UN anti-racism committee issues strong recommendations on fighting caste discrimination in Nepal
The Concluding Observations of the May 2018 review of Nepal, by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), include dozens of remarks relating to caste-based discrimination and several strongly worded recommendations on fighting it.
The concerns raised by the Committee include the lack of adequate implementation of the laws prohibiting caste-based discrimination, caste-based slavery, sexual violence and abuse of Dalit women, landlessness amongst Dalits and the persistence of segregation preventing Dalits from safely intermarrying with members of other castes, and from accessing places of religious worship, public spaces, public sources of food and water, educational facilities and housing facilities occupied by members of other castes. The Committee also noted that, “Marginalised castes were disproportionately affected by the 2015 earthquake and are still less likely to receive related aid.”
“We are strongly encouraged by the active engagement of the CERD Committee and the dozens of recommendations related to fighting caste-based discrimination that came out of this review,” said Dalit rights activist, Bhakta Bishwakarma, after the review. “A challenge and an opportunity now lie ahead of us to take collective action to translate these recommendations into practice, that will bring positive changes to the lives of Dalits in Nepal.”
IDSN and its members in Nepal made a joint submission ahead of the review and an IDSN delegation actively participated in the review. IDSN also issued a briefing paper together with the Dalit NGO Federation in Nepal on the situation in Nepal.
The Committee made the following caste-related recommendations to Nepal:
- (a) Monitor, investigate, prosecute and sanction incidents of violence linked to inter-caste marriage and caste-based segregation, and offer protection and remedies to victims;
- (b) Conduct country-wide public awareness and education campaigns designed to eliminate the notion of racial or caste-based hierarchies, end social segregation practices and prevent inter-caste violence;
- (c) Ensure that educational curricula and textbooks condemn caste-based discrimination and untouchability, contain positive representations of the culture and contributions of all castes, and omit derogatory or otherwise discriminatory language against any caste.
16 (a) Ensure that racial and caste-based hatred constitute an aggravating circumstance when they serve as the motivation for an offence, both in law and in practice;
- (c) Conduct civic sensitization programs and dialogues throughout the country to eliminate caste-based and racial hatred and bias at the community level.
- (a) Strengthen special measures to achieve full inclusion of all children belonging to indigenous peoples, Dalits and underrepresented castes, especially women, at all levels of education and in teaching positions, including by providing necessary human, technical and financial resources;
- (b) Implement targeted programs in schools, accompanied by increased funding, to improve literacy rates and combat caste-based discrimination by students and teachers, especially in areas inhabited by indigenous peoples, Dalits and other marginalised castes or ethnic groups;
- (c) Ensure proportional representation of marginalised castes and ethnic groups in all national educational agencies, councils and committees.
- The Committee recommends that the State party take all necessary measures, including through the implementation of relevant laws, to eliminate patterns of land distribution that represent de facto discrimination against Dalits and other marginalised castes or ethnic groups.
- The Committee recommends that the State party implement measures to ensure and promote occupational mobility for marginalised castes, including through hiring incentives, vocational training and community-based awareness and empowerment programs.
- (e) Reduce poverty among Dalits, including by providing income-generating skills and training to Dalit youths;
- (f) Increase access of Dalit women to skilled birth attendants and proper ante-natal care and nutrition; and
- (g) Increase the level of political participation of Dalit women
The other verbatim observations made by the Committee were:
- Lack of prohibition of direct and indirect forms of discrimination in the Caste-Based Discrimination and Untouchability (Offence and Punishment) Act, 2011;
- The National Human Rights Commission, in 2012 and 2013, only received five caste-based discrimination complaints and the lack of clear and comprehensive information on the outcome of the review of these complaints.
- Concerns about the lack of implementation of the Caste-Based Discrimination and Untouchability (Offence and Punishment) Act, 2011 and the reluctance of the law enforcement officials to act suo motu upon caste-based discrimination and do not, upon receipt of related allegations, consistently register First Information Reports with the view to initiating criminal investigations (arts. 2, 5, 6).
