UN experts spoke out about the links between discrimination and slavery at the webinar “Contemporary Slavery & Racial Discrimination: Civil Society Support to Survivors during the Pandemic” organised by the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, the UN Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, the Geneva Human Rights Platform and the UK Mission in Geneva, on 2 December. Several experts raised concern over caste discrimination and caste-based occupations as well as the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on vulnerable groups.
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) hosted the global webinar “When language excludes and discriminate”, focusing on descent-based discrimination and words that serve to discriminate, in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. The event took place on 12 October and was co-organised by IDSN.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On Friday 8 March, Ruth Manorama, a Dalit human rights defender, delivered a statement, co-sponsored by the International Movement Against All Forms of Racial Discrimination and by the Right Livelihood Award (in solidarity with IDSN), during the 40th regular session of the Human Rights Council. She also spoke on the panel at the Right Livelihood side-event on Women Human Rights Defenders.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachelet, raises concern over increasing marginalisation and discrimination in India, in her speech to the UN Human Rights Council in March. Speaking about the situation in India, the High Commissioner shows concern over the fact that, despite significant poverty reduction in general terms, there has been, “increasing harassment and targeting of minorities – in particular Muslims and people from historically disadvantaged and marginalised groups, such as Dalits and Adivasis”. She points out to narrow political agendas in that country lead to further marginalisation of vulnerable people.
The new report Caste and Development: Tackling Discrimination Based on Work and Descent has just been released by the UK NGO development network BOND, highlighting the urgent need to address caste discrimination in order to progress on the UN Sustainable Development Goals. "Caste affects a fifth of the world’s population but the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) don’t mention it, despite caste-based discrimination being a significant barrier to leaving no one behind. Bond explores this crucial omission in this report and identifies a set of practical actions for policymakers and civil society organisations."
A brand new IDSN Ambassadors Group is launched today. The group is made up of several highly distinguished human rights advocates, who will use their knowledge and skills to ensure that caste discrimination never falls off the global human rights agenda.
The UN OHCHR have released a news piece stating that, “Many speakers highlighted the "emblematic" case of the International Dalit Solidarity Network, whose application for accreditation has been deferred by the NGO Committee for 10 years now. The organization advocates for non-discrimination of Dalits. Over the 10 years, its application has received some 83 questions, all from India, in some cases the same question several times over, resulting in its application being repeatedly postponed for consideration until the following year. Read the full news article by the OHCHR.
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.
In IDSN’s 10th December statement on the occasion of the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we share our dream that one day love and respect for human rights will prevail over brutal caste oppression and injustice.
UN experts on gender discrimination voiced concerns over the difficulties elected Dalit women face in Nepal, the need for proportional inclusion of Dalit women in the Judiciary, and extreme poverty faced by many Dalit women as a result of discrimination and stigmatization. The comments were made by the CEDAW committee members at the review of the 6th periodic report of Nepal, on 23 October 2018.
The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, has been asked by a Member of the European Parliament, Jean Lambert, to outline any specific steps that the EU has taken to proactively support IDSN’s Consultative Status at the UN to date and what plans exist for future support.