The CERD Committee has expressed serious concern about the persistance of caste discrimination in India in its Concluding Observations in 2007 and 1996.

Below is a list of shadow reports, press statements and notes from the latest review at the 70th CERD session, 23 and 26 February 2007:

Read the full text of the Concluding Observations

  • India’s Hidden Apartheid by the Centre for Human Rights & Global Justice, NYU School of Law and Human Rights Watch – CERD India 2007
  • Joint press statement by Human Rights Watch, Center for Human Rights and Global Justice and International Dalit Solidarity Network – CERD India 2007
  • Factsheet – the Committee’s response to the review

In the Concluding Observations (CERD/C/IND/CO/19) of the CERD review of India in 2007, the Committee expressed deep concern about the de factodiscrimination against the 170 million Dalits in the country, and regretted the government’s position that caste discrimination falls outside the scope of the “descent” limb of the CERD Convention.

  • 8. The Committee takes note of the State party’s position that discrimination based on caste falls outside the scope of article 1 of the Convention. However, after an extensive exchange of views with the State party, the Committee maintains its position expressed in general recommendation No. 29 “that discrimination based on ‘descent’ includes discrimination against members of communities based on forms of social stratification such as caste and analogous systems of inherited status which nullify or impair their equal enjoyment of human rights.”[1] Therefore, the Committee reaffirms that discrimination based on the ground of caste is fully covered by article 1 of the Convention.
  • 27. The Committee notes with concern that caste bias as well as racial and ethnic prejudice and stereotypes are still deeply entrenched in the minds of wide segments of Indian society, particularly in rural areas. (art. 7)The Committee recommends that the State party strengthen its efforts to eradicate the social acceptance of caste-based discrimination and racial and ethnic prejudice, e.g. by intensifying public education and awareness-raising campaigns, incorporating educational objectives of inter-caste tolerance and respect for other ethnicities, as well as instruction on the culture of scheduled castes and scheduled and other tribes, in the National Curriculum Framework, and ensuring adequate media representation of issues concerning scheduled castes, tribes and ethnic minorities, with a view to achieving true social cohesion among all ethnic groups, castes and tribes of India.The Government of India is requested to submit its next periodic reports to CERD before 4 January 2012.

In August 1996, the CERD Committee considered India’s consolidated tenth to fourteenth periodic reports and issued its Concluding Observations(CERD/C/304/Add.13) in September 1996.

This was the first time that the Government of India sought to establish that discrimination related to caste did not fall within the scope of ICERD or within the jurisdiction of the Committee. The Indian Government’s position concerning the interpretation of the term ‘descent’ covered in article 1(1) of the Convention was that “the use of the term ‘descent’ in the Convention clearly refers to ‘race’. Communities which fall under the definition of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are unique to Indian society and its historical process. … it is, therefore, submitted that the policies of the Indian Government relating to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes do not come under the purview of Article 1 of the Convention.”

In the course of discussion of the report in the Committee, the Indian delegation said that India’s report “had focused on matters relating to race as distinct from other categorizations referred to in the Constitution.  … Constitutionally, the concept of race was distinct from caste. … To confer a racial character on the caste system would create considerable political problems which could not be the Committee’s intention. In the spirit of dialogue, however, India was prepared to provide more information on matters other than race, without prejudice to its understanding of the term ‘race’ in the Convention.”

Abstracts of CERD Concluding Observations – India 1996

A number of CERD members challenged the Indian Government’s interpretation of the term ‘descent’ and expressed this concern in its concluding observations, along with observations on the non-implementation of legislation to abolish the practice of ‘untocuhability’ (CERD/C/304/Add.13):

  • 14. Noting the declaration in paragraph 7 of the report, reiterated in the oral presentation, the Committee states that the term “descent” mentioned in article 1 of the Convention does not solely refer to race. The Committee affirms that the situation of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes falls within the scope of the Convention. It emphasizes its great concern that within the discussion of the report, there was no inclination on the side of the State party to reconsider its position.
  • 23. It is noted that although constitutional provisions and legal texts exist to abolish untouchability and to protect the members of the scheduled castes and tribes, and although social and educational policies have been adopted to improve the situation of members of scheduled castes and tribes and to protect them from abuses, widespread discrimination against them and the relative impunity of those who abuse them point to the limited effect of these measures. The Committee is particularly concerned at reports that people belonging to the scheduled castes and tribes are often prevented from using public wells or from entering cafés or restaurants and that their children are sometimes separated from other children in schools, in violation of article 5 (f) of the Convention.