- the Committee remains deeply concerned by reports that such segregation persists de facto, preventing marginalized castes, including Dalits, from safely intermarrying with members of other castes, and from accessing places of religious worship, public spaces, public sources of food and water, educational facilities and housing facilities occupied by members of other castes (arts. 2, 3, 5)
- Lack of information on caste-base hate speech and whether caste-based hatred constitutes an aggravated factor in criminal sentencing.
- Marginalised castes were disproportionately affected by the 2015 earthquake and are still less likely to receive related aid.
- <…> indigenous peoples and Dalits, especially women, remain underrepresented in higher secondary education and in teaching positions <…> and literacy rates among Terai/Madheshi and Hill Dalits are far lower than the national average, and that Dalits are underrepresented in educational curricula and face discrimination in schools.
- The Committee is concerned that although domestic law prohibits bonded labour practices including haliya and kamaiya, which disproportionately affect Dalits and other marginalised castes, reports indicate that these practices persist in reality.
- landlessness is disproportionately prevalent among Dalits and Adivasi Janajatis, rendering them particularly vulnerable to economic exploitation by landowners <…> the landholding ceiling and land redistribution provisions contained in domestic laws have not been implemented <…>.
- caste-based occupational specialisation obstructs socioeconomic mobility and assigns members of certain castes to degrading and / or exploitative occupations
- some government officials are seeking to discourage Dalits from applying for citizenship <…> and many adult Terai Madheshis whose parents received citizenship by birth before the promulgation of the Constitution of 2015 have been denied citizenship by descent <…>.
- sexual and other forms of violence against Dalit women are common and often unpunished. The Committee is also concerned by reports that because 40% of Dalits live in poverty, the majority of Dalit girls marry before 15 years of age, putting them at heightened risk of being subjected to sexual and domestic violence and impeding their access to education. <..> caste disparities in reproductive health and maternal mortality, as Dalit women are far less likely to have access to a skilled birth attendant <…> and by the low level of political representation of Dalit women.
Nepal was reviewed by the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in June 2016. The Committee recommended the State Party to conduct an evaluation of their National Plan of Action for Children 2004/2005 – 2014/2015 with special attention to the children in vulnerable situations, including Dalits:
Comprehensive policy and strategy 7.
The Committee welcomes the National Plan of Action for Reintegration of Conflict Affect Children (NPA-CAAC) launched in 2010. It also welcomes the programme to enrol children affected by the armed conflict in school and also provide them with scholarships. However, the Committee is concerned that, in practice, not all children affected by conflict, especially those who were child soldiers and victims of violations during the conflict have been able to access the benefits from these initiatives.
8. The Committee recommends that the State party conduct an evaluation of its National Plan of Action with a view to including all children that were directly affected by the conflict, such as child soldiers or victims, or indirectly by loss of parent(s). In doing so, the State party should pay particular attention to the needs of children in vulnerable situations, including Dalit and minority children and/or children in rural areas.
The Human Rights Committee considered the second periodic report of Nepal at its 110th session in March 2014.
Even though, the Committee welcomed the adoption of the Caste-based Discrimination and Untouchability (Offence and Punishment) Act in 2011, the Committee remained concerned at the lack of its effective implementation and the persistence of de facto discrimination against the Dalit community. It also regrets the lack of sufficient resources provided to the National Dalit Commission and the failure to effectively implement its recommendations (arts. 2 and 26). The Committee made the following recommendation:
The State party should strengthen its measures to implement the Caste-based Discrimination and Untouchability (Offence and Punishment) Act and to eliminate all forms of discrimination against the Dalit community. It should also ensure that the National Dalit Commission can carry out its mandate effectively with sufficient resources, and that its recommendations are effectively implemented.
Examination of Nepal, 18-19 March 2014, CCPR 110th session:
- Second periodic report of Nepal, June 2012
- List of issues, August 2013
- Summary of the caste-related dialogue in the review of Nepal, 18-19 March 2014
- Full version of Concluding Observations (adopted 26 March 2014)
The Committee requested the State party, in its next periodic report, due to be submitted on 28 March 2018, to provide, specific, up-to-date information on all its recommendations and on the Covenant as a whole
The Committee considered the initial report of Nepal under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography in 2012.
