The Indian Supreme Court has ruled that the continuance of manual scavenging in the country is in blatant violation of Article 17 of the Constitution of India by which, “untouchability is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden”. The court was emphatic about the duty cast on all states and union territories “to fully implement the law and to take action against the violators”.
India is introducing new manual scavenging legislation meant to eradicate the humiliating practice of manual scavenging, which perseveres despite being outlawed for decades. Indian civil society are welcoming the initiative to introduce new legislation, but are flagging that the proposed draft legislation is missing critical necessary aspects that must be included before legislation is introduced on the 6th December.
Caste systems are present in four out of five countries ranked the worst slavery offenders, in the 2013 Global Slavery Index. India alone accounts for half of the people on the planet regarded as ’modern slaves’.
A long awaited bill prohibiting manual scavenging was passed by the Indian parliament on 7 September. But two leading campaign organisations say that much needs to be done before the total eradication of this inhuman practice is achieved.
The UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery has urged the Government of Madagascar to address the issue of caste discrimination openly. She also notes that victims of caste discrimination are generally vulnerable to slavery and slavery-like practices, such as bonded labour in South Asia.
Hundreds of manual scavengers demonstrated in Delhi on 7 August against government apathy in abolishing the inhuman practice of manual scavenging. Unless legislation is introduced soon, they will return in their thousands and prevent parliament from functioning.
IDSN press release: After travelling thousands of kilometres through 18 Indian states, the Maila Mukti Yatra – a march to eradicate manual scavenging – concluded today with an event in New Delhi. The attendance by high level officials from the Government of India as well as the United Nations is a measure of the Yatra’s success.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has issued a strong statement in support of the movement to end manual scavenging in India. The OHCHR news release is copied below.
A new report documents the situation of Pakistan's Dalit women; one of the most socially excluded and impoverished sections of the population. The shadow report for a UN CEDAW review of Pakistan in February calls on the Government to focus on education, access to basic services, and laws and special programmes to protect the rights of Dalit women.
The winner of the Dutch Human Rights Tulip 2012 is barred from traveling to the Netherlands to receive his award. Marimuthu Bharathan, a Dalit human rights defender from Tamil Nadu, has been refused a passport by the Indian authorities.