Sri Lanka was examined by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) on 15-16 August. The Concluding Observations contained a recommendation for the State Party to increase awareness raising initatives to reject caste at the community level.
- Definition of racial discrimination 8. The Committee notes that article 12 (2) of the Constitution provides for the prohibition of discrimination, including on the basis of race and caste. However, it is concerned that the definition of racial discrimination does not include all grounds as stipulated in article 1 of the Convention, including colour or national or ethnic origin. The CERD/C/LKA/CO/10-17 3 definition also does not specify the prohibition of both direct and indirect forms of discrimination (art. 1).
- Tamils of Indian origin or “Plantation Tamils”: 20. While welcoming the establishment in 2015 of the Ministry of Hill Country New Villages, Infrastructure and Community Development and its establishment of a five-year national plan of action for the period 2016-2020 on social development of the plantation community, the Committee notes that Tamils of Indian origin, also referred to as “Plantation Tamils” continue to face the following challenges: (e) Caste-based discrimination (arts. 1 and 5).
- 22. Recalling its general recommendation No. 29 (2002) on article 1 (1) of the Convention (Descent), the Committee calls on the State party to undertake awareness-raising campaigns with the assistance of community leaders in the relevant communities to change attitudes and reject caste.
- 28. The Committee expresses concern at the persistent discrimination against children belonging to the Veddha, Muslim and Tamil communities, among whom those living in tea plantations are in a particularly disadvantaged situation. The Committee is concerned that discrimination also persists against girls, rural children, refugee and internally displaced children, children of overseas workers, children in institutional care and children with disabilities. The Committee expresses further concern about caste discrimination, which affects 20 to 30 per cent of the Sri Lankan population and contributes to their poor living conditions, rejection and marginalization.
- 29. The Committee urges the State party to closely monitor the situation of children, in particular those belonging to the above‑mentioned disadvantaged groups, who are exposed to discrimination. The State party should develop, on the basis of the results of this monitoring, a comprehensive strategy containing specific and well-targeted actions, including affirmative social actions, aimed at eliminating all forms of discrimination against them. The Committee further calls upon the State party to investigate caste-based discrimination and to mobilize communities and government employees against such discrimination through awareness-raising programmes.
In April 1991, the Human Rights Committee considered the second periodic report of Sri Lanka 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
- 463. In reply, the representative said that the Commission for the Elimination of Discrimination and the Monitoring of Fundamental Rights consisted of Persons having expertise in such areas as law, medicine, science, engineering, banking and administrative or social service. Its mandate was to eliminate unjust discrimination by government agencies on the grounds of race, religion, language, caste. sex, political opinion, or place of birth. The Coinmission was not empowered to investigate diecrimination by a private entity. The disparity in the number of women admitted to university reflected the fact that in the social context of Sri Lanka, fewer women than men sought employment. Universal adult enfranchisement since 1931 had ensured the free and unhindered participation of women in the country’s political institutions, as was evidenced by the number of women occupying government posts. According to the Constitution, all persons, regardless of nationality and citizenship, were equal before the law and were entitled to equal protection before the law, except in respect of freedom of movement and extradition rules. Private companies were beyond the dictates of the Government. Responsibility for the treatment of Sri Lankan women abroad rested with the receiving State, Prisoners were not allowed to vote for hiotorical reasons predating the constitution.