IDSN Newsletter February 2011


Dear Subscribers,

The Nepal UPR process culminated in late January when the country’s human rights record was examined by the UN in Geneva. More than a third of the states that took the floor referred to Dalits and caste discrimination in their interventions – a result which gives reason to hope for a similar level of attention to other caste-affected countries in the future. Other UN bodies have also addressed the issue in recent weeks, and in mid-March, a side event on caste discrimination will take place during the 16th session of the UN Human Rights Council. IDSN has published its annual report, which gives an excellent overview, not only of the network’s activities in 2010, but also of the issue in general. Another new publication worth studying is the ‘Dalit Rights are Human Rights’ booklet on the lives of Dalits in Bangladesh.


International News

IDSN releases annual report: IDSN has released its annual report, which includes information on important developments in the struggle to eliminate caste discrimination during 2010. There are chapters on the UN, EU, Private Sector and Communication & Networking, as well as sections on caste-affected countries and Dalit Solidarity Networks. Read more here

UPR – many caste references in Nepal review: More than 20 states referred to caste discrimination in their interventions during the Universal Periodic Review of Nepal. The Nepali government has expressed its support for a number of the recommendations made on 25 January in Geneva. Read more here

Guides to the UPR process: The Danish Institute for Human Rights has prepared two publications on the Universal Periodic Review. The first one is an introduction that gives a description of the functioning of the UPR. It is targeted at human rights professionals and activists. The second publication is a ‘guide’ to the first cycle of the UPR. Focusing on reporting methodologies, it is intended to inspire all actors involved in the process. Spot On – Universal Periodic Review – An Introduction ; Universal Periodic Review First Cycle

UN report with strong Dalit focus: The Dalits of Nepal continue to face serious discrimination, says a new report from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the activities of her office in Nepal. Examples of caste discriminaton include “physical assaults, arson, forced displacement, sexual violence and labour exploitation targeting individuals who have opposed such traditional discriminatory practices.” Read more here

UN expert “particularly concerned” about Dalit human rights defenders in India: In a statement concluding her January visit to India, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, raised particular concern for the situation of Dalit human rights defenders and noted widespread deficiencies in implementation of laws to protect human rights defenders. Read more here

CEDAW comments on Dalit women: The Government of Bangladesh was examined by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in January. In its concluding observations, the Committee expressed concern at the lack of information and statistics on Dalit women and called on Bangladesh to collect such data and take measures to eliminate discrimination against Dalit women. Read more here

Resource guide includes caste reference: The UNDP and the Independent Expert on Minority Issues, Gay McDougall, have collaborated on a resource guide and toolkit on ’Marginalised Minorities in Development Programming’. The publication includes a reference to caste discrimination (page 83), in which UN experts give their definition on this form of discrimination. Click here to download the publication. In her annual report, Ms McDougall also refers extensively to the resource guide (paragraphs 14-16).

Minority Forum considers Dalit issue: Gay McDougall was also the convenor of the UN Forum on Minority Issues in December 2010. The final set of recommendations from the Forum includes a general consideration on the caste issue (pages 3-4). Click here to access the document. One of the speakers at the Forum was NCDHR general secretary, Paul Divakar, whose intervention can be found here.

Gordon Brown shocked at living conditions of Dalits in Delhi: Former British prime minister Gordon Brown recently visited a project in India that seeks to end discrimination against Dalits – and was shocked at the living conditions he saw in the poor Delhi neigbourhood – Bhalswa. Read more here

Motion in the Dutch Parliament on EU-India trade explicitly mentions Dalits: The Dutch parliament has adopted a motion on the EU-India Free Trade Agreement and how to make sure it does not have a negative effect on e.g. children’s rights, the position of Dalits and access to cheap medicines. Read more here

Human Rights Watch highlights caste discrimination in Nepal: The entry on Nepal in HRW’s annual reportstates that “Dalits (‘untouchables’) suffer discrimination in economic, social and cultural spheres. In September 2009 Nepal announced its support for the UN agreed-upon guidelines on the elimination of caste discrimination. However, Nepal has yet to implement recommendations made in 2004 by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Mauritania reviewed at the UN: The human rights record of Mauritania has been examined by the Universal Periodic Review Working Group. A number of countries referred to the caste system or caste-based slavery. The Mauritanian government has committed to responding to recommendations from states no later than the 16th session of the Human Rights Council in March. Read more here

Corruption in South Asia leads to child malnutrition: The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) has submitted a written statement to the 16th session of the UN Human Rights Council highlighting the failure of the governments of India, Nepal and Bangladesh to ensure their citizen’s right to food. These countries have the highest rates of child malnutrition and maternal mortality in Asia. ALRC notes that landless Dalits are particularly vulnerable to the actions of corrupt governments who deprive them of resources, land and food.Read the statement here. For more on caste and malnutrition this month see the article: Child nutrition an area of concern

