DSN Statement – We strongly urge governments and companies with supply chains in South Asia, to take measures to urgently protect migrant and informal workers, including Dalits, against a loss of income, social benefits, shelter and a means to feed themselves and their families, as Covid-19 measures and repercussions threaten their lives and livelihoods.
The report covers key developments and activities within IDSN’s work under the thematic areas Dalit women and gender justice, business and human rights and equality and participation, within the United Nations, European Union, and communications and networking programmes.
As COVID-19 sweeps across the world it is crucial that we ensure that relief, health services and awareness raising efforts are inclusive and accessible to all irrespective of caste, ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or other factors. While time is of the essence in the response to COVID-19, taking a moment to ensure that high risk communities such as Dalits are included and addressed in global, national and local responses to COVID-19, can save millions of lives. IDSN and its members have documented discrimination in relief in relation to numerous disasters in the past including flooding, droughts and earthquakes, where Dalits have been left behind, not provided relief materials on an equitable basis and not given equal access to healthcare, shelter or rehabilitation due to ingrained stigma and discrimination. There is a high risk that COVID-19 will also be widespread in caste-affected countries and it is therefore crucial that the unique nature of caste discrimination and the discriminatory practice of untouchability are taken into account. Therefore, Dalit communities and civil society organisations must be consulted and included in planning and implementation efforts to mitigate the serious repercussions of COVID-19. The statement issued by IDSN outlines eight key factors that make Dalits a particularly high-risk group and offers eight key recommendations for state and non-state actors.
“Low-grade, unskilled sanitation workers often face social stigma and discrimination. This is especially true when sanitation is linked to a caste-based structure and often allocated to castes perceived to be lower in the caste hierarchy, such as in India and Bangladesh, where sanitation work is perceived to belong to the Dalit caste. This stigma compounds the social ostracizing and limitations on social mobility that workers face and often results in intergenerational discrimination, where children of sanitation workers often struggle to escape the vicious cycle of limited opportunities and sanitation work.” “[In Bangladesh] Many live in segregated sweeper colonies, which are unhygienic slumlike areas offering poor and overcrowded living conditions. Dalits (low-caste Hindus) and Christian and Muslim Bengalis” "challenges include combating the systemic discrimination Dalits face, which affects their education and real opportunities to become entrepreneurs, and the multiple layers of subcontracting that enable manual scavenging to continue without oversight or enforcement of laws by local authorities"
Press Release – Ethical Trading Initiative – UK - Remaining silent about caste discrimination in global supply chains is fueling modern slavery, child labour and the exploitation of workers in South Asia, according to new ETI Base Code guidance for companies published today.
More than 32 districts were represented at IDSN member BDERM’s 9th National Council meeting in Bangladesh. Discussions centered around the need for Dalits to be officially recognized by the Government if SDG goals of ‘leaving no-one behind’ were to truly be addressed.
Transparency International have released a comprehensive report analyising the specific challenges of Dalits in Bangladesh. The report offers key recommendations for the fulfilment of rights and inclusive public service provisions for Dalits in Bangladesh.
IDSN participated actively in the 11th Session of the UN Forum on Minority Issues from the 29-30 November, under the theme "Statelessness: A Minority Issue". IDSN members from Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan presented on how Dalits in reality often suffer de facto statelessness, due to extreme marginalization and lack of access to rights. Read the IDSN news article on the forum here.
Focus on land, higher education, employable skills.
Passages related to IDSN's work are highlighted.
Moni Rani Das, born and raised in a “cleaners’ colony”—poor and segregated settlements where street cleaners and domestic workers live—in Dhaka, Bangladesh, never imagined that she would be advocating for her rights and those of nearly 3 million Dalit  women of her country. Today, she is the first Dalit person to be part of the National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh.
IDSN, the Bangladesh Dalit and Excluded Rights Movement (BDERM) and Nagorik Uddyog submitted a joint report to the UPR process and distributed a factsheet with recommendations on protecting the human rights of Dalits in Bangladesh.
Despite ample information provided by the UN system itself and civil society groups working on Dalit rights in Bangladesh, only one recommendation addressing the rights abuses faced by Dalits was brought forward at the UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the human rights situation in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh was reviewed by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights from 15-16 March 2018. An IDSN delegation, including Dalit representatives from Bangladesh, took part in the review where several issues relating to caste-based discrimination were discussed. Ahead of the review IDSN and its members in Bangladesh - BDERM and NNMC submitted a joint report for the consideration of the committee. BDERM also issued a press release on the review.
Bangladesh is scheduled for consideration by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women during its 65th session, on 8 November. Bangladesh Dalit and Excluded Rights Movement (BDERM) and IDSN has jointly submitted an alternative report focusing on the situation for Dalit women in Bangladesh, who face discrimination at multiple levels as they are discriminated by the dominant caste and other groups in society. While other groups of women and some Dalit men are moving forward in education, economic empowerment, access to justice and government services, Dalit women are left behind.