Over the years, UN human rights bodies and experts have incessantly expressed concern about caste discrimination, also known as discrimination based on work and descent, as an urgent human rights problem that requires a lasting solution in a wide range of countries, including in Senegal.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child examinated Senegal in the Committees 71st session. In the Concluding Observations CRC/SEN/CO/3-5  the committee made a recommendation for Senegal to “adopt a comprehensive strategy to eliminate de facto discrimination against all groups of children in vulnerable and marginalized situations, particularly girls, children in street situations and talibés, children with disabilities, children belonging to lower castes”.

For the examination of Senegal by CERD in 2012, RADDHO and IDSN submitted the following Alternative Report: http://www.treatybodywebcast.org/

The interactive dialogue took place on 14-15 August 2012. In conclusion, the Committee made the following recommendations to the Government of Senegal on the issue of discrimination based on descent in the Concluding Observations CERD/C/SEN/CO/16-18:

  • 13. The Committee reiterates the concerns it expressed in 2002 (A/57/18, para. 445) regarding the persistence in Senegal of a caste system that involves the stigmatization and ostracism of certain groups and the violation of their rights (art. 5).

Recalling its general recommendation No. 29 (2002) on article 1, paragraph 1, of the Convention (Descent), the Committee recommends that the State party should:

  • (a) Take specific steps to combat and eliminate all traces of the caste system by, inter alia, adopting special legislation to ban discrimination based on descent;
  • (b) Take steps to raise awareness and educate the public about the harmful effects of the caste system and the situation of victims;
  • (c) Provide the Committee with further detailed information on the phenomenon and its scale.

In 2002, the Senegalese caste system was subject of lengthy discussions during the examination of Senegal’s reports during the 61st Session of CERD. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination noted the following:

  1. The Committee notes with concern the continuing legacy in Senegal of aspects of a caste-based system, despite its having been banned by law. It recommends that the State party ensure that the existing provisions are effectively applied, including by taking steps to guarantee access to justice for victims, in accordance with its general recommendation XXVI.

In an Expanded Working Paper on discrimination based on work and descent prepared in 2004 by two experts of the former UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, Mr.  Asbjorn Eide and Mr. Yozo Yokota, stated that the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was worried about the continuing legacy in Senegal of the different aspects of a system based on castes, despite its having been banned by law. The caste system in Senegal was subject to further analysis as a result of this study, which resulted in the formulation of a set of draft UN Principles and Guidelines on the Effective Elimination of Discrimination based on Work and Descent; a framework formulated to provide general and specific measures for governments to prevent and eliminate discrimination based on work and descent globally.

The UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and other forms of intolerance has also addressed this issue as part of his mandate to fight racial discrimination. Mr. Githu Muigai stated in his annual report to the Human Rights Council in 2011 that, ‘The caste system exists within several groups in Senegal. All the characteristics of caste can be found among the Wolof Community, which is principally divided between Geer and the Neeno… However, the extent to which neeno castes approach the courts for legal redress on discrimination claims is negligible.’

More information:

More documents on caste discrimination in Africa (IDSN database)