The Dutch Government is addressing caste discrimination in its bilateral dialogues with India and through EU channels. Foreign Minister M.J.M. Verhagen recently answered questions on the issue in Parliament.

This report inspired 11 questions in the Dutch Parliament.

Caste discrimination is becoming more prominent on the agenda of the European Union. According to the Dutch Foreign Minister, the issue is being discussed during the annual human rights dialogue with India as well as in various EU Council working groups.

“It is being considered how the EU can give further shape to her policy on this issue. The Netherlands will continue its efforts to keep this issue on the EU agenda,” Mr Verhagen said last week while answering questions on caste discrimination from three political parties in the Dutch Parliament.

A set of 11 questions were triggered by the report ‘Understanding Untouchability’, which was recently published by the Indian Dalit rights NGO, Navsarjan, and the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. This ground-breaking study confirms that caste discrimination is rife in modern India – and that the legal system is failing to address the issue.

In his answers, the Dutch Foreign Minister noted that “even though the rights of Dalits seem to be guaranteed on paper, the implementation at the local level is mostly lacking”. He also stated that the Netherlands encourages an ‘open discussion’ on the subject of caste discrimination and directly supports NGOs that work on the issue.

Earlier this month, the Minister answered a separate set of eight questions regarding violence against Dalit Christians in Kandhamal, Orissa, and the EU delegation visit to the area. Links to both sets of questions can be found below.

Mr Verhagen has spoken out against caste discrimination on several occasions. In his recent statement to the UN Human Rights Council, he backed stronger UN measures on the issue.

Questions and answers on ‘Understanding Untouchability’

Questions and answers on Orissa violence

‘Understanding Untouchability’ report