Caste discrimination in the context of slavery, safe drinking water and sanitation, and freedom of assembly & association, was raised at the United Nations Human Rights Council’s  42nd session in Geneva.

During the Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Contemporary forms of Slavery, Minority Rights Group (MRG) and IDSN delivered a joint statement highlighting some features of slavery today that affect Dalits, in particular Dalit women.

The joint statement stated that “Dalits have limited access to resources, education, services and development, keeping many in extreme poverty and making them particularly vulnerable to different contemporary forms of contemporary slavery.” The statement also mentioned that 80% of those working in bonded labour in South Asia are Dalits or indigenous, particularly in the rural areas.

Bonded labour is also present in the brick kiln industry, with high incidence of Dalit children working 9 to 12 hours a day. In the garment industry, Dalit girls and women are recruited under schemes which promise them large payouts after 3 years. They end up working a 68-hour week, locked inside factory and dormitory compounds, in violation of their freedom of association and movement, with reports of sexual harassment and suicide being widespread. Read the full statement here. 

During the Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation, MRG and IDSN delivered a second joint statement demonstrating how restricted the access to safe drinking water is for many Dalits, in public spaces. Dalits are frequently disentitled and not allowed to use public taps and wells located in non-Dalit areas.

The statement underscored that, “Dalits in South Asia often face violence from the outset when trying to access the public well or hand pumps. In India, more than 20% of Dalits do not have access to safe drinking water” and that “only 10% of Dalit households have access to public sanitation, as compared to 27% for non-Dalit households”. During this interactive dialogue, MRG and IDSN presented staggering statistics on the restriction of this right for Dalits.

For instance, a quarter of the Dalit households have water sources within premises as compared to almost half for the general population. 23.7% of Dalit households have access to latrine facilities as compared to 42.3 % for general households. Looking at this from a gender perspective, Dalit women are frequently the ones who fetch water and are placed at the frontline of discrimination and violence by their communities, such as verbal, sexual and physical abuse, and blockades from dominant castes.

In his final remarks of the Interactive Dialogue, Mr. Heller agreed with this joint statement, stating that in his country visit to India, he could obviously see that Dalits enjoy lower levels of access to water and sanitation, and this also applies to public spaces. Read the full statement here 

During the Interactive Dialogue with the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Mr. Andrew Gilmour, once more the denial of NGO consultative status was raisedf. Mr. Gilmour reaffirmed that “continual deferral of applications has in some cases amounted to de facto rejection and has seemed to target organizations working on human rights issues.” He again called upon the Committee to assess organizations in a fair and transparent manner. 

IDSN submitted its application for general consultative status with ECOSOC to the Committee on NGOs in May 2007. The application was first considered at the Regular Session of the Committee on NGOs in January 2008. Since then, the application has been deferred at the following regular and resumed sessions of the Committee, i.e. for twelve years. During this period IDSN has received 94 written questions, to which IDSN has always responded in due time and in a transparent manner. See here a detailed note on IDSN’s accreditation process.  

During the last resumed session of ECOSOC’s Committee on NGOs (June 2019), Mexico and the United States, both current members of this Committee, have questioned the relevant President on the reasons of such a protracted application and on the repetitive questions IDSN received once more.