A number of public figures and organisations have expressed their opinion on caste discrimination. Please see a few of their quotes/statements below:
UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, 2015
Millions of Dalits, Tribals and others still face discrimination, especially the women and girls. In too many communities, religious minorities also suffer. We must continue Gandhi’s battle for equality.
Saraswathi Menon, UN Women Policy Director
Legislation alone does not address structural discrimination. The UN has an important role to play and must step up to the plate to help stop caste-based violence against women.
Siddharth Kara, Director of the Program on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery at Harvard University
Every single child labourer that I have documented comes from a highly impoverished family unit and belongs to a low-caste or minority community.
Navi Pillay, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Our outrage is not enough. We must take real and focused action to mend our societies’ dramatic failure to support the rights of people of discriminated castes, particularly women and girls.
UN Women Policy Director, Saraswathi Menon
We want to capture that women are targeted for punitive violence when they transgress caste, by the community, and when seeking to organise and defend their rights and the rights of others.
Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Rashida Manjoo
The intergenerational nature of caste discrimination condemns women to a life of exclusion, marginalization and disadvantage in every sphere of life. Many of those women are denied an education and economic opportunities, and perform dangerous and unprotected work, including … modern forms of slavery.
Manisha Devi, a young Dalit activist who has been a leading figure in two month-long marches for Dalit women’s rights.
I will raise my voice against any injustice even at the expense of my own life.
Ramesh Nathan, general convener of the National Coalition for Strengthening of SC/ST PoA Act
If one uses common sense, the current Prevention of Atrocities Act is stringent and misused. But the government statistics and everyday incidents of brutal and subtle violence against Dalits and Adivasis prove that the Act is simply not working. Perpetrators use ambiguities and loopholes in the Act to evade punishment. An insensitive judiciary and police contribute in their own way to work around the Act.
Asha Kowtal, General Secretary of the National Dalit Women’s movement AIDMAM
Systems of justice meant to protect Dalit women at the national level are completely failing us. We are asking for immediate loud and clear global support in our struggle.
Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Indian National Human Rights Commission, CEDAW 2014 review of India.
There is no dearth of evidence to show that Dalit women elected representatives face severe barriers as they perform the role of leaders in governance … the SC/ST PoA Act is not implemented effectively. Culprits in serious cases like rape and murder are not punished. Caste abuses, stripping and parading of Dalit women in India is not rare.
UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, 2014 report on India.
While legislation has been adopted to eradicate bonded labour and manual scavenging, reports and interlocutors indicate that there is a consistent failure in the implementation of such laws and a tendency to minimize the significance of the problem.
India Exclusion Report 2014
Traditional caste rules mandate forced labour from certain communities. Caste is one of the foundations of the bonded labour system and remains a key feature of bondage even in non-agricultural industries today. The lack of access to their own land, combined with this expectation to perform free labour and the threat of violence and economic boycott against those who challenge their expected social roles, keeps many Dalit families in bondage and a perpetual state of poverty.
India Exclusion Report 2014
Caste remains a key determinant of a person’s future. This is perfectly reflected in India’s labour market, which is more governed by laws of social origin than by statutory legislation. Moreover, violation of caste rules by Dalits seeking to break caste-related employment barriers is prone to severe punishment from dominant castes, including economic boycotts and even physical violence.
Social sector policies need to recognize the caste and ethnic dimensions of human development. Clear and ongoing caste and ethnic inequalities are revealed in different educational achievements and earnings. This strengthens the argument for deliberate strategies to increase inclusiveness by providing educational and economic opportunities for disadvantaged ethnic and caste groups such as the Dalits and Muslims.
UN Women Representative and acting UN Resident Coordinator, Ziad Sheikh
When, for example, you are a Dalit woman, you face double discrimination leading to social, political and economic exclusion and often worse. As we know, this is a reality in Nepal.
UN minority Forum Statement of Pirbhu Lal Satyani, Pakistan Dalit Solidarity Network (PDSN)
A combined effect of low education levels, exclusion from family decision making processes and a lack of property rights make Dalit women vulnerable to labour exploitation and bondage. Rape of female bonded labourers is widespread and violent, and there is little legal recourse.
2014 Global Slavery Index by the Walk Free Foundation
A weak rule of law, widespread corruption, and poverty reinforce political, social, and economic structures of modern slavery in Pakistan. Underpinning this are culturally accepted practices that are tantamount to modern slavery… This reinforces perceptions that lower caste groups are not equal citizens and subsequently limits policy and service provisions tailored to their needs.
