Despite ample information provided by the UN system itself and civil society groups working on Dalit rights in Bangladesh, only one recommendation addressing the rights abuses faced by Dalits was brought forward at the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the human rights situation in Bangladesh.
The recommendation stating that the state must “Step up efforts in order for indigenous peoples, especially the jumma as well as the dalit fully enjoy their human rights,” was issued by Peru, but not accepted by Bangladesh.
On a positive note, a number of recommendations that relate indirectly to Dalit rights were accepted and many of them related directly to the need for the adoption of the long awaited Anti-Discrimination Bill – which was first drafted in 2014. The recommendations come from a wide range of states including, Georgia, Thailand, South Africa, Austria and France.
Ahead of the review IDSN, the Bangladesh Dalit and Excluded Rights Movement (BDERM) and Nagorik Uddyog submitted a joint report to the UPR process and distributed a factsheet with recommendations on protecting the human rights of Dalits in Bangladesh.
The submission urged compliance with international human rights standards with regard to speeding up the adoption of the Anti-discrimination act, ensuring disaggregated data on the Dalit population, protection of political, economic and social rights protected by the constitution and international human rights obligations—including access to education, justice and housing and protection from multiple forms of discrimination.
The state report also noted in their report, under the ‘Socially marginalized and vulnerable groups’ section that:
In order to empower the underprivileged sections of society (Dalits, Harijans, Bede, Tea Plantation Workers, Transgenders etc,) and put an end to all sorts of discrimination against them, the Law Commission has prepared the Anti-discrimination Bill, 2014, which is now under active consideration of the government.
In the official compilation of UN information included in the UPR process concerns over caste-based discrimination and the status of the anti-discrimination bill were released. These included information received by the Special Rapporteur on violence against women voicing concern over, ‘high levels of violence, including rape and sexual assault, against women from religious and ethnic minority communities, with Dalits, Hindus and indigenous groups being most at risk’.
The UPR review’s summary of stakeholders’ information also made reference to the joint IDSN, BDERM and Nagorik Uddyog submission by highlighting the recommendation to take immediate action to establish a National Dalit Rights Commission and to investigate violence against religious minorities and Dalits, and to prosecute the perpetrators. The stakeholders’ report also referenced the IDSN joint submission stating that:
“approximately 5.5 million Dalits face widespread poverty, ostracization and food insecurity and are subjected to land grabbing, violence and forced conversion, exclusion, ‘untouchability’ practices and difficulties in accessing legal protections. Dalit students study in a hostile environment, regularly facing abusive words and practices. <…> Dalit women are particularly vulnerable to violence and face multiple forms of discrimination in every sphere of life. It recommended initiating programmes designed to meet their particular needs.”
Moreover, the report outlines that IDSN and another joint submission, “stated that the draft Anti-Discrimination Act is still under consideration after more than 3 years. They recommended accelerating the adoption of the Act and ensuring its effective enforcement.”
An IDSN delegation attended the UPR-Pression in April 2018 and have made sure the country delegations were informed.
During the review the state representatives did not make direct reference to Dalits but commented on the Anti-discrimination Bill by stating that they are seriously considering two drafts of the bill – one prepared by the Law Commission and one from the National Human Rights Commission. The government representative stated during the review that the bill will be ready “soon”.