Seven UN Special Procedures mandate holders have issued a powerful media statement, focusing on the violence and discrimination suffered by the world’s ‘untouchables’, particularly the Dalits of South Asia.

A group of UN human rights experts today urged world governments to strengthen protection of the hundreds of millions of people across the globe who suffer from caste discrimination.

In a strong message to UN member states, including caste-affected countries, they warned that “caste-based discrimination remains widespread and deeply rooted, its victims face structural discrimination, marginalization and systematic exclusion, and the level of impunity is very high.”

“This form of discrimination entails gross and wide-ranging human rights abuses – including brutal forms of violence,” they said. “Dalit women and girls are particularly vulnerable and are exposed to multiple forms of discrimination and violence, including sexual violence, on the basis of gender and caste. Children victims of caste-based discrimination are more at risk to be victims of sale and sexual exploitation.”

The statement from the group of UN Special Rapporteurs and Independent Experts was issued on the second anniversary of Nepal’s ‘untouchability bill’, a landmark piece of legislation that may inspire other caste-affected countries to adopt laws against caste discrimination. The UN experts urged world governments to endorse and implement the draft UN Principles and Guidelines for the elimination of caste discrimination – a comprehensive legal framework developed to address this serious human rights issue.

However, they also expressed concern about a serious lack of implementation in countries where legislation exists and called for “political leadership, targeted action and adequate resources” to resolve the “discrimination and exclusion faced by Dalits and similarly affected communities in the world.”

Commenting on the post-2015 development agenda, the UN experts stressed that caste discrimination “needs to be addressed as a major structural factor underlying poverty” and expressed hope that this agenda would include “specific goals for the advancement of Dalits and particularly affected groups.”

Finally, they pledged to “pay specific attention to the particularly vulnerable situation of people affected by caste-based discrimination” in order for them to fully enjoy their human rights. The UN experts concluded that “no one should be stigmatized; no one should be considered ‘untouchable’”.

Read the full statement: ‘Continued plight of the ‘untouchables’

UN experts call for stronger protection… (UN News Centre)

UN experts: ‘Equality or bust’

IDSN information on UN Special Procedures

IDSN compilation of UN references to caste discrimination

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