Veeru Kohli, Dalit woman and former bonded labourer, now working to help others escape.
My husband, my children and I were kept separate from each other… My daughter was dying of starvation because the landlord whose field I was working on was not paying me anything. When I confronted them, they beat me up.
Jony Das, resident in a Dalit colony
We do not like this lifestyle, but there is no option. Nobody will rent us houses in other areas.
Aidan McQaude, Director of Anti-Slavery International, speaking at the Annual General Meeting of the Dalit Solidarity Network UK (DSN-UK)
The enforced silence around caste-based apartheid now extends as far as the UK … the trap of caste-based apartheid that has ensnared millions of people across the world still grips, and its grip threatens fundamentally the democracy of those states that tolerate it, not least the world’s largest democracy.
Baroness Northover, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for International Development (DFID).
Statistics on caste discrimination show that these groups, particularly Dalit households, continue to perform worse than others. For example, mortality rates for Dalit children are 50% higher than those for children born in other families. Only one out of three Dalit girls completes five years of schooling compared to half in other communities.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon keynote address to the Indian Council of World Affairs
“I was deeply moved by how they are conserving and teaching Gandhi’s letters and other precious artefacts. And I reflected on our collective responsibility to conserve the spirit of Gandhi’s teachings. He confronted many forms of injustice, including against people who were then called “untouchables”. His struggle led to the historic resolution banning discrimination based on caste. Today India has laws that not only enshrine equality, but also take positive steps to address past discrimination. But millions of Dalits, Tribals and others still face discrimination, especially the women and girls. In too many communities, religious minorities also suffer. We must continue Gandhi’s battle for equality.” UN press release, 12 January 2015
Human Rights Watch
The combination of caste and gender makes millions of Dalit women extremely vulnerable to discrimination and violence, including rape.
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim on a 2015 visit to Gujarat
“Indian society has an enduring exclusion that is based, among other things, on caste identities. This bias can impede shared prosperity, serving as a basis for discrimination in many spheres, including in employment and other markets, as well as in public services.”
The reply of an Indian court judge to a gang-raped Dalit woman, upon seeing a video of the rape filmed and distributed by the dominant caste rapists and presented by the woman in court as evidence of the rape
Great, now you have proof that you enjoyed yourself
Father of a Dalit child in a Government school in India
They don’t learn anything, must sit separately and are served food last when there is often nothing left
Stalin K speaking in Norway
The apartheid regime in South Africa provoked strong reactions from the international community – the struggle against caste discrimination deserves the same level of attention.
American Dalit woman filmmaker, thenmozhi soundararajan, who spoke at the Women in the World summit in new York about violence against Dalit women
Even if no one else recognizes us as human, we will shout it from the rooftops. … The shame is not on the women, the shame is on the world that allows this to happen
Erkki Tuomioja, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Finland
Anti-discrimination and stronger participation are central in the Finnish policy, and most vulnerable groups require special attention. There is every reason to include Dalits as a distinctive group.
Dr. Sono Khangharani, PDSN member
Unfortunately, the rape of a Dalit woman is considered an act “for granted” because of their inferior social status in Pakistani society, so hardly any action is taken against the influential and wealthy landlords. Scheduled castes are living miserable lives with no protection of their honour and property.
Hira Bishwakarma, team leader of a study on Dalit women
Dalit women are at the receiving end of violence, whether domestic or social, for two reasons: they are treated as the second sex and belong to the most oppressed social group.
Editorial, The Himalayan Times
That caste discrimination incidents are regularly reported are evidence that the implementation of the law against it is rather lax, and the perpetrators are not in any way brought to book due to their clout or power. It makes a mockery of our own constitution and the law.
Durga Sob, President, Feminist Dalit Organization (FEDO)
Sadly, I don’t think our society is progressive enough when it comes to Dalits. If the educated masses working for human rights had been progressive, such an event, like what happened in Rautahat, would not have occurred in the first place.
Stalin K, filmmaker and human rights activist
As a society, when we hear about untouchability practices, we should feel outraged, as we would with other criminal acts like murder and rape. It’s time we accepted that the practice of untouchability is not the vestigial remains of some backward, social phenomenon or tradition: it’s a criminal offence. Let’s start calling it what it is.
Kumari Selja, Minister for Social Justice, India
Despite prohibition of manual scavenging, the practice is still prevalent… This dehumanising practice is inconsistent with the right to live with dignity.
