When Pakistan was reviewed by the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism on 30 October, many states expressed concern about the human rights situation of religious minorities, including scheduled castes.

NGO representatives discuss the outcomes of the UPR of Pakistan at a UN side event, which was sponsored by Minority Rights Group and co-organized by IDSN among others.

More than 80 states made observations and recommendations on the human rights record of Pakistan, when it was reviewed for the second time by the UPR mechanism.

Many states noted with grave concern the situation of religious minorities, including Christians, Hindus, Ahmadis and Sikhs. Two states – Austria and the Holy See – made recommendations on the situation of scheduled castes, which is considered a religious minority in Pakistan.

Since the first review in 2008, when the Government of Pakistan accepted two recommendations to prevent caste-based discrimination, the situation of scheduled castes has not improved. It was therefore timely that new recommendations were made on this issue.

Austria recommended that Pakistan takes effective measures to prevent forced conversions, especially of scheduled caste girls. The Holy See encouraged Pakistan to continue to improve the efforts to eliminate discrimination on the basis of caste.

In Pakistan, scheduled castes – who also identify themselves as Dalits – still represent one of the most impoverished and excluded groups. They continue to face widespread discrimination, segregation, and physical attacks, as documented by a report submitted in advance of the review by IDSN and Pakistan Dalit Solidarity Network (PDSN).

Moreover, many of the bonded labourers in Pakistan come from a scheduled caste background. Some states noted that bonded labour still exists in Pakistan during the UPR. In particular, Ireland recommended Pakistan to implement ILO conventions and the laws which it has put in place to eradicate forced and bonded labour.

In connection with the review in Geneva, Mr. Zulfiqar Shah of PDSN spoke at two side events organised by NGOs to highlight these problems. In a news article by the news agency Inter Press Service, Mr. Shah was also interviewed about the deteriorating situation of scheduled castes.

In a follow up to the review, a press statement was released by a number of NGOs, including IDSN and Minority Right Group International, which had been involved in the UPR of Pakistan. The statement summed up the main concerns that came up at the review, and called on the Government of Pakistan to accept and implement the UPR recommendations, and to consult with civil society to improve the situation in the future.

A draft report with the UPR recommendations will be released by the OHCHR after the review. The Government is then expected to give its responses to the recommendations before the 22nd session of the Human Rights Council in March 2013.

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