IDSN delivered strong statements at the UN Forum on Minority Issues on the theme “Hate Speech, Social Media and Minorities” highlighting the need to address caste-hate speech. The Forum was held in Geneva and virtually from 19-20 November 2020.
UN Special Rapporteur, Fernand De Varennes, opened the Forum stating,
“In many countries, more than 80% of hate speech targets minorities, such as Jews, Dalits, Muslims, Roma, travellers and others.”
Representatives of IDSN subsequently spoke specifically about caste-hate speech and the issues faced by Dalits, and especially Dalit women.
“There are seldom any mechanisms of accountability to address hate speech and other hostilities from a discrimination based on work and descent or Dalit perspective. Social media and the online world is mirroring the offline world, where prejudice and hatred towards marginalised communities continue to exist,” said Beena Pallical, from the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, in her statement at the Forum.
Ms. Pallical also raised concern over trolling and online threats of rape and murder against Dalits and Dalit rights defenders, offering a number of recommendations to stand up to digital caste-hate speech.
A Dalit activist from Nepal representing Dignity Initiative painted a similar picture of Dalits in online spaces in Nepal in his presentation.
“There are a growing number of attacks targeting Dalits or Dalit communities on Social Media where casteist and derogatory remarks have become normal,” he said.
A statement from IDSN outlining the positive and negative aspects of social media for Dalits was delivered by Ritwajit Das. While Mr. Das pointed out that access to social media for many Dalit activists has increased the space for Dalit voices he also explained,
”Social Media Platforms are presently echoing the practice of discrimination and hatred that the dominant caste people hold against Dalits in South Asia. Organised groups work on creating a really strong negative public discourse including the derision of affirmative policies that seek to ensure fair representation of Dalits and advocating for the repeal of special legislations which ensures protection and prevention of caste-based atrocities.”
The following recommendations were outlined in the IDSN statement:
- Acknowledge and recognize that caste is a protected characteristic in all international covenants related to hate-speech and human rights.
- Recognize caste-hate speech is a distinctive form of hate that merits attention from and by international fora such as the UN and EU as well as INGOs and other actors.
- Advocate that digital tech corporations should be sensitive to growing online caste-hate speech and support measures to address this are incorporated into corporate human rights due diligence processes and requirements.
- Ensure Dalits are involved in the analysis of hate speech evaluation, moderation of online content and shaping of policies to address caste-hate speech.
- Assessment and evaluation of hate speech moderation/online content should be made transparent.
- Educate fact-checkers and content moderators about caste-hate speech to mitigate casteism online.
- Undertake studies on caste-hate speech in digital spaces to propose new mechanisms to mitigate caste abuse.
IDSN also participated in the regional level consultations in Asia and Europe earlier this year on this issue, that will contribute to the recommendations of the Forum.