International Media Coverage

Dalit women’s aspirations brought home impact of ‘double discrimination’ – The Guardian; Caste of millions – Financial Times; Devadasis are a cursed community – The Guardian; Documentary on the situation of Davadasis in India, Sex, death and the Gods, aired on BBC 4 TV Channel; The first article of a series by well known journalist and media campaigner Mari Marcel Thekaekara on the situation of Dalits, and Dalit women and girls in particular has been released. The article is in Dutch and is about the success of the national campaign on manual scavenging –  Safai Karamchari Andolan (SKA) – read more here. Ms Thekaekara has also launched a blog where she writes about Dalit issues. Read her article ‘Not so hopeless after all’


Main National News


Dalits missing in private sector jobs: The first ever census on caste representation in the private sector has revealed that Dalits are seriously underrepresented in the workforces of many states. The survey shows a mismatch between the percentage of Dalits in the total workforce and their share of the total population in states such as Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Rajasthan. Read press clippings here

Supreme Court to look into quotas for Dalit Muslims and Christians: The Supreme Court of India is to look into whether the Government should provide quotas and reservations for Dalit Christians and Muslims in the same way they are provided to Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists. The Supreme Court is questioning whether not including Dalit Christians and Muslims is unconstitutional and how reservations and quotas may be extended to include them. A high level meeting on this topic has also been organised.  Read more here  Following this news the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry has sought Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s intervention in the matter. Read more on this here

Read NCDHR’s January newsletter: Numerous activities to further Dalit rights in India were organised by NCDHR in January. Activities included a state level workshop on ‘Dalit Women Elected Representatives at Local Governance and their role in Criminal Justice system’, a panel discussion on violence against women and women’s rights, police training an more. Read more in the NCDHR January newsletter

Meeting on flood-affected Dalits: The National Dalit Watch (NDW) arranged the preliminary meeting of all concerned organisations and individuals to discuss the exclusion of Dalits from flood compensation and actions that must be taken to ensure Dalits receive what they are entitled to. Read more about NDW here

Government sets deadline on manual scavenging: An interministerial group headed by Social Justice and Empowerment Minister, Mukul Wasnik, has decided to set a self-imposed deadline to end the shameful practice of manual scavenging. Read more here

Press clippings – India

Mirchpur killings: After the killing of at least two Dalits in Mirchpur which saw many residents fleeing the Haryana village, residents and activists protested the lack of action by officials to bring the perpetrators to justice. The Indian media have given this extensive coverage. Click here for a list of news on the Mirchpur killings and protests

Dalit hostels: Frontline featured a long and comprehensive article on the terrible living conditions in hostels for Dalit students and the protests in Chennai to highlight the issue – read the full article here>>

Caste system: An article entitled ‘Dalit oppression result of myriad yrs of caste system’, written by Manjula Pradeep (Navsarjan Trust) featured in the Indian news outlet  ‘Daily News and Analysis’.

Other clippings include: Caste gene vs. upbringing defines Dalit dilemma – Times of India; Three Dalits paraded naked for stealing – Indian Express; 3000 dalits arrested for entering temple near Madurai – Mumbai Mirror


OHCHR-Nepal calls for concrete implementation of UPR review: Following the Universal Periodic Review of Nepal, OHCHR-Nepal commended all participants in the process for their commitment and called on the Government of Nepal and all relevant counterparts to “build on the momentum of the UPR through concrete implementation.” Read the press release here

Threats to Nepali human rights defenders hamper democratisation: Dalit human rights defenders in Nepal face serious difficulties when attempting to carry out their work. In particular, the work of Dalit women human rights defenders is not being recognised, even among the mainstream human rights movement. According to a statement from the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) and other organisations, threats from state and non-state actors against human rights defencers directly hamper the country’s democratisation and peace process. Read the statement here


Dalit rights are human rights: A powerful and compelling documentation of Dalit lives in Bangladesh has been published by British NGO One World Action. The booklet ”Dalit rights are human rights” depicts the Dalit struggle for dignity in the South Asian country. A print version of the publication has been co-sponsored by IDSN. You can download the online version here


Buraku discrimination in real estate: Research companies, advertising firms and real estate groups are involved in a systematic pattern of discrimination against Buraku communities in Japan. According to information from the Buraku Liberation League, neighbourhoods near Buraku districts are labelled “difficult to sell”. Read more here


Events coming up

EP hearing on caste discrimination in South Asia: A hearing on caste discrimination in South Asia is taking place in the European Parliament today – 28 February – as this newsletter is being completed. One of the speakers is Dalit rights campaigner Manjula Pradeep of Navsarjan Trust. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is also participating. Read more about this event in the next IDSN newsletter.

Side event on caste discrimination at HRC16: A side event on “discrimination based on work and descent” (the UN terminology for caste discrimination) will take place during the third week of the 16th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The event will take place on 16th March and will be moderated by the Independent Expert on Minority Issues, Gay McDougall. A number of Dalit representatives will be among the speakers. The main organiser of this event is one of IDSN’s international associates, IMADR. a few days prior to the event to learn more details and click here for the HRC16 programme.

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