Caste discrimination a violation of human rights: UN experts

Experts say more than 260 million (26 crore) people across the world are still victims of human rights abuses due to caste-based discrimination


Trithesh Nandan | May 29, 2013

Much to the chagrin of India, which has opposed raising caste–based discrimination at the international forum, a group of seven UN Special Rapporteurs in a recent statement highlighted the plight of dalits. In a joint statement, they said that dalit women and girls face caste based discrimination and violence in the South Asia.

“Dalit women and girls are particularly vulnerable and are exposed to multiple forms of discrimination and violence, including sexual violence, on the basis of gender and caste. Children victims of caste-based discrimination are more at risk to be victims of sale and sexual exploitation,” said the groups of experts. Rashida Manjoo, Special UN Rapporteur on violence against women visited India in the last week of April.

The Rapporteurs said that more than 260 million (26 crore) people across the world are still victims of human rights abuses due to caste-based discrimination.

“Caste-based discrimination remains widespread and deeply rooted, its victims face structural discrimination, marginalization and systematic exclusion, and the level of impunity is very high,” the statement noted.

 “Britain’s move serves as good practice to protect dalits in diaspora communities,” the statement said. UK is moving to implement the Equality Act. In fact, Nepal too adopted the 'caste-based discrimination and untouchability bill', a landmark law that protects the rights of dalits in 2011.

“Political leadership, targeted action and adequate resources should be devoted to resolving the long-standing problems, discrimination and exclusion faced by Dalits and similarly affected communities in the world,” UN experts stressed.

“Having recognised the caste based-discrimination, exclusion and violence domestically, and addressed it through constitutional, legislative and executive measures and policies; it (India) should take up the responsibility and lead in addressing this as a global human rights issue under International standards thereby setting a model for other countries,” said N. Paul Divakar, general secretary, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR).

India has always resisted the raising of such issues on the international forum, Divakar said. He added, “Government of India should reassess its position on caste in UN and recognise this as a global human rights issue.”

The UN experts said post-2015,  the development agenda should focus on specific goals for the advancement of dalits and particularly affected groups.

Those who issued the joint statement are: Rita Izsak, expert on minority issues; Rashida Manjoo, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Gulnara Shahinian, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Najat Maalla M'jid, Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; Mutuma Ruteere, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; Catarina de Albuquerque, Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation; and Magdalena Sepulveda, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. 

The Special Rapporteurs are independent experts on certain areas, and are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council and work in an unpaid capacity.



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