The need for more attention to be paid to intersectional caste and gender discrimination and for transforming mindsets through human rights education and awareness raising, was highlighted at the UN multi-stakeholder hearing ‘Accelerating the Realization of Gender Equality and the Empowerment of all Women and Girls’ on 21 July.
“It is distressing that caste-based prejudices remain deeply entrenched in our world in the 21st century, and I am filled with sadness for these two young people who held high hopes of building a life together despite the obstacles presented by their accident of birth … Caste-based discrimination remains widespread, not only in Nepal but other countries, and often leads to serious harm and, as in this case, even loss of life. Ending caste-based discrimination is fundamental to the sustainable development vision of leaving no one behind.” Read the full statement from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet. The United Nations Resident Coordinator, in Nepal, Valerie Julliand, also made several statements on Twitter on the killings.
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.
"Before, I was not aware of my rights. Now, I am aware of all of them. I have the courage to stand up for myself and to ask for my rights when I am denied them," says Premalatha Tamilselvan, a Dalit woman who took part in a human rights training programme offered by IDSN member People’s Watch as a child and is now defending human rights and fighting to end caste discrimination. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights documents her story.
In February, the IDSN Membership Coordinator took part in the National Stakeholder Consultation on the UN UPR in Nepal, organised by IDSN members the Dalit NGO Federation, Feminist Dalit Organization & Jagaran Media Centre together with IDSN Affiliate the Dalit Welfare Organisation and over thirty other Dalit NGOs in Nepal. The Consultation highlighted the need to act to end caste discrimination and promote caste gender justice. Over 70 participants from CSOs, media, academia, and Government took part in the consultation.
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.
“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"
Participants and presenters shared stories, ideas and strategies at the workshop Minority Women: 25 Years as Agents of Change Together, organised by IDSN and the International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR) at the Beijing+25 Regional CSO Forum in Bangkok, on 26 November. The presenters included Judith Anne Lal, from the National Dalit Movement for Justice-NCDHR and the event was moderated by IDSN board member, Megumi Komori from IMADR. A video from the event was also shared.
DSN leaves its mark on the UN Business and human rights forum with a very popular stand, highlighting the links between caste and human rights violations in global supply chains. At the stand Dalit human rights defender Ankita Paudel from IDSN member organization, Feminist Dalit Organisation – Nepal (FEDO), and IDSN staff, spoke with participants to improve their understanding and urge them to take action. Ms. Paudel also took part in key events at the forum and made connections with other relevant stakeholders. The IDSN Director, Meena Varma, also gave a snapshot presentation on what Governments can do to start addressing these issues with businesses and IDSN Ambassador, Gerard Oonk, made important new connections and raised awareness of key stakeholders.
Henri Tiphagne, member of the IDSN board, represented IDSN in the Global Consultation on National Human Rights Institutions and access to remedy (Project on the Role of NHRIs in facilitating access to remedy for business-related human rights abuses), on the 10 and 11 October. This consultation is part of an ongoing project of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) about accountability for human rights. violations and abuses committed by corporations.
IDSN has contributed to the UN Human Rights Council’s 42nd Session with two joint statements with Minority Rights Group International (MRG) on slavery and on safe drinking water and sanitation. IDSN also issued specific recommendations aimed at states and circulated by IDSN.
Dalit human rights defenders and UN experts raise concerns over intersectional caste and gender discrimination and its adverse impact on access to human rights, at the Dalit Women and Gender Justice side-event at the UN Human Rights Council’s 41st Session in Geneva. On 25 June 2019, IDSN International Associate IMADR, and others organised a side-event during the 41st Session of the Human Rights Council, on Dalit women and gender justice. The panel was composed of Dubravka Simonovic, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Renu Sijapati, General Secretary of the Feminist Dalit Organization (FEDO-Nepal) and Abirami Jotheeswaran, from the National Dalit Movement for Justice-National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NDMJ-NCDHR). The event was moderated by Henri Tiphagne, from Peoples’ Watch, in India.
Renu Sijapati, from the Feminist Dalit Organisation – FEDO Nepal, delivered an oral statement at the 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council in June 2019, encouraging Nepal to implement the recommendations in the UN Nepal visit report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women. The visit took place in October 2018.