full-time, including infants. The condition of the children in these orphanages was grotesque with overcrowding and inhumane conditions. The report reveals that the boarding schools are specifically designed for children whose parents are detained in the internment camps or forced labour schemes. The Chinese government as it seems is trying to re-build their identity by forcing them to learn the Chinese language, and keeping them away from their own culture and tradition.


Evidence shows that a systematic campaign is underway to destroy the identity of the Uyghurs as a group through elaborate government policies and programs aimed at erasing all aspects of Uyghur identity, community, character, and domestic life. The systematic torture and cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment, including rape, sexual abuse, and public humiliation, both inside and outside the camp are beyond comprehension. The most fundamental norm of international law is to prevent and prohibit genocide and is widely accepted as having the status of a peremptory or jus cogens norm in international law. The fact that China has signed and ratified the Genocide Convention – the lack of transparency, violation of human rights, ongoing genocide, and trying to erase a community must open the eyes of the member states.

Article 14 (3) of ARSIWA has codified that it is the responsibility of states for the breach of an obligation to prevent a given event occurs when that even takes place. It states that ‘the breach of an international obligation requiring a state to prevent a given event occurs when the event occurs’. In the present case it is pertinent that China stops exploiting the community and abide by international obligations and standards honouring the treaties it is a signatory to.

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