Examination of INDIA, 7-8 May 2008, CESCR 40th session:

  • Link to CESCR website with access to the Government of India’s state report, list of issues and other NGO reports

In the Concluding Observations (E/C.12/IND/CO/5), the Committee made several recommendations on the situation of Dalits, including the following:

  • 14. The Committee notes with concern the lack of progress achieved by the State party in combating the persistent de facto caste-based discrimination that continues to prevail in spite of the legal prohibitions in place, most notably the 1989 Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The Committee is particularly concerned at the low rate of prosecution of crimes against persons belonging to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, and that discriminatory attitudes and prejudices in the enforcement of the law, especially by the police, is a serious obstacle in the victims’ access to justice.

The State party is requested to submit its sixth periodic report by 30 June
2011. 

The examination of India took place on July 2. 2014 during the 58th CEDAW session. Please find the Concluding Observations (CEDAW/C/IND/CO/4-5)and a summary of the references to caste in the Concluding Observations

The committee raises serious concern about human rights violations against Dalit women, caste-based violence and rape, land rights and the lack of implementation of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and other key legislation meant to protect Dalit women. The concluding observations however lack adequate mention of discrimination against Dalit women in education and employment, specifically manual scavenging, despite the fact that these were areas of concern captured in the List of Issues and review by CEDAW experts.

Examination of INDIA, 18 January 2007, CEDAW 37th session:

Download NGO alternative report by Tamil Nadu Women’s Forum

CEDAW Concluding Comments

In the Concluding Comments (CEDAW/C/IND/CO/3), the Committee notes among other things the following:

  • 28. The Committee is concerned about the ongoing atrocities committed against Dalit women and the culture of impunity for perpetrators of such atrocities. The
    Committee is concerned that, despite a law banning manual scavenging, this degrading practice continues with grave implications for the dignity and health of the Dalit women who are engaged in this activity.
  • 29. The Committee recommends that the State party put in place a mechanism to monitor effective enforcement of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act in order to ensure accountability and end impunity for crimes committed against Dalit women. It calls upon the State party to increase Dalit women’s legal literacy and improve their access to justice in bringing claims of discrimination and violation of rights. It requests the State party to report specifically on the impact of such initiatives in its next periodic report. The Committee also urges the State party to study the health implications of manual scavenging on Dalits engaged in this profession and on the community as a whole, and to address all the impediments to eradicating this practice, including by putting in place modern sanitation facilities and providing the Dalit women engaged in this practice with vocational training
    and alternative means of livelihood.

The State Party is requested to submit its fourth periodic report, which was due in August 2006, and its fifth periodic report, which is due in August 2010, in a combined report in 2010. 

India was examined by the CRC in June 2014, where the Committee made the following recommendations in the Concluding Observations(CRC/C/IND/CO/3-4)

  1. General principles (arts. 2, 3, 6 and 12 of the Convention)

Non-discrimination

The Committee is concerned at the disparity in access to education, health care, safe water and sanitation and other social services and enjoyment of the rights enshrined in the Convention among different groups of children as well as the persisting discrimination against children from Scheduled Castesand Scheduled Tribes, children with disabilities, children with HIV/AIDS as well as asylum-seeking and refugee children.

The Committee recommends that the State party:

  • (b) Ensure that children who are in marginalized or disadvantaged situations, such as children from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, children with disabilities, children with HIV/AIDS and asylum-seeker and refugee children, have access to basic services and enjoy their rights under the Convention. To this end adopt adequate programmes and assess their results.
  • F. Disability, basic health and welfare (arts. 6, 18 (para. 3), 23, 24, 26, 27 (paras. 1-3) and 33)

Standard of living

The Committee is concerned at the high percentage of people living below the poverty line despite the GDP growth in the State party. It is concerned at the prevalence of poverty among children, both in urban and rural areas as well as at the large disparities in the standard of living among children, with children in disadvantaged and marginalized situations being particularly vulnerable.

The Committee recommends that the State party to:

  •  (b) Take all necessary measures to eliminate urban-rural, social, caste and tribe based disparities in children’s standard of living through, inter alia, social protection and targeted programmes for children and families who are particularly vulnerable to poverty; and
  1. Education, leisure and cultural activities (arts. 28, 29, 30 and 31)

Education, including vocational training and guidance

  • 2. The Committee welcomes the adoption of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act 2009, as well as at the almost universal enrolment rate of children in Grade 1. However, it is concerned at the high drop-out rates of children, in particular children of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, and girls. The Committee is also concerned about the high number of children that are out of school, high dropout rates at grade 5, low numeracy and literacy skills, low quality of education, as well as shortage of qualified teachers and classrooms.
  • H. Special protection measures (arts. 22, 30, 32-33, 35-36, 37 (b)-(d), 38, 39 and 40)

Children belonging to religious minorities, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes

The Committee is seriously concerned that despite the State party’s initiatives aiming at addressing inequalities and improving living conditions and access to education, health and social services of religious minorities and Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, many children belonging to these groups continue to be deprived of a number of their rights under the Convention.