The committee expressed special concern about “the continued strong caste discrimination, particularly towards the Dalit as well as the prevailing legal and de facto discrimination against women and girls” (para. 21 in the Concluding Observations). Furthermore, the Committee expressed concern over harmful practices such as deuki (offering girls to deities to fulfil religious obligations); jhumas (offering young girls to Buddhist monasteries for performing religious functions); kamlari, (offering girls for domestic work to the families of landlords), and badi (widespread practice of prostitution among the Badi caste) which still persists in the State party and constitute serious breaches in the State party’s obligations under article 2 (a) of the OP” (para 27 in the Concluding Observations).
Examination of Nepal, 4 June 2012, CRC 60th session:
- Full version of Concluding Observations (CRC/C/OPSC/NPL/CO/1)
The government was asked to submit its initial reports under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the involvement of children in armed conflict, due on 2 March 2009, as soon as possible
When Nepal was examined by the CEDAW Committee in 2011, the Committee urged, among other things, the State party to prioritize combating multiple forms of discrimination against women from various disadvantaged groups, including Dalit women (para. 40 in the Concluding Observations).
Examination of NEPAL, 20 July 2011, CEDAW 49th session:
- Relevant abstracts and full version of Concluding Observations
- CEDAW lobby brief on the situation of Dalit women by FEDO in association with IDSN
- Shadow Report by the Forum for Women, Law and Development
- IDSN news piece from CEDAW review of Nepal
The Government was asked to submit its sixth periodic report to CEDAW in July 2015.
Nepal was examined by the CERD Committee in 2004, where the Committee expressed deep concern “at the persistence of the de facto caste-based
discrimination and the culture of impunity that apparently permeates the higher strata of a hierarchical social system” (para. 12 in the Concluding Observations).
Examination of NEPAL, March 2004, CERD 64th session:
- Report by HRTMCC, The Human Rights Treaty Monitoring Co-ordinating Committee for the CERD review of Nepal 2004
The Government was asked to submit its next periodic reports to CERD on 1 March 2008. By mid 2011 the report had not yet been submitted.
Examination of Nepal, 19-20 November 2014, CESCR 53rd session:
In the Concluding Observations, E/C.12/NPL/CO/3, the Committee noted the following observations and recommendations on caste-based discrimination and the situation of Dalits:
- Positive aspects
The Committee welcomes the State party’s ratification of:
(a) the Caste-Based Discrimination and the Untouchability (Offence and Punishment) Act, in 2011;
- Principal subjects of concern and recommendations
- The Committee is concerned that article 13 of the Interim Constitution which guarantees the right to equality and non-discrimination does not include discrimination on the grounds of property and birth. While noting the adoption of the Caste-Based Discriminationand the Untouchability (Offence and Punishment) Act, in 2011, the Committee is concerned that Dalits continue to face widespread discrimination in the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, in particular access in education, health care, food, housing, employment and income generating activities and that Dalit womenare victims of multiple discrimination as they are more vulnerable to sexual exploitation, trafficking and various forms of violence, including domestic violence. The Committee is further concerned that the National Dalit Commission does not have adequate resources to carry out its mandate. (art. 2)
The Committee urges the State party to:
(a) include property and birth as grounds for discrimination in the Constitution;
(b) take all measures for the effective implementation of the Caste-Based Discrimination and the Untouchability (Offence and Punishment) Act, in particular by sensitizing law enforcement officials, investigating and prosecuting those responsible for discrimination against Dalits and conducting awareness-raising campaigns on the rights of Dalits;
(c) establish a National Strategy and Plan of Action with time bound objectives to eliminate discrimination and guarantee the rights of Dalits, as well as indicators to monitor its compliance;
(d) reinforce the National Dalit Commission and provide it with necessary resources to fulfil its mandate;
(e) take specific and targeted measures to protect the rights of Dalit women;
(f) facilitate complaints from Dalit and ensure access to justice for discriminatory acts;
(g) adopt strict sanctions for those found guilty of acts of discrimination against Dalit men and women.
Equality between men and women
The Committee is concerned at the low representation of women in decision-making positions in public and political affairs. The Committee is also concerned about the pay gap between men and women. (art. 3, 7).
