As a follow up to the Universal Periodic Reviews of India and the UK on 24 May, IDSN calls for the effective implementation of all caste-related recommendations and for constructive engagement with civil society in the implementation process.

India and the UK were reviewed for the second time by the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism of the Human Rights Council on 24 May 2012.

IDSN recommends effective follow up and implementation of the caste-specific recommendations by the two respective governments; something that was not done by the Indian Government in 2008, in relation to any of the caste-specific recommendations.  Furthermore, IDSN encourages other governments, agencies, and NGOs to make effective use of the recommendations in their work as a monitoring instrument for enhanced human rights protection of marginalised groups in the two countries.

For this purpose, IDSN has prepared the following analysis and observations on the outcomes and follow up to the UPR.

India (24 May 2012)

IDSN analysis and observations on UPR India outcomes: Out of the 169 UPR recommendations made to the Government of India (GOI), ten were specifically related to caste discrimination and the situation of Dalits. The caste-related recommendations were made by a cross-regional group of states: Thailand, Japan, USA, Czech Republic, Germany, Norway, and the Holy See. In addition, Chile, Canada, Luxembourg, Italy, Hungary, Denmark, and Slovenia asked questions or made observations related to caste and manual scavenging in advance of the review or during the interactive dialogue. Thus, a total of 14 states made interventions with explicit recognition of the challenges faced by the Dalit community in India’s second UPR. Such concerns reflected the critical observations made by civil society, as compiled in the summary of stakeholders’ information – India, and by several treaty bodies and Special Procedures, as partly reflected in thecompilation of UN information. Compared to the first review in 2008, where only two recommendations related directly to caste (which were not accepted by the GOI), this is a significant development and increase in attention to the issue by a UN member states. >> Read the full analysis and observations

Themes: The caste-related statements focused on the need for effective monitoring and implementation of laws to protect Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, access to justice and impunity, disaggregated data on caste, human rights education, discrimination and violence against religious minorities including Dalits, child labour and drop-out rates, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, discrimination against Scheduled Caste women, human rights defenders, and manual scavenging among others. >> Download a compilation of caste-related observations and recommendations by states in India’s UPR

Government of India’s response: In the interactive dialogue, the Indian delegation highlighted a number of positive developments but failed to respond adequately to the critical observations and strong recommendations made by states in relation to many concerns raised, including caste discrimination. Despite the intention of a “spirit of openness and transparency,” the general response to these concerns was that “several recent steps have been taken to impact positively on the lives of the Scheduled Castes as well as the tribal population,” and that India has seen “tremendous strides in focusing on groups needing special attention including children, women, disabled, elderly, minorities, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.”

Follow up and implementation:  As a demonstration of its declared commitment to human rights, the Government of India should accept the recommendations contained in the Working Group’s report including those on caste (in contrast to the outcome in 2008); provide full and adequate responses to all 169 recommendations (which are expected no later than the 21st Human Rights Council session); and involve civil society meaningfully in follow up and mid-term assessment of this review. Furthermore, it should enhance its cooperation with UN bodies by submitting the treaty body reports which are overdue; ensure effective follow up to visits of Special Rapporteurs and follow-up requests by treaty bodies; and continue cooperating with Special Rapporteurs by extending invitations to visit the country. >> Download NCDHR Balance Sheet on UPR recommendations and follow up

UK (24 May 2012)

IDSN analysis of outcomes and observations on follow up to the UPR of the UK: The Report of the Working Group contains one strong recommendation on the need for outlawing caste discrimination in the UK. The following recommendation (No. 110.61) was made by Nicaragua: Put in practice a national strategy to eliminate discrimination against caste, through the immediate adoption of the Equality Law of 2010 that prohibits such discrimination, in conformity with its international human rights obligations, including CERD’s General Recommendation 29 and recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism (Nicaragua);

Other relevant themes: In addition to the explicit recommendation on caste discrimination, several other states made recommendations of particular relevance to this issue in the areas of non-discrimination, protection of vulnerable groups, the Equality Act 2010, and discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities among the total 132 recommendations.

Government’s response: In the interactive dialogue, the UK delegation did not respond to the concerns and recommendations expressed by Nicaragua on this particular issue. It is, however, expected that a reply will be included in the Government’s responses to all UPR recommendations, which will be provided no later than the 21st session of the Human Rights Council in September 2012. Despite clear evidence and growing pressure from the public and political sphere over the last years, the UK Government has been hesitating to take a final decision to introduce such a provision in the law, claiming that there is “no consensus” of opinion in the UK on the need for this. >> Read reactions on the review in DSN-UK press release (25 May): “UK caste battle taken to the UN”

Follow up and implementation: In follow up to UPR Recommendation No. 110.61 and other relevant UPR recommendations, the UK Government should, without any further hesitation, amend its legislation to include caste in the Equality Act 2010 and promote a national strategy to eliminate caste discrimination, as recommended by UN human rights bodies. In this regard, DSN-UK and IDSN reiterate their concerns and recommendations from their submission to the UK UPR Review, and urge the UK Government to make effective use of the UPR as a mechanism to enhance human rights compliance and protection of vulnerable groups in society.

Response at the international level

The fact that so many specific caste-related recommendations were made in the two country reviews demonstrates an increasing concern about this issue among a cross-regional group of UN member states: >> Read IDSN press release (31 May): UN increasingly concerned about caste

In response to these outcomes, and as a follow up to the Global Call for Action to promote leadership, cooperation, and constructive engagement at the local, national, regional and international levels, IDSN appeals to all UN Member States to initiate and support a Joint Statement in the HRC with a view to comprehensively address caste-based discrimination as a thematic human rights concern and to promote the sharing of good practices to eliminate this form of discrimination.

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More information:

Universal Periodic Review and caste discrimination

UN recommendations on caste discrimination