The Committee urges the State party to strengthen its efforts to ensure that all children irrespective of their religious background, Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes enjoy the whole range of rights enshrined in the Convention.

The Committee invites the State party to submit its combined fifth and sixth periodic report by 15 July 2020 and to include in it information on the implementation of the present concluding observations.

Again in 2004 the Committee reiterated its concern in the Concluding Observations (CRC/C/15/ADD.228):

  • 27. The Committee is deeply concerned at persistent and significant social discrimination against children belonging to Scheduled Castes and Tribes and other tribal groups, reflected, inter alia, by the many violations of the 1989 Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, the low number of such violations dealt with by the courts, and the fact that a majority of the states have failed to set up the special courts provided for under this Act.

The State party should submit its next 3rd and 4th periodic reports on 10 July 2008. The dates for the examination of India before the CRC has not yet been scheduled, but is expected to take place in 2010 or 2011.

India was examined by the CRC in 2000, where the Committee made the following recommendations in the Concluding Observations(CRC/C/15/ADD.115):

  1. In the light of article 2 of the Convention, the Committee is deeply concerned at the widely disparate levels of enjoyment of the rights in the Convention by children living in different states, living in rural areas, living in slums and belonging to different castes, tribal and indigenous groups.
  2. In the light of article 2 of the Convention, the Committee is concerned at the existence of caste-based discrimination and discrimination against tribal groups, despite these practices being prohibited under the law.
  3. In accordance with article 17 of the Constitution and article 2 of the Convention, the Committee recommends that the State party take steps to ensure states abolish the discriminatory practice of “untouchability”, prevent caste- and tribe-motivated abuse, and prosecute State and private actors who are responsible for such practices or abuses.  Moreover, in compliance with article 46 of the Constitution, the State party is encouraged to implement, inter alia, affirmative measures to advance and protect these groups.  The Committee recommends the full implementation of the 1989 Scheduled Castes and Scheduled tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, the 1995 Scheduled Castes and Scheduled tribes Rules (Prevention of Atrocities) and the 1993 Employment of Manual Scavengers Act.  The Committee encourages the State party to continue its efforts to carry out comprehensive public education campaigns to prevent and combat caste-based discrimination.  In line with the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Disrimination (CERD/C/304/Add.13), the Committee stresses the importance of the equal enjoyment by members of these groups of the rights in the Convention, including access to health care, education, work, and public places and services, such as wells.
  4. Welcoming the 83rd Constitutional Amendment Bill concerning the fundamental right to education, the Committee, however, expresses its concern at the prevailing poor situation in the State party with respect to education, which is characterized by a general lack of infrastructure, facilities and equipment, insufficient numbers of qualified teachers and a drastic shortage of text books and other relevant learning materials.  There is serious concern regarding the striking disparities in terms of access to education, attendance at primary and secondary levels and drop‑out rates between:  different states, rural and urban areas, boys and girls, the affluent and poor, and children belonging to scheduled castes and tribes.  The Committee emphasizes the importance of focusing attention on improving the provision and quality of education, especially in view of its potential benefit for addressing various concerns, including the situation of girls and reducing the incidence of child labour.
  5. The Committee encourages the State party to withdraw its declaration with respect to article 32 of the Convention, as it is unnecessary in the light of the efforts the State party is making to address child labour.  The Committee recommends that the State party ensure the full implementation of the 1986 Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, the 1976 Bonded labour (System Abolition) Act and the 1993 Employment of Manual Scavengers Act.
  6. The Committee notes the Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Women and Children.  However, in view of the scale of the problem, the Committee is concerned about the sexual abuse and exploitation of children especially those belonging to the lower castes and from poor urban and rural areas, in the contexts of:  religious and traditional culture; child domestic workers; children living and/or working on the streets; communal violence and ethnic conflict; abuse by the security forces in areas of conflict, such as Jammu and Kashmir, and the north-eastern states; and trafficking and commercial exploitation, especially girls from neighbouring countries, particularly Nepal.  It is also concerned about the absence of adequate measures to combat this phenomenon and the lack of adequate rehabilitation measures.

