At the 51st Regular Session of the Human Rights Council, Mr Tomoya Obokata, the Special Rapporteur on Slavery, will present his report focusing on the Contemporary forms of slavery affecting persons belonging to ethnic, religious and linguistic minority communities. Child labour and caste-based discrimination are closely interlinked alongside severe discrimination against Dalit women.
The report explores the main causes of slavery that affect minorities, such as chattel slavery, forced and bonded labour, child and/or forced marriage, domestic servitude, sexual slavery and child labour.
Alongside Dalits and Communities Discriminated on Work and Descent, the Special Rapporteur highlights the vulnerabilities and exploitation of Uyghur, Yazidi, Rohingya and Roma people, and people of African Descent. Mr Obokata recognises that minority communities suffer from deep rooted discrimination and minority women and girls from these communities are disproportionately affected by poverty, ethnic prejudice, stigmatization and gender-based restrictions.
Despite the positive developments taken in order to address these issues, the Rapporteur calls for much more to be done and sets out a number of recommendations urging States to eliminate discrimination against minorities, adopt temporary special measures and ensure access to free education. You can view the full report here, as well as see IDSN’s submission on this topic.
Mr Obokata will present the report to the Human Rights Council in September, you can view his presentation on UN Web TV.
Extracts of caste/descent-based discrimination references from the report:
…The Special Rapporteur will also assess the experiences of people who are discriminated against based on work and descent, such as those subjected to caste-based discrimination or descent-based slavery, as they can be regarded as part of an “ethnic minority”.
- In relation to people and communities that are discriminated against based on work and descent, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination specifically mentions “descent” in article 1. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has confirmed that “descent” does not solely refer to “race”, and strongly reaffirmed that descent-based discrimination 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. In order to protect their rights, States are urged to outlaw descent-based discrimination and adopt special measures to ensure access to public functions, education and employment, as well as justice and remedies. The ILO Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111) obliges States to promote equality of opportunity and treatment in relation to employment and occupation and to work with businesses and trade unions to eliminate discrimination. In addition, in its resolution 2000/4, the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, requested Governments to ensure that constitutional, legislative and administrative measures, including appropriate forms of affirmative action, were in place to prohibit and redress discrimination based on work and descent.
- People discriminated against on the basis of work and descent represent one example. They are bound by their inherited status and subjected to dehumanizing discourses that refer to “pollution” or “untouchability”, with no respect for human dignity and equality. Consequently, such people have limited freedom to renounce inherited occupations or degrading or hazardous work and are often subjected to debt bondage without sufficient access to justice. Additional intersectional factors, such as class, gender and religion, are also affected by caste realities. Dalit women in South Asia face severe discrimination, and as a result they are systematically denied choices and freedoms in all spheres of life. Consequently, their access to services and resources is very limited, increasing their risk of being subjected to contemporary forms of slavery.
- Bonded labour continues to be prevalent among people discriminated against on the basis of work and descent, such as Dalits in South Asia. In the agricultural sector, an informal credit may be granted as an advance payment for subsistence, through which the credit’s beneficiary incurs debt. Consequently, labourers may be subjected to exploitative labour practices, violence and unsuitable living conditions. Dalits in Bangladesh are forced to undertake certain types of labour as a consequence of their assigned caste status and are almost exclusively working in “unclean” jobs in urban areas, like street sweeping and burying the dead.
- Intersecting forms of discrimination based on gender and descent should be also highlighted. Manual scavenging, predominantly carried out by Dalit women, is widely regarded as forced labour and a contemporary form of slavery, entailing harsh working conditions that have a negative impact on mental and physical health. Another sector disproportionately represented by women and girls is the garment/textile industry, where indicators of forced labour, such as restriction of movement, low or no wages, and forcible taking of medicine to suppress menstruation, have been reported.
- Child labour (among children 5 to 17 years of age), including its worst forms, exists in all regions of the world… In India, child labour, caste-based discrimination and poverty are closely interlinked.
- Equality in access to education has also been observed, for instance in providing education in languages minority children can understand… The California State University system in the United States, for instance, updated its anti-discrimination policy to include caste-based discrimination, effective in 2022…