The UN treaty bodies have extensively addressed the issue of caste discrimination in reviews of caste-affected countries.
IDSN systematically monitors country reviews and facilitates civil society inputs, where most relevant. IDSN furthermore promotes follow-up action at the international and national level together with its members and associates. On the links below, you can find more information about treaty body reviews of specific countries, including links to shadow reports submitted by IDSN in association with members and partners:
- UNITED KINGDOM
- SRI LANKA
- BURKINO FASO
CERD General Recommendation 29 on descent-based discrimination
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) takes caste-based discrimination into consideration when examining countries of particular concern.
In 2002, CERD adopted General Recommendation 29 on the term “descent” in article 1(1) of the Convention. The General Recommendation reaffirmed that caste-based discrimination falls within the scope of the Convention and therefore constitutes an effective framework to improve analysis and reporting on governments’ performance. Affected countries are now obliged to report to the CERD Committee taking into consideration the specific recommendations made by the Committee.
CERD General Recommendation No. 32 on special measures
At its 75th session in August 2009 the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) adopted General Recommendation No. 32 on Special Measures: The meaning and scope of special measures in the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
The General Recommendation affirms General Recommendation 29 on Article 1, paragraph 1, of the Convention (Descent), which makes specific reference to special measures. In the General Recommendation, the Committee states that special measures should be carried out on the basis of accurate data, disaggregated by race, colour, descent and ethnic or national origin and incorporating a gender perspective, on the socio-economic and cultural status and conditions of the various groups in the population and their participation in the social and economic development of the country.
CERD General Recommendation 35 on Combating racist hate speech
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) takes racist hate speech against descent-based groups into consideration when examining countries of particular concern.
In 2013, CERD adopted General Recommendation 35. As article 4 is not self-executing, States parties are required by its terms to adopt legislation to combat racist hate speech that falls within its scope. In the light of the provisions of the Convention and the elaboration of its principles in general recommendation No. 15 and the present recommendation, the Committee recommends that the States parties declare and effectively sanction as offences punishable by law: (a) All dissemination of ideas based on racial or ethnic superiority or hatred, by whatever means; (b) Incitement to hatred, contempt or discrimination against members of a group on grounds of their race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin; (c) Threats or incitement to violence against persons or groups on the grounds in (b) above; (d) Expression of insults, ridicule or slander of persons or groups or justification of hatred, contempt or discrimination on the grounds in (b) above, when it clearly amounts to incitement to hatred or discrimination; (e) Participation in organizations and activities which promote and incite racial discrimination.
CESCR General Comment No. 20 on non-discrimination
General Comment No. 20 on Non-Discrimination in Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was adopted by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) at its 42nd session in May 2009. In this General Comment, the Committee reaffirms that “the prohibited ground of birth also includes descent, especially on the basis of caste and analogous systems of inherited status.” The Committee recommends States parties to “take steps, for instance, to prevent, prohibit and eliminate discriminatory practices directed against members of descent-based communities and act against dissemination of ideas of superiority and inferiority on the basis of descent.”
The UN treaty bodies monitor the implementation of the core international treaties. In the context of caste discrimination, the following committees are particularly relevant when reviewing affected countries:
- Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
- Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR)
- Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
- Human Rights Committee (CCPR)
- Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
- Committee Against Torture (CAT)
When States parties meet their reporting obligations, they are examined every four or five years depending on the reporting cycle of each Committee. The past and future sessions are displayed on the individual websites of the committees.
Each committee is composed of expert members who examine the governments’ fulfillment of their obligations under the international treaties during a two-day country review. Inputs prepared by civil society organizations, and follow-up to the country examinations, are considered a vital part of the reporting cycle to document the implementation gaps in the state’s human rights performance.
SEARCH – AND KNOW YOUR RIGHTS!
The Universal Human Rights Index (UHRI) is an online search platform that provides a comprehensive overview of UN recommendations produced by UN human rights bodies. With this tool, you can access all recommendations by searching on specific issues (e.g. “caste”, “dalit” or “descent”), countries, human rights and bodies.
Presently the UHRI contains information from UN treaty bodies, Special Procedures, and later also from the Universal Periodic Review.