IDSN engaged with the 39th Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC), held in the Palais des Nations from the 10th to the 28th of September 2018. IDSN delivered statements, lobbied Member States and OHCHR staff and met with the High Commissioner and the NGO Committee – find our recommendations here. Find the full agenda and programme of work online here.

High Commissioner addresses the 39th Session of the Human Rights Council

Michele Bachelet, the newly appointed High Commissioner for Human Rights, delivered her first speech to the 39th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council. This speech gave a broad overview of current violations, noting several countries that have recently made improvements or those who have yet to improve their human rights record. India was praised for decriminalising same sex relations, while Bangladesh was praised for receiving so many Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. However, Bangladesh was also condemned for its treatment of student protestors and media professionals which led to attacks, arrests and charges of defamation. Ms Bachelet also reported that anti-narcotics campaigns in Bangladesh have led to over 220 killings and thousands of arrests, “with allegations of extrajudicial executions”. Find the full statement here.

Interactive Dialogue: Item 3

IDSN and two international associates delivered three statements under the clustered interactive dialogue in Item 3 – two with the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery and one under the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of safe drinking water and sanitation.

The Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Ms. Urmila Bhoola, made a special reference to caste-affected groups in the context of discriminatory attitudes in domestic work in her report to the HRC. She urged states to increase their efforts “in addressing and preventing domestic servitude”.

IDSN, in a joint statement with Minority Rights Group (MRG), delivered a strong statement in response welcoming the report and highlighting the issues faced by Dalit women who are discriminated against, not only because of their caste, but because of their gender. These women are “particularly subject to bonded debt in the area of domestic work”. It is a practice that is prevalent in many countries in Asia and one that needs to urgently be addressed. IDSN and MRG urged the Rapporteur to continue monitoring those who are discriminated against on the basis of their caste, specifically those who are subject to servitude and modern slavery.

Anti-Slavery also delivered a statement highlighting the danger that migrant domestic workers face, particularly those who are “members of socially excluded and marginalised groups, such as indigenous people and Dalits”. The statement strongly urged States to implement the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations, especially concerning the adoption of the ILO Domestic Workers Convention, extending the coverage of national labour law and ending sponsorship systems.

The Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, Mr Leo Heller, delivered a statement outlining his report on his country visit to India in 2017. He noted that caste-based discrimination has led to unequal access to water and sanitation services. India responded to this observation stating that the constitution prohibits any form of caste-based discrimination, which is a criminal offence, and according to India, “liable to harsh punishment”.

One of IDSN’s partners, the International Movement against All forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR) delivered a joint statement with IDSN, Jan Sahas and the Movement to end Manual Scavenging, in response to the Special Rapporteur on water and sanitation. The statement thanked the Rapporteur for his country report and echoed the Rapporteur’s concerns regarding the vulnerability of Dalits to physical assault, violence and discrimination. This statement stressed the dire situation of Dalit women who are “often subject to sexual violence including rape due to their lack of access to safe sanitation facilities”. IMADR, IDSN, Jan Sahas and the Movement to end Manual Scavenging are concerned about the pervasive culture of impunity and the continuing practice of manual scavenging. The joint statement urged India to “secure safe access to water and sanitation for Dalits and ensure justice for Dalit victims of violence”.

General Debate: Item 8

Item 8 deals with the follow-up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, it is in the form of a General Debate.

IDSN lobbied states to reinforce the recommendations on discrimination against Dalits that were given to Bangladesh during its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in May 2018. IDSN met with States who made recommendations urging for the elimination of discriminatory practices against Dalits, to ensure that these States engaged with this issue again during the General Debate.

IDSN made another joint statement with Minority Rights Group under Item 8. This statement focused on the global prevalence of caste-based discrimination despite the Vienna Declaration and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Caste based discrimination, or discrimination based on work and descent, affects almost every human right, and can be perpetuated throughout generations. Despite legislation and policy development, lack of enforcement and judicial caste bias often lead to complete impunity for perpetrators who have violated Dalits’ rights. This statement also stressed the intersectional effects on Dalit women, who suffer gender-based violence as well as caste-based violence. According to the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Dalit women are often “displaced, pushed into prostitution and victims of trafficking”. IDSN and MRG urged the Council to pay more attention to those affected by caste-based discrimination.

ECOSOC accreditation

IDSN has also attended a meeting with the High Commissioner and Civil Society and a briefing by the ECOSOC President. At each of these meetings, IDSN raised the issue of IDSN’s continually deferred ECOSOC accreditation. This deferral has continued for 11 years and was raised by the former High Commissioner in the 38th Session of the HRC. Find out more information about the unjustified deferral of IDSN’s ECOSOC status here.