“Social distancing is nothing new to us (Pakistani Christians) … People usually hate the sight of a sanitation worker, let alone coming close, shaking our hand, or eating and drinking with us. Unofficially, the caste-based ‘untouchable’ stigma remains synonymous with Christians, because over 90% of them come from what was the Dalit caste, the poorest of the poor.”
“Social distancing also has a dark and ominous side. In South Asia, where it has unfurled into a spider’s web of practices, it also directs violence, exclusion and bigotry upon marginalised people whose only ‘sin’ is caste, occupation or descent.”
In Pakistan, descendants of lower-caste Hindus who converted to Christianity centuries ago still find themselves marginalized, relegated to dirty jobs and grim fates.
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.
Dalit women in Pakistan are at high risk of human rights abuses due to intersecting caste, religious and gender discrimination. In the Concluding Observations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) review of Pakistan, the Committee recommends that the state addresses intersecting discrimination directly and note concern over the persistence of abductions and forced conversions, stereotypes and insufficient disaggregated data.
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.
IDSN submitted a report detailing the challenges faced by Dalit women and girls in Pakistan, for the review of the government’s report on compliance with the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW review), which took place Tuesday 11th February.
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.
Passages related to IDSN's work are highlighted.
As the first Dalit woman senator in Pakistan, Krishna Kumari Kohli, has an ambitious to-do list, from improving the health and education of women and girls to tackling honour killings, kidnappings and child marriage.
In advance of the UN HRC 37 IDSN distributed its recommendations, referring to the High Commissioner on Human Rights reports, the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on minority issues, and the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Pakistan. IDSN board member Henri Tiphagne also spoke at key side-events and the situation of Dalits was noted in several debates.
Joint statement by the International Dalit Solidarity Network, Pakistan Dalit Solidarity Network, International Movement Against All Forms of Racism and Discrimination (IMADR), Minority Rights Group International, Anti-Slavery International and FORUM-ASIA. As the UN review Pakistan’s human rights record on 13 November, we urge the Government to commit with time bound action plans to end ongoing serious human rights violations against Dalits in Pakistan. Despite general commitments made to this effect at previous UN UPR reviews of Pakistan these have not been implemented and violations such as bonded labour, forced conversions and disappearances, murder and persecution of Dalit rights defenders continue unabated. As a newly elected member of the UN Human Rights Council, Pakistan must ensure that commitments to protect the rights of Dalits are urgently and duly implemented.
Factsheet for the UPR of Pakistan (28th session, 13 November 2017)
Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Pakistan 2017 - Discrimination against Dalits in Pakistan
Activists and Members of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) review of Pakistan on 12-13 June 2017, drew attention to the serious human rights violations faced by Dalits in Pakistan. Nonetheless, the Government of Pakistan neglected to adequately acknowledge the issues and failed to outline action to combat it.
Joint submission for the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights review of Pakistan
IDSN and the Pakistan Dalit Solidarity Network (PDSN) have submitted an alternative report to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights ahead of the June 2017 review of Pakistan. The report details serious human rights issues resulting from caste-based discrimination in Pakistan.