The outcome report on the United Nations Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Pakistan has been published and will be presented during the 53rd session held from 19 June to 14 July 2023. The outcomes of the review have implications for all marginalised communities in Pakistan, including the Dalits, who form a significant portion of the religious and ethnic minority groups in the country. Ahead of the review IDSN participated in the UPR Pre-Session and submitted a joint stakeholder submission on the human rights situation of Dalits in Pakistan. We were disappointed to note that there were no direct mentions of caste or Dalits in the outcome report.
Among the key recommendations made by the UN member states, Poland underscored the need for Pakistan to fully respect freedom of religion or belief in accordance with international human rights law. This includes reforming blasphemy laws, repealing legal provisions discriminating against members belonging to religious minorities, and halting abductions, forced marriages and conversions of women and girls from religious minorities.
Norway, Romania, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, and Croatia emphasised the necessity of implementing legal and practical measures to protect religious minorities from discrimination and persecution. They recommended upholding international human rights commitments and guaranteeing protection under the law for all religious or belief communities. These countries also called for the full implementation of the Supreme Court’s ruling of 19 June 2014, which called for concrete measures to protect members of religious minorities and their faith and places of worship.
Several states highlighted the importance of protecting the rights of vulnerable groups, including women and minorities. Japan urged Pakistan to take effective measures to protect these rights, while Mxico specifically stressed the need to eradicate the forced conversion to Islam of women and girls belonging to religious minorities. Sierra Leone, Finland, and India recommended taking concrete steps to ensure equal and effective participation of minorities and to end systemic persecution of minorities, including through misuse of blasphemy laws and forced conversions.
Italy, Lebanon, and Peru called for continued efforts to end child, early and forced marriage, as well as all forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls. They also recommended promoting and protecting the rights of women, children, as well as minorities, and setting the minimum age of marriage at 18 for both sexes.
Furthermore, the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Bulgaria, and Cuba urged Pakistan to advance the implementation of laws and programmes adopted in favour of vulnerable populations, particularly women, children, and minorities. They also called for efforts to strengthen the capacity of the human rights institutions and to ensure the protection of groups in situations of vulnerability, such as women, children, minorities, and older persons.
As the review’s outcomes clearly indicate, the international community recognises the human rights challenges faced by minorities, including the Dalits, in Pakistan. The recommendations provide a roadmap for the Pakistani government to address these challenges and ensure the protection and promotion of the rights of all its citizens, irrespective of their religious or caste affiliations.
The recommendations made during this review must serve as a catalyst for change, driving the government to enact necessary reforms to eliminate caste and religious discrimination. The outcome of the UPR underlines the necessity for Pakistan to fulfil its international human rights obligations and to strive towards a more equitable society. For Dalits and other marginalised groups, the implementation of these recommendations would offer increased protection from discrimination and violence, and ensuring their equal participation in society.