"In South Asia (and amongst South Asian diaspora communities) caste may be a strong, possibly unacknowledged, factor. Caste discrimination involves violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. While often outlawed, a lack of implementation of legislation and caste-bias within justice systems leave victims without protection in many countries. Dalits (people from the most oppressed or so-called lowest caste communities) may be excluded from some jobs and concentrated in lowest paid and hardest work.7 Being from a minority religion is also often a marker of vulnerability in South Asia, with some communities facing systemic discrimination within and beyond the workplace. Most homeworkers and factory workers in the leather footwear sector in Tamil Nadu, South India, for example are from Dalit and/or Muslim communities, and may face barriers to training and promotion which are invisible to outsiders.8 Gender, caste and religious difference may operate together to create barriers to homeworkers’ access to remedy and social dialogue. Dalit women homeworkers, for instance, may face very unequal power relations and discrimination in discussions with subcontractors or suppliers. They may have had less access to schooling. These multiple barriers explain why complaints and grievance mechanisms are rarely accessed by homeworkers. These barriers can be reduced by bringing homeworkers together, so that they discuss issues and collectively find solutions, and awareness-raising and capacity-building activities, giving them a collective voice through their own organisations and elected representatives. Key Questions: • What issues of gender, caste and religious discrimination do you need to consider in your production chain? • Consider gender, caste and religious composition of teams engaging with homeworkers, to ensure that information is reliable and to avoid pitfalls of hidden power dynamics. Working with a local NGO which is sensitive to issues of gender, caste and religion may help navigate these issues (see Recommended Civil Society Organisations page 22). Dalit Solidarity Network UK is a source of advice for businesses on measures to address the risks of economic exploitation and caste-based discrimination throughout their supply chains."
IDSN welcomes the newly appointed Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Dr. Ashwini K.P., to the post. Dr. K.P. brings with her valuable knowledge and insight on discrimination based on work and descent and the United Nations.
An unprecedented collaboration between apparel manufacturer Eastman Exports and labour stakeholders TTCU, AFWA and GLJ-ILRF led to the historic reversal of a decision by the US government, thereby protecting both businesses and thousands of jobs for women workers. This framework of cooperation and goodwill between industry and labour organisations is a harbinger of what is possible when the two parties come together constructively.
Background: In April 2022, Indian women- and Dalit-worker led union TTCU signed a historic agreement with clothing and textile manufacturer Eastman Exports to end gender-based violence and harassment at Eastman factories in Dindigul, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, India. TTCU, GLJ-ILRF, and AFWA also signed a legally binding agreement, subject to arbitration, with multinational fashion company H&M, which has an ongoing business relationship with Eastman Exports. This agreement requires H&M to support and enforce the TTCU-Eastman Exports agreement. Under the terms of the agreement, if Eastman Exports violates its commitments, H&M is obligated to impose business consequences on Eastman Exports until Eastman comes into compliance.
IDSN and the UN OHCHR Minority section brought together an experts’ round table discussion to mark the 30th Anniversary of the UN Minority mandate.
Open letter re Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive proposal1 adopted by the European Commission on February 23rd. Which lays down rules for companies to respect human rights and the environment in global value chains.
Survey by the SR on contemporary forms of slavery
IDSN was delighted to welcome representatives from Dalit Solidarity Networks in Germany, UK, Finland and Norway to Copenhagen for a two-day meeting from 8-9 February. IDSN International Associate Arisa from The Netherlands also took part in the meeting and special guest, Priyadharsini Palani, from The Blue Club, made an inspiring presentation on the organisation’s work on amplifying the voices of Dalit women.
Many businesses, mainstream trade unions and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) alike, are not aware of caste and how it may relate to them if they operate in countries in South Asia. With a lack of knowledge on the realities of caste and its consequences, even progressive, responsible businesses may undermine their own efforts to protect workers’ rights and implement responsible business codes and the UNGPs.
This year, the ‘OECD Forum on Due Diligence in the Garment and Footwear Sector’ took place from the 22nd till the 24th of February. This forum is an annual event during which multiple topics – linked to due diligence in clothing and shoes production chains – are discussed by many different stakeholders.
Brief and recommendations in relation to the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights – 29 November- 1 December The rape and murder of a 20-year-old Dalit factory worker has attracted attention to poor working conditions and caste- and gender-based inequalities in India’s garment industry.
Economic, social and labour rights were the thematic headlines of this year’s EU-NGO Human Rights Forum, where three Dalit human rights defenders were featured as panellists, facilitated by IDSN. Caste-related barriers to healthcare in Pakistan, post-covid economic and social recovery for Dalit workers in South Asia and building corporate accountability to respect human rights were among the key topics covered by the panellists.
International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN) and Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA) echo the call by National Campaign on DalitHuman Rights (NCDHR) and Tamil Nadu Textile and Common Labour Union (TTCU) on garment brands to negotiate a binding agreement to end systemic gender-based violence that leverages caste discrimination at global supplier factory Natchi Apparels (SF. No:470/2 Kaithayan Kottai, Vedasandur 624711, Dindigul), after a 21-year-old Dalit garment worker was murdered by her dominant caste factory supervisor earlier this year.
IDSN Executive Director, Meena Varma, spoke on the all-female panel of the live-streamed event organised by The Norwegian Church on July 31, to discuss the deep structural injustices characterising global production, consumption and trade, and what consequences these injustices have on the most vulnerable.
Our estimates show that around 150-199 million additional people will fall into poverty this year. It means an overall increase in poverty by 15-20 per cent, making around half of the country’s population poor
A report by Arisa and her Indian partner Centre for Labour Research and Action (CLRA) are releasing this week. The report highlights a slavery-like reality for many workers working in the seed industry sector. The abuses described in this report, such as forced labour, sexual exploitation, structural underpayment, and appalling working conditions, are still a daily reality in 2021. When these workers question their employers about facts, the narrative is quickly circulated that they are disobedient and this reduces their chances of future employment. If and when you buy cotton clothing ‘made in India’, these practices might be the hidden reality behind it.
IDSN recommends UN member states to raise the issue of caste and Covid-19, adequate housing, violence and discrimination against women, and business and human rights – in connection with the 14th Session of the UN Human Rights Council.
The study focused on the working conditions of textile and gar- ment workers in the production hubs of Delhi National Capital Region (NCR), Bangalore and Tirupur. From November to December 2018 about 20 stakeholders were consulted in the three regional hubs. Stakeholders largely comprised of NGOs and research centres and few trade unions, business associations, public authority and international organisation. The full list of stakeholders is available in Annex III.
Need and objectives for EU intervention on sustainable corporate governance