• South Asia
  • India
  • Nepal
  • Pakistan
  • Bangladesh
  • Sri Lanka
  • Japan
  • Yemen
  • Africa
  • UK
  • Diaspora communities

Bangladesh

The inhabitants of Dalit 'colonies' in Dhaka often wash their clothes and bathe in the same place - with no privacy. Photo: ABIR ABDULLAH/EPA

Introduction

Caste discrimination affects both the Hindu and the Muslim populations in Bangladesh, and perpetuates the poverty trap the country is caught in. Dalits exist far below the poverty line with extremely limited access to health services, education and employment. They live in ‘colonies’ with very poor housing and work almost exclusively in ‘the service sector’, doing unclean jobs in urban areas such as street sweeping, manual scavenging and burying the dead.

The lives of Dalits are particularly harsh due to the practice of caste discrimination. They are frequently prevented from entering the homes of non-Dalits and are often met with discrimination when trying to bury members of their family at public graveyards. A large number of child labourers in Bangladesh are Dalits. Members of minorities, most of whom are Dalits, hold almost no official positions.

The estimates of the number of Dalits in Bangladesh vary from 3.5-5.5 million. They have been much overlooked in the development and rights discourse and have only recently been able to raise their voices. Having started to engage with government and international donors, they have now managed to place the issue of caste discrimination on the agenda.

Key issues

Dalit women: Girls and women from Dalit communities in Bangladesh often fall victim to prostitution and trafficking of bonded labour. They are deprived control, not only over property, but also over their own bodies. They are excluded from political participation, community development and employment, and have faced violent attacks when trying to vote.

Recommendations

 

Database

IDSN has created an extensive database on caste-based discrimination.

Other resources

News and media clippings

  • 'Defiant Voices': The organisation Bangladesh Dalit Human Rights and British NGO One World Action have launched a landmark photo exhibition on YouTube. 'Defiant Voices' depicts the daily lives of Dalit communities in Dhaka.

Videos - Caste Discrimination in Bangladesh

Below are a selection of videos dealing with caste discrimination in Bangladesh. Visit IDSNs YouTube Channel for more videos on other countries/themes.

Share on Facebook