THE ROLE OF THE UN IN COMBATING CASTE-BASED VIOLENCE AND DISCRIMINATION
On June 17 2014 the side event addressing violence against Dalit women took place at the United Nations in Geneva. It was sponsored by Human Rights Watch, International Movement against all forms of Discrimination and Racism, Minority Rights Group, Franciscan International, and Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development and organised in association with International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN) and co-sponsored by Denmark and Norway.
The event addressed caste-based sexual and other forms of violence against women and girls in caste-affected countries and explored with United Nations stakeholders how to take comprehensive and urgent action on this issue. Dalit women human rights defenders spoke of the reality on the ground in South Asia and a preview of a documentary on the Dalit women’s fight for justice in India was screened.
- Providing a better understanding of the intersection between gender-based violence and caste discrimination and highlighting the cross-cutting themes affecting Dalit women and similarly affected communities
- Sharing good practices, recent developments, and actions taken by various stakeholders to eliminate violence against Dalit women.
- Exploring ways forward to address caste-based violations including Dalit women, in particular in the context of the UN Human Rights Council.
OPENING KEY NOTE SPEAKER
Ms. Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Link to the speech of outgoing High Commissioner for Human Rights and a true champion of Dalit women and their fight for equality
Ms. Asha Kowtal, General Secretary of the All India Dalit Human Rights Forum (AIDMAM)
Ms. Manjula Pradeep, Asia Dalit Rights Forum, Director of Navsarjan Trust
Ms. Durga Sob, President, Feminist Dalit Organisation, Nepal
Ms Julie De Rivero, Geneva Advocacy Director, Human Rights Watch
Ms. Rita Izsák, Independent Expert on Minority Issues
Ms. Saraswathi Menon, Director, Policy Division, UN Women – Closing remarks
Moderator: Ms. Jyoti Sanghera, Chief, Human Rights and Economic and Social Issues Section, OHCHR
UK Govt response to Lord’s PQ highlights unreasonable delays to implementation of caste discrimination legislation worried that the next phase proposed ” could be seen as intrusive and might have an adverse effect on good relations in the relevant communities”. Which communities does he mean?
Lord Avebury’s Parliamentary Question to the Minister was answered with a wholly unacceptable further delay of 6 months and more. If this continues this legislation will not see the light of day before 2016.
US Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton to introduce resolution to protect Dalits from discrimination
UK Government – PLEASE TAKE NOTE
WASHINGTON, DC – In advance of the April 14 birthday of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, a freedom fighter for the Dalit people, the office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today announced that Norton will introduce a resolution when Congress returns from recess condemning Dalit untouchability, the practice of birth-descent discrimination against Dalit people, which is still widely practiced in India, Nepal, the Asian diaspora and other South Asian nations, and calling on these countries to recognize the human rights of the Dalit people and end all forms of untouchability within their borders.
Dalit Solidarity Network UK welcomes the publication of the EHRC reports on 28 February 2014.
The two reports confirm that caste discrimination “cannot be tolerated and should be included in the protections against discrimination and harassment provided in the Equality Act 2010”. The reports also question the proposed sunset clause : “for a non-discrimination ground is legally without precedent and goes against this key differential”
The GEO having received these reports early in January 2014 has already had six weeks to draft the questions for the consultation. This will be followed by a draft Affirmative Order in Autumn 2014 before the legislation passed in June 2013 that caste should be an aspect of race for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 is implemented.
We urge the UK Government to make this a reality before Spring 2015 in order to protect the victims and potential victims of caste-based discrimination in Britain.
The European Parliament has voted with a huge majority to pass a resolution to combat caste based discrimination around the world.
The resolution was supported by UK and Ireland MEPS but action in the UK to change discrimination laws to include Caste has been repeatedly delayed.
Caste discrimination affects an estimated 260million people around the world and the resolution calls for, amongst other things, a “caste-based discrimination clause in all trade and association agreements.”
Prior to the vote a number of MEPs spoke on caste discrimination including Paul Murphy, Martina Anderson and Jean Lambert, who is a patron of the Dalit Solidarity Network (DSN). Some of their comments can be found below.
