Addressing Caste Requires Practical Action

 

by Oliver D'Souza

 

The European Parliament has urged EU member countries to address caste discrimination at the ongoing UN Human Rights Council March session (HRC25), but it will take much more than adopting resolutions to deal with caste discrimination effectively.

 

In the European Parliament Resolution on the EU priorities in the 25th Session of the UN Human Rights Council, the European Parliament has included a specific clause on caste discrimination which states that the European Parliament:

”Condemns caste-based discrimination; expresses deep concern about the continued widespread human rights violations on the basis of caste and the acts of violence, including sexual violence against women belonging to the communities concerned; welcomes the work of the OHCHR and UN Special Procedures mandate-holders on combating this form of discrimination; urges the EU Member States to promote the endorsement of the draft UN Principles and Guidelines for the Effective Elimination of Discrimination based on Work, and calls on the UNHRC to adopt this framework.”

 

This is a most certainly a strong call for EU member states to prioritise the issue of caste discrimination at the International fora.

 

During the Council proceedings the International Dalit Solidarity Network (ISDN) also made the following recommendations:

1) For the post 2015 development agenda, to include a focus on caste-based groups, namely Dalit populations, given the potential of reaching the most excluded and impoverished peoples globally.

2) Raise questions on special measures to address the various forms of discrimination and denial of basic and fundamental human rights for the Dalits in the post-2015 framework.

3) Use findings of the United Nations system Task Team on the post-2015 agenda and the report of IDSN on Equality in Aid, specifically that the likelihood of the impact of a disaster and the likelihood of exclusion from response and recovery efforts are higher for the most vulnerable and marginalised, in particular persons affected by caste discrimination.

4) Ask Questions as to how the intersection between caste, gender and poverty can be addressed.

 

Although the EP's resolution and ISDN's recommendations are a step in the right direction, the fact remains resolutions and recommendations have served only a limited purpose: recognition of caste.

On various occassions the UN has taken up the issue of Dalit discrimination with the Government of India, but the ground reality is that these have largely been relegated to the deepest backburner.

So whether these resolutions and recommendations will achieve the said goals or meet the same fate as the earlier ones is a moot question.

 

 

For one, as reflected by their own actions so far, the government, both at the centre and in the states has shown no real interest in ending such discrimination.

On the contrary it is the discriminative caste system which also forms a major part of the election strategies used by political parties to gain power. Therefore, it is naive to expect that such resolutions and recommendations are going to have any impact.

 

Instead, the impact will begin when member states of the UN practically start doing something about ending caste discrimination and ending the misery that it heaps on the Dalits.

 

One of the key elements in ending caste is 'education' because wherever people are illiterate or under-educated, caste thrives. There is also the avenue of empowering them through providing training in various kinds of work skills.

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