More than 20 states referred to caste discrimination in their interventions during the Universal Periodic Review of Nepal. The Nepali government has expressed its support for a number of the recommendations made on 25 January in Geneva.
The plight of Nepal’s Dalit population and efforts to eliminate caste discrimination were among the focal points when the country’s human rights record was reviewed by UN member states as part of the UPR process.
A significant number of references to the caste issue were made by a broad cross-section of states, ranging from Latin America across Europe to Asia, and several countries asked questions and made recommendations. Their interventions took place during a debate that dealt with a number of fundamental human rights issues in Nepal, including impunity and the reconciliation process following the country’s civil war.
In the subsequent draft report by the Working Group on the Universal Period Review, the Government of Nepal gave positive responses to a number of the recommendations on caste discrimination. The UPR report was adopted on 27 January.
The outcome of the UPR process is a positive step for Nepal’s millions of Dalits, who have been victims of caste discrimination for centuries. Leaders from the Dalit community who had gathered in Geneva for the review were generally satisfied with the result.
“It is positive. I was not expecting so much. Many countries spoke out, they mentioned caste discrimination and the ‘untouchability’ bill,” said a Dalit representative from Nepal, Bhakta Bishwakarma, referring to an important piece of legislation on caste discrimination, which is currently being reviewed by the country’s parliament.
Mr Bishwakarma, president of the Nepal National Dalit Social Welfare Organization (NNDSWO), also noted that one country had mentioned thedraft UN Principles and Guidelines for the elimination of caste discrimination– the first comprehensive international framework to address this enormous human rights problem. The country in question was Slovenia, whose delegate asked whether Nepal intended to use these principles and guidelines “as a guiding framework” in combating caste discrimination.
Other significant statements came from Denmark, Sweden, Finland, the United Kingdom, Italy, the Czech Republic, Poland, Malaysia, Thailand, Canada, Bolivia and a number of other states.
The Czech Republic recommended that cases of caste-based discrimination are “reported, investigated, perpetrators prosecuted and victims of such violence are compensated.” Sweden noted that “Dalit women in particular face obstacles to securing the most basic rights”. Denmark recommended that Nepal pass the bill on elimination of caste-based discrimination and ‘untouchability’. A detailed analysis of the more than 20 caste-related statements will be published on this website within the next few days.
While the outcome of the review was a victory for Nepal’s Dalits, many questions remain with regard to its implementation. The review which took place in Geneva this week was significant, but will only have real value if the Government of Nepal initiates a thorough follow-up process.
IDSN believes that such a process must include time bound plans for the implementation of the numerous UPR recommendations. Moreover, international stakeholders should support such efforts financially and technically. This would include support for the National Dalit Commission and ‘untouchability watch centres’ that monitor caste discrimination at the local level.