Caste discrimination is the discrimination of a group of individuals because of the group they were born into. The form and level of discrimination varies but can include being forced into bonded labour and carrying out incredibly hazardous jobs such as cleaning human waste.
The majority of caste discrimination occurs in South Asia but here in the UK there has been a number of reports documenting instances of caste discrimination in the UK, including a government commissioned one by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/85522/caste-discrimination.pdf . Despite these, the government has resisted and continues to delay implementation of legislation.
Jean Lambert said today, “The UK has recently brought caste discrimination into its anti-discrimination legislation but we are seeing deliberate moves by a particular home office minister to prevent the implementation of this change.”
No one should have to change their faith to be accepted in society, no one should be refused water in a disaster because of their caste and everyone should be able to benefit from education and use their talents, particularly in a week where we celebrate international day of the girl. We’ve seen recent legislation in Nepal which has challenged discrimination we have seen EU projects there which have made a n enormous difference but, as people have said unless this is taken up and comes part of a real cultural shift all we are doing is supporting some people, which is extremely valuable. It shows what it is we are trying to do but we need to have these rights entrenched not just in the constitution but in implementation in the law.
I am pleased to see this issue being addressed and I condemn the human rights violations committed against the estimated 260million people worldwide suffering from caste based discrimination. Known as untouchables or as Dalits they are often forcibly assigned the most dirty and hazardous jobs and many are subjected to forced and bonded labour and they are kept in sever poverty. Without doubt, when relevant, there should be a caste based discrimination clause in EU international trading agreements and association agreements. The commission should also take steps to combat this discrimination within Europe’s borders as no community anywhere should be exempt from equality legislation and from human rights protection.
In Britain the disgraceful attempts of the government to block or delay the extension of equality legislation to include caste based discrimination should be condemned. While it is illegal in most countries it doesn’t stop human rights violations, exclusion, torture, rape, slavery and murder being a daily reality for many, but the growing number of brave oppressed caste activists raising their voices shows a way forward, linked with the struggles of other workers and poor, an alternative society based on equality and solidarity can be built and this barbaric feudal remnant can be confined to the dustbin of history.
Phil MurphyPress Release prepared by Sam Batt
Information on Caste Discrimination
Speeches under Caste-Based Discrimination (debate) http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sed/speeches.do
The Government has just published their long anticipated timetable for its consultation and implementation of caste discrimination legislation under Clause 9(5)(a) of the Equality Act
Click here for DSN-UK Press Release
DSN-UK urges HMG to undertake its consultation without further delay and implement the legislation against caste discrimination and to protect hundreds of thousands of its own citizens.
Our AGM this year was a mix of business and pleasure. The agenda was varied and exciting with speakers from Birmingham, Coventry, London and New Delhi covering all aspects of caste discrimination in both the UK and India. After our amazing and uplifting victry on 23 April 2013, where the Government finally conceded to demands from across the country to trigger the legislatioon to outlaw caste discrimination in the UK , we rightly celebrated.
Eleventh hour change from the Government turned 1000 protesters into 1000 partygoers
For the third time in 6 weeks, Dalit groups, communities and campaign organisations made a call to rally in Parliament Square to continue to urge the government to do the necessary to legislate against caste discrimination in the UK. Our call was again answered as coach loads of people from across the country joined members of CasteWatch UK, Dalit Solidarity Network UK, Voice of Dalit International, Federation of Ambedkarite Buddhist Organisations UK, Central Valmik Sabha UK, Indian Christian Concern and Dr Ambedkar Memorial Committee GB, as well as scores of regional and community organisations and met at the rally on Tuesday 23 April. The date will now live in all our memories forever.
‘Growing up in Birmingham I faced tremendous caste discrimination and ill treatment because I was a Dalit (or Untouchable) at the hands of so called high caste people. I became involved in the anti-caste movement so that victims of modern day discrimination would have a voice and legal redress. I am proud to be part of this momentous day”: Rajinder Rattu, Community Activist and Managing Director, Neighbourhood Consultancy Ltd
The carnival atmosphere was evident as we heard at 2.30pm that the UK Government had laid down their amendment to use the Ministerial power to trigger the legislation in the Equality Act 2010 to outlaw discrimination on the basis of caste. This will provide much needed legal protection to the hundreds of thousands of Dalits in the country.
