In a recent Geneva meeting of UN Special Rapporteurs and civil society, caste-based discrimination was highlighted by the Rapporteurs as a key cross-cutting issue of concern. A team from IDSN were present at the meeting and raised the issue of caste-based discrimination, to which there was a significant response and engagement from the Special Rapporteurs.
Significant proposals for initiatives brought up by the Special Rapporteurs at the exchange of views meeting, included, moving towards a more structured mechanism against caste-based discrimination for the next annual meeting in 2015, placing caste-based discrimination and slavery on the agenda of next years annual meeting or having a consultation on caste-based discrimination, and working on caste-based discrimination across mandates as a concerted effort.
The Special Rapporteurs thanked IDSN for continuing to bring this issue to their attention and came with committed statements. The Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Ms. Rita Izsak said,
“We have been discussing how to jointly move towards a more structured mechanism against caste-based discrimination for the next annual meeting (2015) and to see how we can move together in more concerted and coordinated effort for these 260 million people … we will work for this and assure that we are committed.”
While the The Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences Ms. Urmila Bhoola, furthered this commitment stating that,
“I would like to thank IDSN in particular for raising the issue of caste-based discrimination and its persistence and clear norms for caste-based discrimination as a human rights violation. My mandate is indebted to IDSN for raising the issue of caste-based discrimination in the form of caste-based slavery and manual labour and manual scavenging and the persistence of forced and bonded labour particularly among Dalit people. I am interested in conducting missions and writing a report on caste-based discrimination – because it raises a number of issues. I also want to call for caste-based discrimination and slavery to be placed on the agenda of next year’s annual meeting or even have a consultation to ensure that it remains to be seen as a continued pernicious issue.”
The Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context, Ms Leilani Farheed said she was committed to working with other mandate holders, also on the issue of caste-basd discrimination. The Special Rapporteurs on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health, Mr. Danius Puras, and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, brought up keeping a focus on caste-based discrimination in their work.
Ms. Frances Raday, Chair of the UN Human Rights Council Working Group on Discrimination against Women also commented that,
“We have worked on caste-based discrimination, we have been in contact with Dalit women associations and worked on the horrors of sexual violence on basis of caste-based discrimination.”
The Special Rapporteurs are stepping up the cross-mandate coordination of the engagement with caste-based discrimination following years of references to caste-based discrimination being made in key reports and dialogues from 17 Special Procedures mandate holders.
Previously seven key Special Rapporteurs released a joint statement on caste-based discrimination and the commitment to fighting caste-based discrimination voiced at the meeting also follows on from this statement.