In connection with their participation in the 45th Human Rights Council session, states are encouraged to consider the ongoing and systemic practice of discrimination based on work and descent, also known as caste-based discrimination, affecting more than 260 million people globally.
IDSN issued recommendations to States, contributed to statements and observed and noted caste-relevant issues presented at the UN Human Rights Council 45th Session held in Geneva.
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.
IMADR delivered the oral statement on “Human rights to water and sanitation for Dalits in India” at the 45th session of the Human Rights Council. ID with the Special Rapporteur on Water and Sanitation. Whole text can be read below or download here.
”I have seen the men of my neighbourhood die doing this. They have slowly vanished in the sewer one after the other. One goes and the other follows. I saw Ravi die in front of me.”
“This neglect always existed, even historically, because we are Dalits … No one is bothered about the unhygienic and undignified working conditions we have to bear… We should never have to touch waste with our hands. However, while earlier we had to fight for gloves, raincoats, gumboots, today, we have to fight for PPE kits.” Amnesty India has launched an appeal for signatures to urge the government to ensure the dignity and protection of India’s sanitation workers – who are predominantly Dalits.
“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"
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.
The International Movement against All forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR) delivered a joint statement with IDSN, Jan Sahas and the Movement to end Manual Scavenging, in response to the Special Rapporteur on water and sanitation. The statement thanked the Rapporteur for his country report and echoed the Rapporteur’s concerns regarding the vulnerability of Dalits to physical assault, violence and discrimination. This statement stressed the dire situation of Dalit women who are “often subject to sexual violence including rape due to their lack of access to safe sanitation facilities”. IMADR, IDSN, Jan Sahas and the Movement to end Manual Scavenging are concerned about the pervasive culture of impunity and the continuing practice of manual scavenging. The joint statement urged India to “secure safe access to water and sanitation for Dalits and ensure justice for Dalit victims of violence”.
The Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, Mr Leo Heller, delivered a statement outlining his report on his country visit to India in 2017. He noted that caste-based discrimination has led to unequal access to water and sanitation services. India responded to this observation stating that the constitution prohibits any form of caste-based discrimination, which is a criminal offence, and according to India, “liable to harsh punishment”.
IDSN engaged with the 39th Session of the Human Rights Council (HRC), held in the Palais des Nations from the 10th to the 28th of September 2018. IDSN delivered statements, lobbied Member States and OHCHR staff and met with the High Commissioner and the NGO Committee. Read a summary of IDSN's interventions in this IDSN news piece.
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.
Ranikumari Khokar is campaigning to end a caste-based practice that condemns women to cleaning human waste by hand
Report on the lack of access to water, sanitation and hygiene for millions of Dalits in Bangladesh (IDSN news piece).