- The Committee recommends that the State party increase the representation of women, including Dalit and indigenous women, in decision-making positions in public and political affairs. The Committee further recommends that the State party address obstacles to the career advancement of women through temporary special measures and education of men and women about equal career opportunities.
Harmful traditional practices
- The Committee is concerned that deep-rooted stereotypes and patriarchal attitudes that discriminate against women and girls continue to be prevalent in the society, despite measures taken to curb them. It is particularly concerned that women and girls, in particular of Dalitorigin, continue to suffer from harmful traditional practices such as forced and early marriages, accusations of boxi(witchcraft), deuki tradition (offering girls to deities to fulfil religious obligations), jhumas (offering young girls to Buddhist monasteries for performing religious functions, kamlari (offering girls for domestic work to families of landlords) chapaudi (isolating menstruating girls), and badi (widespread practice of prostitution). (art. 3, 10)
The Committee urges the State party to:
(a) effectively implement measures to eradicate harmful traditional practices;
(b) reinforce its awareness-raising campaigns among the population and in particular in districts and social groups where such practices are prevalent, reiterating that these practices are violating human rights and that they have long lasting negative effects. ;
(c) enforce its Domestic Violence Act of 2009, investigate cases of harmful traditional practices and punish those responsible;
(d) provide protection and rehabilitation to victims;
(c) expedite the adoption of the Bill prepared by the National Women’s Commission to criminalize all kinds of harmful practices, as well as of the National Strategy to End Child Marriages.
- The Committee is concerned about the prevalence of gender-based violence, including domestic and sexual violence, in particular among the Dalit and other disadvantaged groups, despite the adoption of the Domestic Violence Act, 2009, the Domestic Violence (Crime and Punishment) Regulations, 2010 and other measures. The Committee is also concerned about the lack of information on the protective measures provided to victims of domestic violence, including assistance, rehabilitation and shelters. The Committee is further concerned about the lack of information on investigations, prosecutions, convictions and sanctions against the perpetrators. The Committee regrets the lack of information on the impact of awareness-raising campaigns on the reduction of domestic violence, carried out by the State party. (art. 10)
The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) enforce its legislation on domestic violence;
(b) investigate cases of gender-based violence, prosecute perpetrators and, if convicted, punish them with adequate sanctions;
(c) facilitate complaints from victims of gender-based violence as well as their access to justice and protect them from any kind of reprisals;
(d) continue to provide law enforcement officials with necessary training on gender-based violence, including domestic and sexual violence;
(e) develop protective and rehabilitation measures, including shelters and hotlines for victims;
(f) increase its awareness-raising campaigns on women’s rights and the negative effects of gender-based violence, in particular in rural and remote areas and among disadvantaged and marginalized groups;
(g) expedite the adoption the Bill, presently before the Parliament, which includes provisions on effective compensation and services to victims.
- While noting efforts to reduce poverty, the Committee is concerned that around 25% of the population in the State party lives below the poverty line, in particular in the Far-East and among the most disadvantaged groups, such as Hill and Terai Dalits, as well as women in rural and remote areas, and indigenous peoples. The Committee is also concerned about the fact that poverty faced by these groups is exacerbated by the lack of their access to, and ownership of, land and related resources, livelihoods and income generating activities. (art. 11)
The Committee recommends that the State party: a) adopt a human rights based approach to poverty eradication; b) strengthen its efforts to reduce poverty in particular among the most marginalized and disadvantaged groups, such as Hill and Terai Dalits, as well as women in rural and remote areas, and indigenous peoples, including by expanding its programs under the Poverty Alleviation Fund; c) facilitate access to, and ownership of, land for these groups as well as to income generating activities. The Committee refers the State party to the Committee’s Statement on Poverty and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, adopted on 4 May 2001 (E/C.12/2001/10).
Primary education and dropout rates among girls
- The Committee is concerned that primary education is not yet compulsory in law and that the State party does not guarantee free secondary school. It is also concerned about the high school drop-out rate of girls, in particular during the transition between the primary and the secondary levels, and at the secondary level, due, inter alia, to the unavailability of adequate sanitary infrastructure. (art. 13).