Examination of India, 30 July 1997, CCPR 60th session:

CCPR Concluding Observations

In July 1997, the Human Rights Committee considered the third periodic report of India and issued its Concluding Observations (CCPR/C/79/Add.81). In the Concluding Observations, the Committee notes among other things the following:

  • 5. It notes, moreover, that the size of the country, its huge population, the massive poverty and the great disparities in the distribution of wealth among various social groups affect the advancement of rights. The persistence of traditional practices and customs, leading to women and girls being deprived of their rights, their human dignity and their lives, and to discrimination against members of the underprivileged classes and castes and other minorities, and ethnic, cultural and religious tensions constitute impediments to the implementation of the Covenant.
  • 8. The Committee also welcomes the establishment of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled tribes and the National Commission for Women in 1992, and the National Commission for Minorities in 1993. These commissions have initiated some improvements, in particular in the levels of education and in the representation of the various groups concerned within elected bodies and other authorities.
  • 10. The Committee has noted that positions in elected bodies are reserved for members of scheduled castes and tribes and that a constitutional amendment has reserved one third of the seats in elected local bodies (Panchayati Raj) for women. The Committee also notes the introduction of a bill to reserve one third of the seats for women in the Federal Parliament and in state legislatures.
  • 15. The Committee notes with concern that, despite measures taken by the Government, members of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, as well as the so called backward classes and ethnic and national minorities continue to endure severe social discrimination and to suffer disproportionately from many violations of their rights under the Covenant, inter alia inter-caste violence, bonded labour and discrimination of all kinds. It regrets that the de facto perpetuation of the caste system entrenches social differences and contributes to these violations. While the Committee notes the efforts made by the State party to eradicate discrimination: it recommends that further measures be adopted, including education programmes at national and state levels, to combat all forms of discrimination against these vulnerable groups, in accordance with articles 2, paragraph 1, and 26 of the Covenant.

The Committee draws to the attention of the Government of India the provisions of paragraph 6 (a) of the guidelines regarding the form and content of periodic reports from States parties, and requests that, accordingly, its next period report, due on 31 December 2001, should contain material which responds to all these concluding observations. The Committee further requests that these concluding observations be widely disseminated among the public at large in all parts of India.

Examination of India, 27-27 March 1991, CCPR 46th session:

CCPR Concluding Observations

In March1991, the Human Rights Committee considered the second periodic report of India and issued its Concluding Observations (A/46/40). In the Concluding Observations, the Committee notes among other things the following:

Non-discrimination and equality of the sexes

  • 272. With reference to that issue, members of the Committee wished to receive information on the effectiveness of the special provisions designed to promote the advancement of “any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or the scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes”; on the participation of members of these groups and of women in the political and economic life of the country, including the percentage of government and public sector employment at present reserved for such groups: on whether the classification of “backwardness” was solely made on the basis of caste; on how membership in scheduled castes and scheduled tribes was determined in individual cases: and on in which respects, other than in the exercise of political rights, the rights of aliens were restricted as compared with those of citizens.
  • 274. In his reply, the representative of the State party explained that according to the 1981 census, about 105 million Indians were members of scheduled castes, while 54 million were members of scheduled tribes, The Government was required by the Constitution to reserve a certain number of posta and a certain number of seats in Parliament and in the state legislatures for members of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. The Constitution also provided that the claims of members of scheduled castes or scheduled tribes should be taken into consideration in the appointment process for posts and services in connection with national or state affairs, Furthermore, a series of five-year plans for the advancement of “backward” classes was a priority element of national policy. The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribos (Prevention of Atrocities) Act had been enacted following the receipt of reports of atrocities committed against such persons.
306. Members of the Committee expressed their thanks to the representatives of the State party for their cooperation in presenting the second periodic report of India and for having engaged in a fruitful and constructive dialogue with the Committee. Although the report had been drafted in conformity with the Committee’s guidelines regarding the form and contents of reports from States parties under article 40 of the Covenant, it failed to refer to practice and the specific implementation of legislative provisions and, in that respect, was deficient. Satisfaction was expressed over the improvements that had occurred since the consideration of the initial report of India, including, in particular, the legislation recently enacted to prohibit the practice of eati, the measures taken to prevent “dowry deaths”, the efforts made on behalf of the scheduled castes and tribes, the role of the Supreme Court in upholding provisions of the Covenant that were not contained in the Indian Constitution, and the new provisions on legal aid.