In a significant development at the 55th session of the Human Rights Council in March 2024, Bangladesh’s review under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) highlighted critical recommendations focused on eliminating caste-based discrimination, with specific references to the plight of the Dalit community. These recommendations were crucially also accepted by the state. IDSN welcomes these steps and advocate for their swift implementation.

The UPR process revealed a strong international call for Bangladesh to enhance its legislative framework, with several countries recommending the rapid implementation of the anti-discrimination bill, pending since 2022. This bill is crucial as it seeks to protect against discrimination on multiple grounds including caste, which directly impacts the Dalit community.

Notable recommendations included:

Barbados urged for the immediate implementation of the anti-discrimination bill.

Germany highlighted the need for protections specifically on the grounds of gender, ethnicity, caste or religion.

Peru and Romania called for the enhancement of the regulatory framework to prohibit all forms of discrimination and ensure legal protections for minorities, including those based on caste.

Despite the acknowledgment of these issues in the international arena,  the intervention by Bangladesh’s Ambassador Permanent Officer in Geneva did not directly address the ongoing challenges faced by Dalits nor specifically mention caste discrimination.

However, in response to an oral statement from the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), the Bangladeshi government referenced Article 20 of the Constitution, affirming its commitment to non-discrimination on the basis of caste, ethnicity, and religion. The government also mentioned existing support measures for underprivileged communities, including financial assistance specifically for Dalits.

At the adoption, Milan Das from IDSN Associate, Parittran, gave a video statement highlighting the escalating attacks on Dalits in Bangladesh and calling on the Government to accept the UPR recommendations and adopt the necessary legislation for the protection and promotion of the rights of Dalits.

In preparation for Bangladesh’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR), the International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN) effectively highlighted caste discrimination through advocacy meetings and efforts and Probir Sircar, representing IDSN and Parittran, presented these concerns at the Geneva UPR pre-session. IDSN also submitted a joint report with BDERM, DALIT, and Nagorik Uddyog to the UPR Secretariat, documenting systemic discrimination against Dalits in education, employment and healthcare, and urging legislative changes to address these issues.

The legislative actions recommended and accepted during the UPR must move from commitments to reality to truly change the lives of the Dalit community in Bangladesh.