Over the past months the campaign to end caste discrimination in key South Asian diaspora communities has gathered momentum. Anti-caste groups and activists in the US, Canada, UK and Australia have carried out targeted advocacy and made significant progress towards the goal of ensuring protections and legal recourse for those experiencing caste discrimination in South Asian communities globally.
Voices represented in Indian media are overwhelmingly upper-caste and male. Now Dalit-led media, taking inspiration from Dr. Ambedkar’s legacy and Black liberation movements, is bringing their experiences to light with grace and humor — both at home and in the diaspora.
Columbia University in New York hosted a pioneering 2-day Dalit Film and Cultural festival, featuring films that give direct voice to the Dalit experience and reflect on society from a Dalit perspective. The festival took place from 23-24 February, and was organised by the US Ambedkarites.
Equality Labs has released a survey report on Caste in the United States. The report came out of a community driven survey conducted in 2016 and has now emerged as a crucial document that both presents the first evidence of Caste discrimination in the US and helps to map the internal hegemonies within our communities.
In a U-turn policy change the UK Government has decided that despite reports commissioned by the Government itself finding evidence of caste-based rights violations in the UK, caste will not be included as a protected characteristic alongside race, religion and ethnicity in the UK Equalities Act.
The UK’s Indian Diaspora community are going head to head as the Government’s consultation on caste discrimination legislation is extended. In several media reports groups that are pro and anti the introduction of legislation against caste discrimination in the UK, are arguing about the impact of such a move.
In an effort to raise global awareness and engagement on the issue of caste-based violence and discrimination, particularly against Dalit women, a group of Dalit women leaders have toured through Germany and the United States this past month with more tour dates coming up. The women are using visual storytelling through photographs and videos, participating in seminars and engaging on social media via #dalitwomenfight to bring their message to an international audience.
Following a ‘cast out caste’ campaign by the Dalit Solidarity Network in the United Kingdom, demanding that UK political parties make their position on caste clear, the Liberal Democrats and Labour party are showing clear support for outlawing caste discrimination in the UK.
Live streaming, hackathons, radio shows, flashmobs, a facebook and twitter campaign and an interactive online timeline charting Dalit history, curated by Dalits and driven by Dalit women, have all been a part of April’s ‘Dalit History Month’.
IDSN and fourteen other international and regional NGOs have sent a joint open letter to US Secretary of State, Mr. John Kerry, urging the US to take leadership in supporting IDSN’s application for UN consultative (ECOSOC) status. The application has been unjustly deferred for over 7 years.
Following the successful Global Conference on Defending Dalit Rights, held in Washington DC from the 19-21 March, a declaration has been released demanding strong support from the UN and the United States to support the struggle to end caste discrimination and more action.
The house resolution introduced on the 16th of March by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton condemns caste-based discrimination ad asks for the international community to act on this. The 1st Global Conference on Dalit Rights, which took place in Washington DC from 19-21st of March honoured the Congresswoman for introducing the resolution and urged congress to show strong support for it.
Global day of action to end caste discrimination The 21st June has been launched by a number of Dalit NGOs as a global day of action to end caste discrimination and marches were carried out in London, Washington DC, San Francisco and India. In London, a letter was presented to Prime Minister David Cameron and in Washington DC protesters picketed outside the Capitol, demanding that Congress pass a binding resolution mandating action by US agencies in caste-affected countries.
”Even if no one else recognizes us as human, we will shout it from the rooftops. … The shame is not on the women, the shame is on India,” said US Dalit woman filmmaker Thenmozhi Soundararajan in the talk she gave together with Asha Kowtal from AIDMAM, at the high profile Women in The World Summit in New York. Uma Thurman introduced the talk by playing the part of a Dalit woman rape victim and NBC anchor Cynthia McFadden moderated the discussion.
Americans Declare Empathy with Dalits at US Congress event Descendants of prominent African American families, who led the civil rights movement, presented a Declaration of Empathy to the US congress. The declaration appeals to all Americans to stand in solidarity with the Dalits of South Asia to fight caste discrimination and caste-based slavery.