Report from the National Tribunal on Dalit women
Various Dalit women campaigns across the country are regularly monitoring the cases of sexual violence against Dalit women, but unfortunately they always hit a dead end; the dominant caste threats, the inadequacy of the law enforcement agencies and the collusion between the two leaves no hope of justice.
Mari Marcel Thekaekara, Columnist, New Internationalist
I have had mail from Dalit and Adivasi friends asking why we, the feminist women and men of India, and our Prime Minister and high profile people… do not weep copiously or hold candlelight vigils when they, India’s Dalits and Adivasi people, are routinely raped, every single day in our country. I have no answer. I can only hang my head in shame.
Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus and Nobel Prize Laureate
“You are a very stratified society, more so than most others, and the caste system is very entrenched. I do think Indian society needs to be challenged about the Dalits because it ends up affecting your humanity.
Juliette de Rivero, Human Rights Watch, at UN side event on Dalit women
New laws are useless unless implemented, as we have seen with previous efforts to ensure protection of Dalit rights.
Aidan McQuade, Director of Anti-Slavery International
Slavery emerges at the conjunction of individual vulnerability, social exclusion and failure of rule of law. So it should be no surprise that those countries that tolerate systemic and often institutional discrimination against their citizens on spurious grounds such as caste should also be the ones with the most extensive enslavement of their citizens. Slavery is one of the cruelest manifestations of caste discrimination.
Joint statement by seven UN human rights experts
“We will pay specific attention to the particularly vulnerable situation of people affected by caste-based discrimination… No one should be stigmatized; no one should be considered
Moni Rani Das, Dalit woman leader in Bangladesh
“If you are not considered human, human rights do not apply to you.”
Hanns Heinrich Schumacher, German Ambassadorr
When I was asked to address this meeting, the urgency, the dimension of the problem, the meaning of being “Dalit” and in particular a “Dalit woman”, was not known to me. When I gathered more information, I was shocked.
UNDP Country Director Mr Stefan Priesner on International Human Rights Day, 10 December
The Government of Bangladesh should be encouraged to enact a law against discriminatory practices and recognise them as a criminal offence. It would also be important to establish quota systems for Dalits in all public educational institutes, and promote adequate employment opportunities for Dalits in all sectors of the economy.
Asian Human Rights Commission
The failure to adopt a new constitution has meant that addressing the issues of the Dalit community has been put on the backburner once more.
Stalin K, filmmaker and human rights campaigner
If you have come across an Indian, not just in India but anywhere in the world, who have told you that the caste system and caste discrimination is a thing of the past, then that person was either fooling you or was downright ignorant. That person, I can guarantee you, must also belong to the privileged caste.
Manjula Pradeep, Director, Navsarjan Trust, in the Danish daily, Kristeligt Dagblad
At first, the media described us as animals, but then they realised that we made a difference, and they started to report positively about us. But there are still many politicians who try to prevent the media from writing about Dalits, because they prefer to hide the problems and make India appear modern and
democratic. So there is a long way to go.
Aamir Khan, Bollywood star and talk show host
If I think that I am higher than you because of birth, then I am mentally ill.
Kala bai Lavre, manual scavenger, in The Hindu newspaper
When people say it has been 60 years of India’s liberation, I find it difficult to believe, for we are still slaves, working for others, picking up human excreta with our bare hands.
Asha Kowtal, General Secretary, AIDMAM
Every time we go into the field, we have to deal with a case of a young 12-15 year-old girl who was raped by seven-eight men, and then you just start wondering: Are they human beings or are they animals? How could they do this to a girl – and a girl who is completely powerless because of her age, her size, her mind and her caste and everything?
Siddharth Kara, Bonded Labor, Columbia University Press 2012, p.6
Almost all bonded labourers in South Asia… belong to a minority ethnic group or caste… It is crucial to understand that there remains a stratum of human beings in South Asia who are deemed exploitable and expendable by society at large.
Mitro Repo, Finnish MEP
I am appalled that Dalits in India have not seen their situation improved. The violent actions recently have shown how little has been done. It is clear that dominant castes are organising violent acts against Dalits. Unfortunately, the Indian authorities do not take their human rights responsibilities seriously.
Peter van Dalen, Dutch MEP
One of the biggest problems is that people who have destroyed the houses of Dalits, treated them as slaves and forced them into prostitution, are not brought to justice. Even worse, every year hundreds, possibly even thousands, of Dalits are tortured by the police. The Dalits in India are virtually outlawed.”
