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Dalits and Discrimination Based on Work and Descent

NGO Forum, World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination
Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, Durban, South Africa, August 27-Sept 1, 2001

This page is part of much larger document. Please be sure to read the Overview, the Declaration-Guiding Principles, Programme of Action-Guiding Principles, and Programme of Action - Legal Measures which provide the context for understanding this page. Click here to Download Word Document.




84. Work and descent based discrimination, including caste discrimination and untouchability, being a historically entrenched, false ideological construct sanctioned by religion and culture, which is hereditary in nature and affects over 300 million people in the Asia Pacific and African regions at the personal, social and structural levels, irrespective of their religious affiliation.

85. The practice of untouchability, rooted in the caste system, stigmatises 260 million Dalits in South Asia as 'polluted' or 'impure', thereby denying them entry into places of religious worship, participation in religious festivals, assigning them menial and degrading work including cleaning toilets, skinning and disposal of dead animals, digging graves and sweeping, and the forced prostitution of Dalit women and girls through the traditional system of temple prostitution (Devadasi).

86. The system of 'Hidden apartheid' based on caste practices of distinction, exclusion and restrictions denies Dalits' enjoyment of their economic, social, political, cultural and religious rights, exposing them to all forms of violence and manifests itself in the segregation of housing settlements and cemeteries, segregation in tea stalls ('two-cup' system), denial of access to common drinking water, restaurants, places of worship, restrictions on marriage and other insidious measures all of which inhibit their development as equals.

87. Caste discrimination and 'untouchability' practised against generations of Dalits for centuries together amounts to systemic 'generational and cultural Daliticide', which is the mass-scale destruction of their individual and collective identity, dignity and self-respect for generations through cultural methods and practices.

88. Any action or even any sign of an attempt to act by Dalits either individually or collectively to assert their rights is met with extreme measures of violence such as burning or destruction of their homes, property and crops, social boycott, rape or gang rape of Dalit women and murder by dominant caste individuals or groups, police or the bureaucracy, and that in such instances the State often acts with impunity and in connivance with these perpetrators.

89. Work and descent based discrimination against the Buraku people of Japan has existed for over 400 years and continues to be experienced today by over 3 million people in relation to marriage, employment and education, with new forms of discrimination emerging such as discriminatory propaganda and incitement to discrimination against them, especially on the Internet.

90. The vulnerability of the victims of work and descent based discrimination, including caste discrimination and untouchability, is aggravated by legal systems and law enforcement machinery that fail to protect them and hence are responsible for the continued perpetuation of discrimination, and by States that are themselves often the law-breakers.


Programme of Action

267. Enact suitable legislation to recognise and eradicate discrimination based on work and descent, including caste discrimination and untouchability against Dalits, Buraku people and other affected communities, in those countries where such legislation does not exist; and in countries where legislation banning such discrimination already exists, take immediate steps to create transparent and effective monitoring mechanisms including the establishment of time-bound programmes to ensure effective implementation of such legislation, even where the perpetrators are States or State agents.

268. Declare work and descent based discrimination, including caste discrimination and untouchability, as Crimes against Humanity and enact and enforce legislation to guarantee the right to life and security, particularly the women and children of these communities, to criminalise violence, atrocities and incitement to discrimination and violence committed against these communities, and to effectively and speedily prosecute offenders at all levels.

269. Enforce speedy and effective legal and programmatic measures to abolish the traditional practice of the Devadasi system and to rehabilitate the Dalit women and improve the quality of their lives by giving them access to arable lands, proper housing, gainful employment and education.

270. Undertake a survey of the situation of the Buraku people in Japan to ascertain the nature and extent of the discrimination they continue to face despite the enactment of temporary 'Special Measures' by the Government of Japan, and take all necessary legal, administrative and other measures to eradicate such discrimination.

271. Ensure that these communities, who have contributed to the nation-building process through their massive but unrecognised and silent labour, are protected by law from exploitation of their labour, including the implementation of laws that provide for a living wage and prohibit child labour, bonded labour and manual scavenging. Also implement laws relating to land reform that would guarantee access to and control of land for these communities, and ensure that these lands are officially registered in the name of women of these communities.

272. Create and strengthen transparent policies and systems of affirmative action, irrespective of religious affiliation, that enhance the access of these communities, especially their women, to higher government posts, including scientific institutions, and to posts in the government administration, the judiciary, law enforcement agencies and the private sector, including multinational corporations.

273. Allocate adequate funds to guarantee the enjoyment of their rights to livelihood, land, education, housing, potable drinking water, sanitation, health and employment opportunities, with special emphasis on their women, and establish effective monitoring mechanisms to ensure full and proper utilisation of available funds.

274. Undertake mass-scale public awareness raising and educational initiatives, with the active support of NGOs and other segments of civil society, in order to promote positive changes in attitudes towards and within communities discriminated against on the basis of work and descent based discrimination, for which the necessary budget allocation shall be earmarked by the State.

275. Introduce measures of reparation for the centuries-old wrongdoings committed against these communities through legislation and appropriate machineries for the purpose of restitution, monetary compensation, rehabilitation and for ensuring guarantees of non-repetition.

276. The United Nations to ensure the implementation by the States of all relevant recommendations and resolutions of the UN human rights treaty monitoring bodies and of the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion of Human Rights, and immediately appoint a UN Special Rapporteur to study the question of work and descent based discrimination, including caste discrimination and untouchability, against these communities in different parts of the world.

277. NGOs to lobby to ensure that the relevant Governments are made accountable to Parliament and to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination for their implementation of policies and programmes aimed at eradicating work and descent based discrimination, including caste discrimination and untouchability, by constitutionally mandating their Governments to submit and openly discuss the annual reports of National Human Rights Institutions.

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African and African Descendants ] Asian and Asian Descendants ] Arabs and Middle East ] [ Dalits and Discrimination Based on Work and Descent ] Ethnic and National Minorities and Groups ] Indigenous Peoples ] Jews and Anti-Semitism ] Migrants and Migrant Workers ] Palestinians and Palestine ] Refugees- Asylum Seekers- Stateless and Internally Displaced Persons ] Roma Nation and Travelers ]
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Always Under Construction!

Always Under Construction!
Copyright @ 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001. Vernellia R. Randall
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