Discrimination based on work and descent, the UN terminology for caste discrimination, is a form of discrimination prohibited by international human rights law as proclaimed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and, inter alia, by the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Labour Organization Convention No. 111 (paragraph 4 of the UN princilpes and guidelines).
The international treaties unequivocally obligate affected governments to undertake the following:
- Pursuant to ICERD, caste-affected governments are obligated to eliminate all forms and manifestations of direct and indirect descent-based discrimination, which, according to General Recommendation No. 29, includes caste discrimination; to ensure non-discrimination in the fulfillment of civil, political, social, economic, and cultural rights; and to take positive measures to ensure equality for Dalits and other marginalized groups.
- Pursuant to CEDAW, caste-affected governments are obligated to pursue policies to eliminate discrimination against women and to take positive measures to ensure equality for women in relation to all substantive rights guarantees to which women are entitled. These include the enjoyment of economic, social, and cultural rights, as well as civil and political rights.
- Pursuant to the CRC, caste-affected governments are obligated to protect the rights of children, including protection from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse, prostitution and other unlawful sexual practices, and child labor.
- Pursuant to the ICCPR, caste-affected governments are obligated to guarantee civil and political rights to all individuals within its territory or subject to its jurisdiction. Among other things, the ICCPR forbids the arbitrary denial of the right to life; torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; slavery, servitude, and certain instances of forced or compulsory labor; arbitrary arrest or detention; arbitrary interferences with privacy, family, and correspondence; and unlawful attacks on honor and reputation. Further, the ICCPR mandates that Nepal allow for freedom of opinion and expression; freedom of assembly and association; the right to marry freely; freedom to take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely elected representatives; the right to vote; and the right to enjoy culture and practice religion freely. Moreover, Caste-affected governments are obligated to treat as equal all persons before the law and to provide, without discrimination, equal protection of the law.
- Pursuant to the ICESCR, caste-affected governments are obligated to guarantee certain economic, social, and cultural rights. These rights include, but are not limited to, the right to work in a field freely chosen; fair and equal remuneration for work; pay that provides a decent living for workers and their families; safe and healthy working conditions; reasonable limitations on working hours and days; the right to organize with regard to labor and employment issues; social security and social insurance programs; the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living (including adequate food, clothing, and housing and the continuous improvement of living conditions); the right of everyone to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; the right to an education; and the right of everyone to take part in cultural life, enjoy the benefits of scientific progress, and benefit from the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary, or artistic production of which they are the author. The ICESCR also guarantees that the rights enunciated therein will be exercised without discrimination of any kind as to race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status.
- Pursuant to its accession to CAT, caste-affected governments are obligated to prevent, prohibit, and punish acts of torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment and to ensure that victims of torture can obtain redress in the State’s legal system.