Amendments tabled by Business Secretary Vince Cable in the House of Commons today state that the Equality Act will “provide for caste to be an aspect of race”.
This means that the government conceded on the principle and tabled an amendment, which requires the Secretary of State to bring forward regulations to include Caste as an aspect of Race (under Section 9(5) of the Equality Act) within two months of enactment of the Enterprise Regulatory and Reform Bill.
Lords Avebury and Hussain joined the revellers in Parliament Square before the news had filtered through. Lord Avebury said’ This is all the more terrific for being totally unexpected!’
Soon after MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Richard Fuller addressed the growing crowd. They both gave impassioned speeches in the Commons debate.
At around 2.45 PM, the Shadow Junior Minister for Equalities Kate Green MP and Seema Malhotra MP came out to the crowd to break the momentous news – the UK Parliament had passed the amendment without the need for a vote, as there was cross-party consensus!
Kate Green announced that Caste discrimination would soon be outlawed in the UK and paid particular tribute to Seema Malhotra MP for her sterling work in securing the amendment. This brought cheers and whoops from the 1000 people present
Baroness Thornton who alongside Lord Harries and Lord Avebury were all instrumental in the success we had today came out for a quick chatwith campaigners – only to be virtually mobbed by the crowd.
In a major parliamentary stand-off, the House of Lords voted twice for legal protection to be given to Dalits who live in the UK.
On April 16, Commons MPs overturned the first Lords vote, sparking a tug-of-war between the two Houses. But after the Peers again backed the proposals by 181 to 168 votes yesterday thus forcing the government to re-think – and hence the victory for the Dalits and the campaigners who have worked alongside them for many years
‘This is a major victory for us. Our planned demonstration in Parliament Square today to protest against the Government’s stand on the issue has now turned into a celebration,’ said Caste Watch UK General Secretary Davinder Prasad, who has been spearheading a campaign in favour of caste-based discrimination to be included in the UK’s equality laws.
‘We stand side by side today as we have done for the past 10 years to herald a victory and toast our Government for upholding the essential British notion of justice and equality,’ said Meena Varma, Director of Dalit Solidarity Network UK
Sat Pal Muman, Chair, CasteWatchUK said with great passion that ‘we started to dig the grave yard 10 years ago to bury caste-based discrimination in the UK. Today, with power and strength of communities and wisdom of British Parliament a last push was given to bury it for good. I pay tributes to all who stayed the course and witnessed the epoch making event.
There was singing, dancing and as ever with us Asians – a plethora of delicious food and snacks to be had and shared by all with everyone there.
We are proud to release this statement on behalf of the 1000s at the rallies in Parliament Square on 4 March, 16 April and 23 April 2013
When: Public Rally on Tuesday 23rd April: 12.00 – 15.00hrs.
Where: Parliament Square, Westminster, London. SW1P 3AA.
Why: To Outlaw Caste Discrimination in the UK.
On 4th March 2013, the House of Lords overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill to outlaw Caste Discrimination in the UK with Section (9)(1) of the Equality Act 2010 to include Caste as a protected Characteristic in Law.
The House of Commons Considered the Lords Amendment to Equalities Act Section(9)(1)
But it was voted down by Commons on 16th April by 307 to 243 giving government majority of only 64.
The ERR Bill is now in a ping-pong stage.
Thousands of us rallied on Tuesday, 16th April in Parliament Square to urge government to protect victims .
The ERR Bill returns to the Commons for re-consideration Tuesday, 23rd April.
Once again, there will be a public Rally on Tuesday, 23rd April in Parliament Square, Westminster, London SW1P 3AA.
Please be there to add your voice and support the campaign to outlaw Caste Based Discrimination in the UK.
We realise that it is a very short notice but taking into consideration how important, urgent and huge our cause is, we have no doubt that we’ll get your support.
We call upon all those, who want to see our future generations liberated from this pernicious form of discrimination, to join us and add their voice to the debate in House of Commons to be held on Tuesday 23 April, 2013, to outlaw caste based discrimination without any further delay.