Rekha’s story - Rekha Bai is a 32-year-old woman from Rajasthan, India. When she was a child she was married off to a man whose mother, because of her caste, was engaged in “manual scavenging.” Traditionally, women of the Dalit caste are obligated to empty the dry latrines of people from higher castes — with their bare hands. They must then carry the waste on their heads, in wicker baskets, to a dumpsite outside the village. Following tradition, Rekha inherited this responsibility when her mother-in-law became too old. “As payment for my labour I got just one chapatti from each household.”
Dalit children being made to sit and eat separately from other children, being beaten, abused and forced to do humiliating tasks, form part of the cases uncovered during the ‘Zero Discrimination in School Education’ campaign in India. These cases are highlighted in the report ‘Exclusion in Schools – A Study on Practice of Discrimination and Violence’ by the National Dalit Movement for Justice (NDMJ-NCDHR) and the Centre for Social Equity and Inclusion.
Report on discrimination and issues hampering humanitarian aid after the Cyclen Ockhi in India
Bezwada Wilson from the organization SKA, which fights to liberate manual scavengers, and Beena Pallical, from the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, explain why the Government flagship sanitation drive is failing when it neglects to address the role of caste and manual scavenging.
Mayawati was illiterate for much of her life. As a Dalit woman, she faced discrimination and was not made to feel equal. With support from the Feminist Dalit Organization (FEDO), Mayawati joined a women-led group and completed training courses. This helped her to realise how important her voice is.
A new report released by Amnesty International paints a grim picture of the situation for human rights defenders across the globe who face death, persecution and harassment for carrying out human rights work. The report raises particular concern for Dalit human rights defenders in India. “In India, those advocating for the rights of ethnic and religious minorities and against caste-based discrimination are at ongoing risk of attack. The groups facing most abuses are Dalits (members of the lower castes) and Adivasis (members of Indigenous and tribal groups),” the report states.
The EU-NGO Human Rights Forum took place in Brussels from 5-6 December with the participation of Dalit human rights defenders, who formed part of an IDSN delegation to the forum. The theme of the forum was “Human rights under threat: Exploring new approaches in a challenging global context.” Dalit defenders participated in discussions on how to move forward and how to ensure more action to fight caste discrimination, also at the EU level. Among recommendations to take forward were the need for the EU to ensure that caste discrimination is addressed in all bilateral dealings with caste-affected countries and for EU member states to raise the issue of caste-related human rights violations at the United Nations. Ankita, representing the Feminist Dalit Organisation – Nepal, also discussed the multiple discrimination faced by Dalit women in caste-affected countries and continued discrimination in Nepal.
Young Dalit activists played an active role at the 2017 Forum on Minority Issues, which took place in Geneva from 30 November to 1 December. Dalit women from Nepal and India, forming part of an IDSN delegation, gave powerful presentations under the theme of Minority youth: towards diverse and inclusive societies. They explained to participants how deeply ingrained caste-based discrimination continues to pose severe obstacles to equal participation in most aspects of life and how social media offers both new opportunities for change and new challenges.
In its 2017 Report on the “Annual Report on human rights and democracy in the world and the European Union’s policy on the matter” the European Parliament (EP) calls for an EU policy on caste discrimination and urges the EU and its Member States to, “intensify efforts and support related initiatives at UN and delegation level by implementing and monitoring the 2030 SDGs, monitoring the new UN Guidance Tool on descent-based discrimination and supporting states’ implementation of recommendations by UN human rights mechanisms on the topic of caste discrimination”.
The #dalitwomenspeakout conference takes place in Pune, India, on the 19-20 December and is aimed at facilitating Dalit women activism and offering a space for solidarity and collaboration between Dalit women. The main aim of the conference is to offer an unmediated space for Dalit women to discuss, learn and form a collective platform to transform their future. The conference is co-organised by the national platform for Dalit women AIDMAM (NCDHR) and the Krantijyoti Savitribai Phule Women’s Studies Centre. IDSN will also be represented at the conference. The organisers have launched a website with more information about the conference.
High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, Frederica Mogherini, responds to the letter from Members of the European Parliament regarding EU action to fight caste-based discrimination.
The #dalitwomenspeakout conference takes place in Pune, India, on the 19-20 December and is aimed at facilitating Dalit women activism and offering a space for solidarity and collaboration between Dalit women. The main aim of the conference is to offer an unmediated space for Dalit women to discuss, learn and form a collective platform to transform their future. The conference is co-organised by the national platform for Dalit women AIDMAM (NCDHR) and the Krantijyoti Savitribai Phule Women’s Studies Centre. The organisers have launched a website with more information about the conference.
The HRDA-India, a forum for the protection of human rights defenders, has issued an urgent appeal for action to protect Dalit human rights defender Mr. Rajat Kalsan. Mr Kalsan is working to help Dalits gain justice and protection from abuses as a lawyer and activist in Haryana state. He has worked on gang-rape cases and cases of attack and arson committed by dominant castes against Dalits and a host of other cases involving serious violations of human rights. The appeal states that due to this work, dominant caste leaders are colluding with local police to file false charges against Mr. Rajat and cause him serious harm.
Human Rights Defenders Alert – India (HRDA) has issued an urgent appeal for the protection of Professor Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd – a political analyst, human rights activist and one of India’s most prominent Dalit thinkers and Director of the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy. Prof. Shepherd was allegedly attempted killed in his car, has been physically attacked and is receiving death threats, but has been offered no police protection.
In its statement for the pre-session of the UN Universal Periodic Review of Japan the International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR) highlights the violation of the right to privacy for the Buraku people, who suffer caste-based discrimination.
The UN Expert on Water and Sanitation, Léo Heller, has stated that the failure to end the practice of manual scavenging in India coupled with the construction of more non-flush toilets, is contributing to an increase in the discriminatory practice of manual scavenging, where the lowest castes are made to undertake the duty of cleaning excrements from non-flush toilets by hand. The statement forms part of Mr. Heller’s official statement on his November 2017 mission in India.