The concluding observations and recommendations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) 2014 review of India have been released. The committee raises serious concern about human rights violations against Dalit women, caste-based violence and rape, land rights and the lack of implementation of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and other key legislation meant to protect Dalit women. The concluding observations however lack adequate mention of discrimination against Dalit women in education and employment, specifically manual scavenging, despite the fact that these were areas of concern captured in the List of Issues and review by CEDAW experts.
The observations focus heavily on the stark increase of violent crimes against women, especially rape. Specifically, the escalation of caste-based violence including rape against women and girls as well as the downplaying by key state officials of the grave criminal nature of the sexual violence. The Committee points to the poor implementation of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and the impunity of severe crimes against women.
The Committee has therefore made a number of strong recommendations to the state party, including for the state party to: Implement the Justice Verma Commission recommendations; Promptly enact the draft Communal Violence Bill; Amend the Criminal Law Act amending the scope of protection of the Act to cover all prohibited grounds of discrimination; Strengthen the efficiency of the police and specifically ensure that police officers fulfil their duty to protect women and girls against violence and are held accountable.
Thay also recommended that the state work to establish one stop crisis centres providing immediate access to medical attention, psychological counselling, legal aid, shelters; Provide systematic training on women’s right to all law enforcement personnel, to medical staff and judicial officials; Put in place and effective system to monitor and evaluate the implementation, effectiveness and impact of legislation to combat sexual violence and; Allocate sufficient resources for the immediate enforcement of legislation on violence against women and for the establishment of special courts, complaints procedures and support services.
Concern is also raised at the persistence of the harmful traditional practices of Devadasi, caste-based prostitution, and at the lack of sufficient, sustained and systematic action to modify or eliminate such practices. The Committee recommends putting in place a comprehensive national campaign and strategy to eliminate patriarchal attitudes and stereotypes and strengthening its awareness-raising and educational efforts with the involvement of civil society, in collaboration with the media.
In view of the absence of comprehensive anti-discrimination law addressing all aspects of direct and indirect discrimination against women as listed in paragraph 18 of the Committees General Recommendation 28 (including caste-based discrimination), the Committee recommends for the State party to adopt such legislation and protect women from multiple or intersectional forms of discrimination and other grounds as referred to in the General Recommendation.
The committee expresses further concern at the prevalence of customs and traditional practices that prevent rural women from inheriting or acquiring land and other property, especially the women from scheduled castes and concern at the difficulties faced in gaining access to health, natural resources, safe water as well as participating in decision making processes at the community level. The Committee has therefore recommended for the State party to abolish these traditional practices and to strengthen its efforts to address the needs of rural women providing them with increased access to services.
The Committee observes that no temporary special measures have been or are being applied as part of a necessary strategy to accelerate the achievement of substantive equality between women and men in areas where women are disadvantaged, such as promoting participation of women from scheduled castes. The committee has thus recommended for measures aimed at increasing the number of girls, including from disadvantaged groups, enrolled at secondary and tertiary levels of education in all states.
Regretfully, the concluding cbservations lack adequate mention of discrimination against Dalit women in education and employment, specifically manual scavenging, despite the fact that these were areas of concern captured in the List of Issues and review by CEDAW experts. Further concerns related to trafficking and prostitution as well as participation in political and public life of Dalit women, captured in NGO submissions, were again lacking in the final observations.
Moreover, although the committee notes concern regarding the barriers faced by women from scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in accessing justice and maternal health services, these specific observations and recommendations downplay the role and responsibility of state authorities and primarily explain the inequality and inaccessibility as deriving from legal illiteracy and a limited knowledge of procedures and rights.
Please find the full Concluding Observations (CEDAW/C/IND/CO/4-5) and a summary of the references to caste-based discrimination in the Concluding Observations.
- IDSN note on references to caste and Dalit women at the CEDAW review of India
- UN Press Release from the CEDAW review – 2 July 2014.
- Joint submission to CEDAW by AIDMAM, Navsarjan Trust and IDSN
- Document of references to caste in all NGO submissions to the review
- NCDHR submission to the Pre-Sessional Working Group
- India’s 4th and 5th periodic reports
- CEDAW List of Issues
- India not willing to accept failure in providing safety measures to women(The Hindu)