IDSN participated actively in the 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council, highlighting the need to tackle caste discrimination through participation at key events, interactive dialogues and oral statements.

On September 16, the persistence of caste discrimination in Pakistan was raised at the side event ‘Minorities subjected to contemporary forms of slavery: addressing a global concern’, where Mary James Gill, Executive Director, Center for Law & Justice (Pakistan) spoke about the plight of sanitation workers in Pakistan. According to her, Hindus and Christians mostly belonging to scheduled castes, are subject to hazardous working conditions, and are left with no choices to seek alternative work. She gave a recent example where two Dalit sanitation workers died while saving another Dalit colleague in a 30-foot manhole.

At the event, the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Tomoya Obokata, mentioned that he has reiterated requests for visits to countries that are affected by caste discrimination.

In Mr. Obakata’s report dedicated to minorities subjected to slavery, he states, “Dalit women in South Asia face severe discrimination, and as a result they are systematically denied choices and freedoms in all spheres of life.” During the Interactive Dialogue on this report at the Human Rights Council on 15th September, IDSN international associates spoke about the strong links between caste and slavery.

The International Movement against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR), through a strong statement, noted “…many companies sourcing from South Asia are unaware of the role that caste plays in relation to who is doing what jobs in their supply chain and their vulnerability to exploitation. Even knowing that, remaining silent about caste discrimination is a part of the problem. Being explicit and addressing it directly with suppliers is the solution…”

Minority Rights Group International also made a statement during the dialogue, drawing attention to the need for societal and state led transformation to address the lasting legacies of slavery and caste-based discrimination and their structural impacts on mindsets and institutions.

Anti-Slavery International delivered a statement reminding the Council of the intersectional forms of slavery and discrimination.

On the 27 September, a Guidance Note on ‘Intersectionality, Racial Discrimination and Protection of Minorities’ was released at a workshop, and featured a case on caste and descent-based discrimination.

The Executive Director of IDSN, participated in the workshop and called for more inclusion and visibility of communities discriminated against on the basis of work and descent, as well as a wider variety of actors in this dialogue, including the private sector.

IDSN issued recommendations for states in relation to the HRC 51, ahead of the session, and  welcomes the many statements and interactions on caste discrimination at this session of the Human Rights Council.