As COVID-19 sweeps across the world it is crucial that we ensure that relief, health services and awareness raising efforts are inclusive and accessible to all irrespective of caste, ethnicity, race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or other factors. While time is of the essence in the response to COVID-19, taking a moment to ensure that high risk communities such as Dalits are included and addressed in global, national and local responses to COVID-19, can save millions of lives. IDSN and its members have documented discrimination in relief in relation to numerous disasters in the past including flooding, droughts and earthquakes, where Dalits have been left behind, not provided relief materials on an equitable basis and not given equal access to healthcare, shelter or rehabilitation due to ingrained stigma and discrimination. There is a high risk that COVID-19 will also be widespread in caste-affected countries and it is therefore crucial that the unique nature of caste discrimination and the discriminatory practice of untouchability are taken into account. Therefore, Dalit communities and civil society organisations must be consulted and included in planning and implementation efforts to mitigate the serious repercussions of COVID-19. The statement issued by IDSN outlines eight key factors that make Dalits a particularly high-risk group and offers eight key recommendations for state and non-state actors.
“Living in India and being a Dalit woman myself, I have always been exposed to Dalit literature, activism and everyday life discrimination. To find instances of transnational solidarities of India with its neighbouring country of Nepal, where Nepali Dalit women’s lives too are intertwined with gender roles, casteism and patriarchal subordination, startled me.” Pragya Roy takes a look at the status of Dalit women in India and Nepal and the bonds that join them together in solidarity.
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.
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.
Press Release – Ethical Trading Initiative – UK - Remaining silent about caste discrimination in global supply chains is fueling modern slavery, child labour and the exploitation of workers in South Asia, according to new ETI Base Code guidance for companies published today.
IDSN’s member, the Feminist Dalit Organisation in Nepal (FEDO), has issued an e-bulletin with inspirational stories of their work to push for meaningful political participation of Dalit women and fight against discrimination and injustice. Read the FEDO E-bulletin from Jan-March 2019
Article by UN Women on Durga Sob, founder of IDSN’s member organization the Feminist Dalit Organization (FEDO). She is among the 500 activists meeting in Tunisia from 24-26 April for the Tunis Forum on Gender Equality to take stock of the progress made in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration, nearly 25 years on. Read the full article by UN Women
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.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Dubravka Šimonović made a preliminary assessment on violence against women in Nepal, after her official visit to the country, which took place from the 19 to the 29 November. On the same occasion, she released an urgent appeal for the Nepalese State to step up efforts to fight against impunity and to secure access to justice for victims of gender-based violence. Read the IDSN article on the assessment here.
An IDSN delegation consisting of Bhakta Bishwakarma, Dalit NGO Federation/IDSN member, and Judith Anne Laal, NDMJ- NCDHR, participated in the 20th EU-NGO Human Rights Forum in Brussels that took place November 20-22. The Forum, organized by the EEAS and the European Commission, together with the European Parliament for the first time, gathered more than 200 civil society representatives from all over the globe. The Forum was also organised in partnership with the NGO umbrella Human Rights and Democracy Network (HRDN), of which IDSN is a member. Read the IDSN article on the NGO Forum here.
Renu Sijapati from FEDO speaks about the UN CEDAW review of Nepal 2018
Durga Sob from FEDO speaks about Dalit women at the UN CEDAW review of Nepal 2018
Upashana Pradhan from FEDO speaks about the UN CEDAW committee
Durga Sob from FEDO speaking about her experience of the UN CEDAW review of Nepal 2018
Kala Swarnaka from FEDO speaks about the UN CEDAW review of Nepal 2018
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.
IDSN member the Feminist Dalit Organisation – FEDO, in collaboration with Nepal Human Rights Commission and Open Society Justice Initiative, organised a three-day conference on "Equal access to justice for all: Using law to dismantle caste based discrimination in South Asia." This was attended by national human rights practitioners and advocates from the region, key state champions and regional actors to highlight the state and national efforts to advance the rights of Dalit and marginalized communities. The practitioners shared their experiences, examples of how organizations and coalitions are implementing wide-ranging changes to advance justice, and discuss ways that legal advocates and community partners can collaborate across organizations and coalitions to forge a way forward.
Dalit women activists from India and Nepal took part in the European Development days to share their experiences with, and learn from, other women activists fighting similar struggles across the globe. The women also shared their stories with EU officials and development actors.