The report Get Fit: Closing gaps in the OECD Guidelines to make them fit for purpose stresses the need to address discrimination based on caste explicitly in the OECD Guidelines that are up for revision. IDSN is working with OECD Watch and ARISA (Advocating Rights in South Asia) to ensure that these revisions take note of the prevalence of caste in Multinational Enterprises.
The report states that irresponsible business conduct has a particularly harmful impact on marginalised groups such as Dalits and that business failure to safeguard women from the risk of sexual harassment in the workplace leave Dalit women especially vulnerable due to the intersectional gender and caste discrimination they face.
This point is underscored by a recent case from the garment sector in Tamil Nadu where a young Dalit woman, Jeyasre Kathiravel, was raped and murdered by her supervisor in a factory supplying global brands. Dalit women at the factory had complained over sexual harassment from supervisors for years, but their complaints were never addressed.
The OECD Watch report points out that the marginalisation faced that makes Dalits more vulnerable to impacts also makes the harms more invisible and “generates higher barriers for them in understating their rights and seeking and achieving remedy”. The report urges that special due diligence be adopted to address the harms faced by marginalised groups.
“Many MNEs discriminate against people of low-caste through their suppliers by engaging low-caste people as forced labourers or paying them less than minimum wage; not supporting low-caste workers to collectively organise or participate in trade unions; disproportionately tasking low-caste workers with more dangerous, dirty, and unhealthy tasks; failing to ensure equal representation of low-caste people in management; and tolerating caste-based harassment and bullying in the workplace while creating caste segregated work stations, eating and drinking places, and hostel facilities,” the report states.
The recommendations of the report call for “disclosure disaggregated to reflect particularly vulnerable groups, such as women, people of low caste, and migrants” in chapter II, and states that Chapter V on Industrial and Employment Relations should include “more expanded reference to the due diligence needed to respect the rights of workers particularly vulnerable to harm, such as women and people of low caste.”
In the chapter on labour rights the report asks that “The chapter should also broaden reference to marginalised and disadvantaged workers, such as by specifically mentioning non-discrimination based on caste.”
The report also calls on increased attention to be paid to human rights defenders from marginalised groups such as Dalits and for data disaggregated to reveal impacts on relevant marginalised or disadvantaged people including women and people of low caste.
IDSN welcome the OECD Watch report and will continue to offer input to the OECD Guidelines revision process.