The Committee calls on the State party to adopt legislation making primary school compulsory. It further recommends that the State party:
(a) ensure access to school in rural areas and for Dalit and indigenous children in the context of its “Program of Education for All 2015”
Examination of NEPAL, 1 – 2 May 2007, CESCR 38th session:
In the Concluding Observations, the Committee expressed the following concern, among other things:
- 13. The Committee notes with concern that, in spite of the provisions in the Interim Constitution prohibiting caste-based discrimination, such discrimination persists with impunity. The Committee is particularly concerned about the obstacles that victims of caste-based discrimination reportedly face in accessing justice.
- 24. The Committee is concerned by the denial of access of persons belonging to the lower castes to public wells, thereby directly threatening their right to an adequate standard of living and their right to the highest attainable standard of health.
- 30. The Committee requests the State party to provide in its next periodic report detailed, updated information including disaggregated data on a comparative basis, on the effective measures undertaken to implement its treaty obligations. The Committee urges the State party to ensure that, in the Constitutional process currently underway, all sectors of society, includingdisadvantaged and marginalized groups, in particular the Dalit, the Madhesi and indigenous communities, and especially women within these groups, are represented in decision-making bodies at all levels. It recommends that concrete and active efforts be made to promote the participation of these groups in the Constituent Assembly, which, following the election of its members in 2007, will embark on the drafting of a new Constitution.
- 43. The Committee recommends the immediate application of the Interim Constitution and laws prohibiting caste-based discrimination and segregation in cases of denial of access to public water sources. It recommends that access to public wells be closely monitored by the District Development Committees or by another appropriate local body.
The Committee requests the State party to submit its third periodic report by 30 June 2011 and to include in that report, detailed information on the steps it has undertaken to implement the recommendations contained in the present
Download the alternative report Missing Piece of the Puzzle: Caste discrimination and the conflict in Nepal prepared by the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, NYU School of Law for the CAT review of Nepal, 2005.
In the Concluding Observations, the Committee concluded the following in paragraph 26:
“Despite the State party’s acknowledgment that caste discrimination exists in the country and the creation of the National Dalit Commission, the Committee is gravely concerned about the continued deeply rooted discriminatory practices committed on a large scale against marginalized and disadvantaged groups or castes such as the Dalits. The Committee is also concerned that the long-standing pattern of caste discrimination is being further entrenched by the current conflict in the country.The Committee reaffirms that it is the duty of the State party to protect all members of society, in particular citizens belonging to marginalized and disadvantaged groups or castes, such as the Dalits. The State party should take specific steps to safeguard their physical integrity, ensure that accountability mechanisms are in place guaranteeing that caste is not used as a basis for abuses, unlawful detention and torture, and take steps to ensure more diverse caste and ethnic representation in its police and security forces. The State party should include information on caste discrimination in its next periodic report.”
The State Party has been invited to submit its next periodic report, which will be considered as the combined third, fourth and fifth report, by 12 June 2008.
Examination of Nepal, June 1999, CEDAW 21st session
Principal areas of concern and recommendations: 153. The Committee expresses concern that traditional Convention, the Committee’s general recommendations, and customs and practices detrimental to women and girls, such the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. as child marriage, dowry, polygamy, deuki (a tradition of dedicating girls to a god or goddess, who become “temple prostitutes”, which persists, despite the prohibition of the practice by the Children’s Act) badi (the ethnic practice of forcing young girls to become prostitutes) and discriminatory practices that derive from the caste system are still prevalent.
Principal subjects of concern: The Committee notes the lack of clarity of the information provided by the report on the demographic composition of State party and, in particular, on the composition of the population according to caste, religion and geographical regions. The Committee, having noted that the caste system in Nepal has been abolished by law, nevertheless expresses its concern that this system still functions and appears embedded in parts of the Nepalese culture. In this connection, the Committee is also concerned at the limitation that this system imposes on the effective enjoyment by all groups of the rights enshrined in article 5 of the Convention.
Suggestions and recommendations: 13. The Committee recommends that the State party in its next report provide fuller information on the demographic composition of the population in the light of paragraph 8 of the reporting guidelines. The Committee requests the State party to provide information in its next periodic report on the implementation of practical measures to eradicate the practice of the caste system.