IDSN has submitted input on caste to the study on gender justice of the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, highlighting that social (online and offline) spaces where Dalit women would normally freely exchange their views and ideas are fraught with several instances of sexist and casteist discrimination, which, intersected, impose considerable obstacles for the enjoyment of freedom of expression. In this submission IDSN offer advice on what can be done to stand in solidarity with Dalit women and be a catalyst of change.
Contribution from the International Dalit Solidarity Network – IDSN to the UNGA76 report on Gender Justice and the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression by the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression.
“Today, we are not here to speak about our plight, We are also agents of change”
Ruth Manorama, speaking at the Human Rights Council (2019)
Across the globe, over 260 million people risk segregation, exploitation, physical and psychological abuse because of their caste.Most of the affected communities live in South Asia – they commonly use the term ‘Dalits’. Similarly affected groups are also found elsewhere in Asia as well as in Africa, in the Middle East, and in diaspora communities from South Asia and Africa. Caste-affected countries such as India, Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh remain deeply patriarchal societies where women are often oppressed by men and socially restrained from accessing the same rights, services and privileges.
Intersectional caste and gender discrimination leaves Dalit women and girls as some of the furthest behind when it comes to achieving the UN Global Goals and therefore this type of discrimination needs special focused attention.
The right to freedom of opinion and expression are paramount for the empowerment of Dalit women. Yet, social (online and offline) spaces where Dalit women would normally freely exchange their views and ideas are fraught with several instances of sexist and casteist discrimination, which, intersected, impose considerable obstacles for the enjoyment of freedom of expression. Since this right is articulated with an array of other rights, Dalit women feel trapped in patriarchal values that perpetuate exclusion and marginalization. Even when they get spaces to freely express their thoughts, they find enormousobstacles, such as hindered political participation and hate speech online and offline. Attempts at political influence are oftenmet with violent reprisals or economic sanctions and even when given a political seat, Dalit women are often forcefully silenced or ridiculed. Dalit women defenders face various forms of violence, ridicule and stigma when asserting their rights.
Dalit women are leading the way by standing up for their rights, but they need global solidarity and justice to catalyse their access to rights and dignity. In this submission we highlight some of the key challenges faced by Dalit women and girls in relation to the specific UN Global Goals and targets and offer advice on what you can do to stand in solidarity with these women and be a catalyst of change.
This submission demonstrates two important obstacles for Dalit women to enjoy freedom of expression in equal footing.