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.