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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
IDSN members the Bangladesh Dalit and Excluded Rights Movement (BDERM) and Network of Non-Mainstreamed Marginalized Communities (NNMC), took part in the UN Human Rights Committee (CCPR) review of Bangladesh in March, 2017.
On 7 and 8 November, Bangladesh was reviewed under the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Prior to the review thirteen civil society organisations submitted alternative reports, outlining various issues that women and girls face in Bangladesh. Two of them highlighted concerns about the intersecting discrimination affecting women and girls, including caste-based discrimination.
Report on the lack of access to water, sanitation and hygiene for millions of Dalits in Bangladesh (IDSN news piece).
Thirty-one parliamentarians from India, Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh gathered for a meeting of the Asian Parliamentarians’ Forum on Dalit Concerns in Kathmandu, at the fringes of the 2014 SAARC meeting. The former Prime Minister of Nepal, Baburam Bhatttarai, delivered a remarkable keynote speech, calling for an international framework and a regional thematic approach to eliminate caste discrimination, and cooperation between South Asian parliamentarians for a common agenda.
Dalit women from Nepal, India and Bangladesh joined hands to assert their rights at a rally in Kathmandu, at the fringes of the people’s SAARC meeting. Hundreds of Dalit women from across Nepal gathered at the FEDO National Dalit Women conference, to put Dalit women’s rights on the agenda and In India several long marches and mass gatherings of Dalit women took place throughout November and December.
Dalits marched in Bangladesh to demand that the Government enact anti-discrimination legislation. The Bangladesh Dalit and Excluded Rights Movement also organised a seminar on housing and land rights for Dalits.
“The intergenerational nature of caste-based discrimination condemns women to a life of exclusion, marginalization and disadvantage in every sphere of life. Many of those women are denied an education and economic opportunities, and perform dangerous and unprotected work, including … modern forms of slavery,” stated the SR on Violence against Women, Ms. Rashida Manjoo, in her report following her mission to India.