UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism
The UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism has been particularly committed to addressing caste discrimination as a contemporary form of racism. Both the former mandate holders, Mr. Doudou Diène (2002-2008) and Mr. Gitui Muigai (2008-2011), and the current Special Rapporteur, Mr. Mutuma Ruteere, have affirmed that caste discrimination is implicit in this mandate.
In 2008, Mr. Diène stated in a report to the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/7/19) that:
Despite the objection of some member States, the main human rights bodies working in the areas of racism and discrimination have clearly stated that prohibition of this type of discrimination [on the grounds of caste] falls within the scope of existing instruments, in particular the International Convention on the Elimination of Alls Forms of Racial Discrimination.
In June 2011, the UN Special Rapporteur Mr. Muigai presented a report on discrimination based on work and descent. In the report (A/HRC/17/40) the Special Rapporteur analyses the manifestations, good practices, and contemporary challenges of eliminating this form of discrimination globally.
In June 2014, the UN Special Rapporteur, Mr. Mutuma Ruteere presented a report to the 26th session of the Human Rights Council A/HRC/26/49 in which he references the general recommendation XXIX on descent-based discrimination and recommended that States take strict measures against any incitement to discrimination or violence against descent-based communities, including through the Internet.
See references to the work of the Special Rapporteur on racism on IDSN’s database
Durban Review Conference and DDPA
During the Durban Review Conference, Mr. Muigai reiterated this position and called for enhanced implementation and robust action by affected governments in order to advance in the fight against this form of discrimination in a statement on 21 April 2009.
At a side event on “Communities Empowered to Resist Discrimination and Exclusion” organised by IMADR and LWF in Geneva on 21 April 2009, the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Mr. Githu Muigai, made an address on descent-based discrimination in the context of the Durban Review Conference.
In an Interim Report (A/64/271) to the UN General Assembly, the Special Rapporteur made the following references to descent-based discrimination as a thematic issue addressed through his participation at the side event.
C. Thematic issues addressed by the Special Rapporteur through his participation in conferences, seminars and other meetings
4. Discrimination based on descent
- 54. During the Durban Review Conference, the Special Rapporteur participated in a side event on “Communities empowered to resist discrimination and exclusion”, organized by the International Movement against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism and Lutheran World Federation, on 22 April 2009.
- 55. Recalling that the issue of discrimination based on descent was addressed by special procedures mandate holders in their joint contribution to the preparatory process of the Durban Review Conference (A/CONF.211/PC/WG.1/5), the Special Rapporteur highlighted that the mandate holders had already expressed their serious concern about this form of discrimination.
- 56. The Special Rapporteur referred to the estimated 250 million people around the world being at risk of violations of civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights, including violence, marginalization and discrimination, on the grounds of systems based on inherited status. Human rights violations could occur in a wide array of areas, including prohibition or limitations on the ability to alter inherited status, socially enforced restrictions on marriage outside the community, public and private segregation, including in housing and education, and access to public spaces and places of worship and public sources of food and water, limitation of freedom to renounce inherited or degrading occupations or hazardous work, as well as subjection to debt and bondage.
- 57. The Special Rapporteur recalled that since the 2001 World Conference against Racism, held in Durban, the issue of discrimination based on descent had been on the international agenda. Despite the objection of some States, the main human rights bodies working in the area of racism and discrimination had clearly stated that prohibition of this type of discrimination fell within the scope of existing instruments, in particular the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. In that regard, the Special Rapporteur specifically referred to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which concluded at its forty-ninth session, that “the situation of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes falls within the scope of the Convention”. In addition, the Committee also stated that discrimination on the grounds of caste constituted a form of racial discrimination and that “the term ‘descent’ had its own meaning and was not to be confused with race or ethnic or national origin”. More broadly, in its general recommendation No. 29 (2002) concerning discrimination on the grounds of descent, the Committee further clarified its position by “strongly reaffirming that discrimination based on ‘descent’ includes discrimination against members of communities based on forms of social stratification such as caste and analogous systems of inherited status which nullify or impair their equal enjoyment of human rights”.
- 58. As such, the Special Rapporteur reaffirmed that 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.IV. Conclusions and recommendations
- 59. In relation to the Durban Review Conference held from 20 to 24 April 2009, the Special Rapporteur hopes that the momentum gained during the review process will maintain its strength and that all pledges and commitments made in the outcome document of the Review Conference will be effectively implemented by States, which bear the primary responsibility in this respect. The Special Rapporteur recommends that concrete measures be identified at the domestic level and that a road map with realistic benchmarks be established by States in cooperation with their civil society for the implementation of the outcome document of the Conference.
- 63. In order to further clarify the existing links between race and poverty, the Special Rapporteur is of the view that it is necessary to collect ethnically disaggregated data. While he is fully aware of the arguments against the collection of such data, the Special Rapporteur recommends to shift from the debate on the need or not to collect ethnically disaggregated data to a thorough discussion on how to best collect them in order to comply with international standards and to avoid the misuse or manipulation of these data.
- 67. In order to provide effective protection to individuals around the world being at risk of violations of civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights on the grounds of systems based on inherited status, the Special Rapporteur would like to encourage an international recognition that discrimination on the grounds of descent constitutes a form of racial discrimination prohibited by the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
Read more about how UN Special Procedures have addressed caste discrimination in their work