Nepal urged to end caste discrimination by enshrining human rights in its new constitution. Thousand of Dalits demonstrate in the country’s capital.

Nepal’s Constituent Assembly (CA) must seize a historic opportunity to ensure the human rights of all its citizens, including Dalits, in the country’s new constitution, a global coalition of human rights groups said today.

As thousands of Dalits rallied in Kathmandu to mark International Human Rights Day, the groups – the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice(CHRGJ) at New York University School of Law, the Dalit NGO Federation(DNF), the Feminist Dalit Organization (FEDO) and IDSN – called on the CA to undo centuries of discrimination faced by Dalits and other vulnerable groups.

“With this year’s Human Rights Day dedicated to non-discrimination, we should shine the light on Dalits, whose most basic human rights have been denied on every level,” said CHRGJ Faculty Director, Smita Narula.  “The drafting of the new constitution gives Nepal an unprecedented opportunity to dismantle a caste system that continues to keep millions trapped in an unconscionable state of segregation and oppression.”

A draft is expected to be finalised and released for public debate in early 2010.  The statement called on Nepal’s political party leaders and the Prime Minister to live up to their promises to end caste discrimination and ensure Dalit rights in the new constitution. Nepal has begun to take the lead on the issue on the world stage by promoting the draft UN principles and guidelinesto end caste discrimination as “a useful tool” to “eliminate this scourge from society.”

International attention to caste discrimination has increased recently. In her recent ground-breaking statement, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, proclaimed that “the time has come to eradicate the shameful concept of caste.” The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal has just launched a campaign that will highlight issues of discrimination, including caste discrimination.

To read the full statement, click here

OHCHR-Nepal press release on anti-discrimination campaign