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The newly released Human Rights Watch World Report 2015 and the Amnesty International 2014-15 report find that caste discrimination persists with adverse effects to human rights on multiple levels. Serious obstacles to access to justice, discrimination in education and access to services and caste-based violence, including rape of Dalit women, are among the key themes addressed in the reports. These concerns are also noted in the latest India and Nepal reports of the US State Department.

Failure of state authorities to protect the rights of Dalits

In the India chapter of the Amnesty International 2014-15 report it is noted that “corruption, caste-based discrimination and caste violence remained pervasive,” and that,

“state authorities often failed to prevent and at times committed crimes against Indian citizens, including children, women, Dalits and Adivasi (Indigenous) people.” Amnesty International

The report also finds that,

“torture and other ill-treatment continued to be used in state detention, particularly against women, Dalits and Adivasis.” Amnesty International

This concern is also raised in the Nepal chapter where it is noted that caste and other discrimination remained rife in Nepal and that, “victims were subject to exclusion and ill-treatment, and torture including rape and other sexual violence.”

It was furthermore found that, “the Caste-based Discrimination and Untouchability Act of 2011, was applied in only a handful of criminal cases due to a lack of awareness about the Act and victims’ fears of reporting attacks. Rape laws continued to be inadequate and to reflect discriminatory attitudes towards women.”

Human Rights Watch in their India chapter similarly note that several court cases in 2014 had served to highlight, “the difficulties the Dalit community has in obtaining justice and “the failure of prosecutorial authorities.” The report also underscores this argument with the persistence of the practice of manual scavenging – the cleaning by hand of human waste by Dalits – despite laws banning it and a Supreme Court verdict in 2014 that India’s constitution requires state intervention to end the practice.

This reports also echo the latest country human rights report from the US State Department (their 2014 reports has not yet been released). In its India report the State Department writes,

“Although the law protects Dalits, they faced violence and significant discrimination in access to services, such as health care, education, temple attendance, and marriage. Many Dalits were malnourished. Most bonded labourers were Dalits. Dalits who asserted their rights often were attacked, especially in rural areas. As agricultural laborers for higher-caste landowners, Dalits often worked without remuneration. Reports from the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination described systematic abuse of Dalits, including extrajudicial killings and sexual violence against Dalit women. Crimes committed by upper-caste Hindus against Dalits often went unpunished, either because authorities failed to prosecute perpetrators or because victims did not report crimes due to fear of retaliation.” US State Department

The State Department report also gives several case examples and in the Nepal country report similarly writes, “despite passage of the Caste Discrimination and Untouchability Act in 2011, a rigid caste system continued to operate throughout the country in many areas of religious, professional, and daily life. Societal discrimination against lower castes, women, and persons with disabilities remained common, especially in rural areas…”

Rape and violence against Dalit women

All three reports highlight rape and violence against Dalit women. The Amnesty International report states that,

“[in Nepal] Women from marginalized groups, including Dalits and impoverished women, continued to face particular hardship because of multiple forms of discrimination. In India, Dalit women and girls continued to face multiple levels of caste-based discrimination and violence.” Amnesty International

The US State Department report notes that,

“National crime statistics indicated that, compared with other caste affiliations, rape was most highly reported among Dalit women,” and that “Lack of law enforcement safeguards and pervasive corruption limited the effectiveness of the law.” US State Department

Concern is also raised over bonded-labour practices directly affecting Dalit women.

Bonded labour, child labour and obstacles to education for Dalit children

The Human Rights Watch report highlights the practice of manual scavenging and US State Department highlights the Sumangali scheme in the South Indian textile industry,

“During their years of bonded labour, the women were subjected to serious workplace abuses, severe restrictions on freedom of movement and communication, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, sex trafficking, and death. The majority of sumangali-bonded laborers came from the SCs [scheduled castes – Dalits] … most sumangali workers did not report abuses due to fear of retribution.” Human Rights Watch

Bonded labour of Dalit children and discrimination against them was also found to severely impede their possibilities for staying in school.

Echoing findings from their 2014 report “They say we’re dirty”, on education in India, the  report also states that,

“millions of children, particularly from vulnerable Dalit, tribal, and Muslim communities, facing discrimination, inadequate support in government schools, and pressures to earn money, soon drop out and start working.” Human Rights Watch

The Amnesty International Report also states that schemes to ensure education for disadvantaged families in India were “poorly implemented” and that “Dalit and Adivasi children continued to face discrimination in school.”

In relation to access to education the US State Department referred to NGO reports stating that,

“During the year there were reports that school officials barred Dalit children from morning prayers, asked Dalit children to sit at the back of the class, or forced Dalit children to clean school toilets while denying them access to the same facilities. There were also reports that teachers refused to correct the homework of Dalit children, refused to provide midday meals to Dalit children, and asked Dalit children to sit separately from children of upper-caste families.” US State Department

Caste-Related Extract from the reports:

Amnesty International 2014-15 report – caste extracts

Human Rights Watch 2015 World Report – caste extracts

US State Department 2013 Human Rights Report on India – caste extracts

US State Department 2013 Human Rights Report on Nepal – caste extracts


Amnesty Report 2014-15 coverHRW report cover