The Dalits, also known as “untouchables”, are often limited from equal and meaningful political participation due to the persistence of discriminatory practices and their weak economic, social and political position in caste-affected countries such as India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Dalit women are particularly vulnerable and marginalised as they suffer from multiple discrimination – as women, as poor and as Dalits.
While some governments have enacted constitutional safeguards and affirmative action to promote equal access and opportunities, e.g. reservation policies in public sector employment, implementation of such laws and programmes remains weak and insufficient.
Some governments have yet to introduce legislative measures, while others are in the process of establishing systems of proportionate representation in the restructuring of the state.
IDSN has created an extensive database on caste-based discrimination.
International human rights obligations on caste discrimination
International human rights instruments create binding obligations on governments to ensure non-discrimination for all in the fulfillment of civil, political, social, economic, and cultural rights.
In order to meet their international obligations to respect, protect, and fulfill the human rights of Dalits, caste-affected governments should take appropriate measures to prevent and address situations of impunity, non-equality, discrimination, and lack of access to civil and political rights.
UN Forum on Minority Issues
The focus of the second thematic session of the UN Forum on Minority Issues, held in Geneva on 12-13 November 2009, was on ”minorities and effective political participation”. Dalit activists participated in the Forum to highlight the situation of Dalits’ obstacles to access to equal political participation, especially Dalit women.
IDSN prepared a briefing note and recommendations on Dalits’ access to equal political participation for the UN Forum on Minority Issues.
Below is a video dealing with caste discrimination and political participation. Visit IDSNs YouTube Channel for more videos on other themes/countries.