Barbara Lochbihler, Chair of the EP Sub-Committee on Human Rights
India has legislated on certain levels, but with little success… We therefore strongly urge that the Indian government and authorities – from local to the highest state level – protect and defend the rights of Dalits, and where necessary, enact new legislation.
Gulnara Shahinian, UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery.
Caste discrimination is one of the most pernicious forms of discrimination, as it condemns individuals from birth to a life of marginalisation. The links between caste, social hierarchy and slavery are strong.
Mari Marcel Thekaekara, columnist, Hindustan Times
We as a country took a moral stand on Nelson Mandela… for freedom from apartheid. This is why I now back the Dalit struggle for international support, though it irks me that our countrymen have to go to the West to seek justice. If we would get justice on our land, why would we wash our dirty linen in public?
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay:
“Caste is the very negation of the human rights principles of equality and non-discrimination” Read the full opinion piece on caste discrimination by Navi Pillay here
Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Maxime Verhagen, at the UN Human Rights Council:
“In terms of issues, I think the Council’s agenda does not yet reflect all the substantive issues that need to be addressed. Discrimination on the basis of descent or work, for example, is still missing from the non-discrimination agenda. There are approximately 260 million people in the world that suffer such discrimination. For these men and women, it is impossible to escape grinding poverty because the society
they grew up in does not allow them to take their fate into their own hands and improve themselves,”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu:
“In 2001, I noted that India was at the forefront of the struggle against apartheid and expressed the belief that the Indian people would want to end the scourge of caste discrimination. I still hope that this is so, and I strongly urge the Indian government and my own government to endorse international efforts to end the practice of „untouchability‟, which is a blot on humanity. Such support would be a boost to the struggle for Dalit rights, not only in India, but all over the world.”
Meira Kumar, the Speaker of India’s Lower House (Lok Sabha):
“We need a concerted effort to bring about a social change which can weaken these divisive forces, strengthen unity and accelerate our march for national progress”
Clive Baldwin, senior legal advisor, Human Rights Watch:
“Caste discrimination is a major global human rights issue that needs to be effectively dealt with at the international level.”
Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India :
“It is shocking that the conviction rate for cases of atrocities against SC/STs is less than 30% against the average of 42%.”
Human Rights Watch, Asia director, Brad Adams:
“political will to end the scourge of caste discrimination is needed at all levels of government to alter traditional attitudes and turn well-meaning laws into reality.”
ISO 26000 – standard on social responsibility in the private sector:
“Hundreds of millions of people are discriminated against because of their hereditary status or descent. This form of discrimination is based on a history of rights abuse justified by the wrongful notion that some people are considered unclean or less worthy because of the group into which they are born. An organization should avoid such practices and,
where feasible, seek to contribute to eliminating these prejudices.’’
UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, Mr. Githu Muigai:
“The legal framework on discrimination based on descent is unambiguous. Yet, it remains to be implemented properly. Robust action was required from Governments in order to advance in the fight against discrimination based on descent. The vital first step in addressing this issue was for States to recognize that discrimination on the grounds of descent constituted a form of racial discrimination prohibited by the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination. In the absence of such recognition
it would not be possible to effectively address the serious human rights violations and discrimination suffered by individuals and groups on grounds of caste and other systems of inherited status.”
Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Ms. Yakin Ertürk:
“Dalit women are confronted with discrimination, exclusion and violence to a larger extent than men. Land and property issues in particular, tend to cause or be at the root of conflicts over which Dalit women have faced eviction, harassment, physical abuse and assault. Dalit women are often denied access to or are evicted from their land by dominant castes, especially if it borders land belonging to such castes. They are thus forced to live in the outskirts of villages, often on barren land. Reportedly, on many occasions, cases of violence against Dalit women are not registered, and adequate procedures are not taken by the police.”
Two UN independent experts on water and sanitation and on extreme poverty:
”They [Dalits of Bangladesh] are reportedly denied education because of social stigma, and their jobs are threatened. Although they work in sanitation all day long, they have no or inadequate access to water and sanitation in their own homes. The Government must end all forms of discrimination and adopt immediate measures to guarantee their human rights.”
Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Ms. Gulnara Shahinian:
”ILO research shows a clear link in Asian countries between forced labour and long-standing patterns of discrimination. In India, the overwhelming majority of bonded labour victims in agriculture, brick making,mining and other sectors are from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.”