In a newly released report, the Government of Bangladesh is called upon to enact a law against untouchability practices, and implement a national action plan to comprehensively address discrimination based on work and descent against Dalits and other excluded groups.
The Government of Bangladesh will be reviewed by the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism for the second time in April-May 2013. On this occassion, a joint UPR submission on Dalit rights in Bangladesh has been prepared and submitted to the UN by the Bangladesh Dalit and Excluded Rights Movement (BDERM), Bangladesh Dalit and Excluded Women Federation (BDEWF), and Nagorik Uddyog (Citizen’s Initiative) in association with IDSN.
The report contains findings on the human rights situation of an estimated 5.5 million Dalits in Bangladesh; one of the most politically, economically, socially and culturally excluded minority groups in Bangladesh. It also follows up on the lack of implementation of existing UPR recommendations from the first review in 2009, with a particular focus on Dalits and other excluded groups.
For the second review, the Government of Bangladesh is urged to enact and implement special measures and affirmative action to address work and descent-based discrimination and fully recognize this as a national human rights concern. In sum, UN member states are urged to make the following recommendations to the government:
Guaranteering constitutional rights and human rights protection of Dalits:
- Enacting a law against untouchabilty practices recognizing it as a criminal offence, using model legal acts from other caste affected countries (e.g. India and Nepal) and existing human rights frameworks, such as the CERD General Recommendation No. 29 on descent-based discrimination;
- Developing and implementing a national action plan to eliminate work and descent based discrimination, with a particular emphasis on Dalit women and children and other severely marginalized groups, seeking guidance from the draft UN Principles and Guidelines for the Effective Elimination of Discrimination based on Work and Descent as a guiding framework for such an action plan;
Research and data:
- Including disaggregated data on caste in the next census and other data collection, and ensuring advance categorization of affected communities in all data collection;
- Paying adequate attention to the human rights situation of marginalised groups, including Dalit women and children, in all assessments, and undertaking a comprehensive study on the human rights situation of Dalits;
Quota systems and special measures:
- Establishing quota systems for Dalits in all public educational institutes, and making reservations for adequate employment opportunities for Dalits in all sectors;
- Providing special guidelines for preventing discrimination against Dalits and other excluded groups during relief and rehabilitation work;
National Human Rights Commission and specialized agencies:
- Establishing a special cell at the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs to prevent and monitor violations against Dalit women and children;
- Incorporating the Dalit issue into the work of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to monitor and investigate cases of discrimination and violence against Dalits and other excluded groups;
Cooperation with UN human rights mechanisms:
- Observing and implementing the recommendations by UN treaty bodies and UN Special Procedures with regard to caste-based discrimination and respecting its reporting obligations to treaty bodies;
- Extending a Standing Invitation to all UN Special Procedures; implementing recommendations on the situation of Dalits made by UN Special Rapporteurs; and following up on requests for visits by several thematic mandates, particularly the Independent Expert on Minorities and the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing;
Civil society dialogue:
- Ensuring that civil society, including Dalits and other marginalized groups, is fully included in the follow up to the UPR review; and is given an effective voice in the planning and implementation of programmes and national action plans.