IDSN urges the UN Forum on Minority issues to consider ways to enhance political participation, especially for Dalit women.
The upcoming UN Forum of Minority Issues will focus on “minorities and effective political participation”. This theme is highly relevant for Dalits as discrimination and their weak social and economic status often prevent them from becoming engaged in politics.
The Forum, which will be held in Geneva on 12-13 November, will consider current practices and ways to increase the effective participation of minorities including the following issues:
- the impact of discrimination on the political participation of minorities
- meaningful representation/representation and empowerment
- obstacles to the political participation of minorities
- quotas, reserved seats or other mechanisms to ensure representation of minorities.
Lack of equal political participation for Dalits
Dalits, also known as “untouchables”, often have limited access to equal and meaningful political participation due to the persistence of discriminatory practices and their weak economic, social and political position in countries with caste systems – such as India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
While some governments have enacted constitutional safeguards and affirmative action to promote equal access and opportunities, e.g. reservation policies in public sector employment, implementation of such laws and programmes remains weak and insufficient. Some governments have yet to introduce legislative measures, while others are in the process of establishing systems of proportionate representation for Dalits in the restructuring of the state, as in Nepal.
The International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN) urges participants at the UN Forum on Minority Issues, incl. civil society representatives, States and independent experts, to promote the inclusion of specific recommendations on how to enhance Dalits’ access to equal political participation in the outcome document.
By referring to existing human rights instruments and obligations, the outcome document can make action-oriented recommendations that specifically targets the most marginalised groups such as Dalit women. One example is the relevant paragraphs in the draft UN principles and guidelines to eliminate caste discrimination which proposes special measures for governments to take in order to effectively eliminate this form of discrimination.