Not that India is the only country where caste-discrimination plays havoc. More than 260 million people across the world are still victims of Human Rights abuses due to caste-based discrimination. So said a group of independent of experts appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, in their report in May. True, caste prejudice is nowhere so obnoxious as in South Asia. And the UN has recently warned and asked South Asian countries to strengthen legislation to protect the victims of caste discrimination.
There are many laws in India and elsewhere to empower the ‘untouch-ables’ who are broadly known as dalits in India. But the powerful representing the ‘higher castes’ never bother about implementing those laws.
Caste-based discrimination remains widespread and deeply rooted, its victims face structural discrimination, marginalisation and systematic exclusion, and the level of impunity is very high", notwithstanding so many workshops and seminars on caste-oppression.
This form of discrimination entails gross and wide-ranging human rights abuses, including brutal forms of violence."
In many countries, they face marginalisation, social and economic exclusion, segregation in housing, limited access to basic services, including water and sanitation and employment, and work in conditions similar to slavery.
The experts said that Dalit women and girls are particularly vulnerable and face multiple forms of discrimination and violence, including sexual abuse. In India people know it from their daily experiences.
Children are also at high risk of being sold and sexually exploited.
Two years ago, Nepal adopted the 'Caste-based Discrimination and Untoucbability Bill', a landmark law that protects the rights of Dalits.
More recently, the British Government decided in April that the Equality Act would cover caste discrimination to protect Dalits in Diaspora communities migrated mainly from South Asia.
While these are positive steps to eliminate caste-based discrimination, the experts expressed concern about a serious lack of implementation in countries where legislation already exists, and called for an effective application of laws, policies and programme to protect those affected by this type of discrimination.
The experts also expressed their hope that the post-2015 development agenda will include specific goals for the advancement of Dalits, stressing that caste-based discrimination is a major structural factor underlying poverty.
"Their specific needs require tailored action to lift them out of poverty and close the inequality gap between them and the rest of society".
No one should be stigmatised; no one should be considered 'untouchable'.
In India the problem in tackling the caste-based discrimination has been compounded over the years because of vote bank politics. Of late what is equally disturbing is some political outfits are promoting reverse casteism. The principle that ‘‘human rights shall be regarded as more sacred than property rights’’ is gaining currency across the world. Those who are fighting for the Dalit’s rights may think over it.
Vol. 46, No. 9, Sep 8 - 14, 2013
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