Human Rights

The hierarchical division of a society placing inherent privileges and restrictions by birth run contrary...

Dalits not allowed on the other side. Photo: Jakob Carlsen

The hierarchical division of a society placing inherent privileges and restrictions by birth run contrary to the belief that “all human beings are free and equal in dignity and rights” as stated in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Caste discrimination involves massive violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Caste-affected communities are denied a life in dignity and equality.

According to the United Nations Special Rapporteurs on discrimination based on work and descent, a number of human rights violations occur in relation to caste discrimination:

  • The right to physical security and life and the right to be free from violence
  • The right to equal political participation
  • The right to fair access to justice
  • The right to own land
  • The right to equal access to public and social services
  • The right to freedom of religion
  • The right to marriage on free will
  • The right to education
  • The right to cultural identity
  • The right to equal opportunity and free choice of employment
  • The right to equal, just and favorable conditions of work
  • The right to be free from forced or bonded labour
  • The right to be free from cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment
  • The right to health
  • The right to adequate food, water, sanitation, clothing and housing

Impunity for the perpetrators of crimes against caste-affected groups permeates the justice and law enforcement systems. Dalit cases are often not reported, investigated or prosecuted properly. Policemen, lawyers and judges often belong to dominant castes and they are unwilling to investigate, prosecute and hear cases of crimes against Dalits. Very few cases of crimes against Dalits lead to conviction.

The United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination recommends with specific reference to caste-affected communities that all states “take the necessary steps to ensure equal access to the justice system for all members of descent-based communities as well as ensure the prosecution of persons who commit crimes against members of descent-based communities and the provision of adequate compensation for the victims of such crimes.”

> Learn more about our work on international level to adress the human rights violations that stem from caste discrimination

> See the Human Rights Correspondence School lessons on caste discrimination here