Advocacy statements

Caste discrimination in India

  • Date / 2016
  • Location / India
  • Relevant Institution / UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Item / Item 9: Follow-up and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action


International Humanist and Ethical Union

UN Human Rights Council, 33rd Session (13th September – 30th September 2016)

General Debate on Item 9

As a Dalit woman, human rights activist and IHEU representative, I want to bring to your attention the plight of Dalits in India in the present day under extremist nationalist forces.

There have been innumerable attacks on Dalits and minorities across India in past year. Some recent attacks have been perpetuated by self-styled cow vigilante groups. In Gujrat four young Dalit men were flogged for skinning a dead cow. Last week a pregnant Dalit woman and her family was beaten up because they refused to dispose cow carcass. A Dalit rights activist was house-arrested prior to Prime Minister’s visit to Gujarat.

Dalits have been facing the brunt of caste discrimination for centuries and even after India became a democratic nation. However, since the formation of the present government in 2014, there has been a rise in Hindu nationalism and an increase in the attacks against Dalits and religious minorities.

Dalit women suffer from multiple forms of discrimination: based on caste, class and gender. Dalit women are forced into “religious dedication” to temple deities, named Devadasi system. This is a form of forced prostitution and sexual slavery which specifically affects Dalit women specifically.

The UN Special Rapporteur on minority rights [Ms. Rita Izsák-Ndiaye] in her report affirmed that the discrimination based on caste and analogous systems of inherited status constitutes a serious violation of human rights and deserves specific attention.

Dalits in India demand that landless Dalits be given land and dignified jobs. Discrimination against young Dalits at prestigious educational institutions should be dealt with strong measures.

We would also like to echo the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur and call upon the UN Human Rights Council’s support in calling for India and other caste-affected states to: adopt legislation; implement existing laws; raise awareness of the issue; develop national action plans to combat caste discrimination; and to take “robust action” on caste-related violence against women and girls.

Suggested academic reference

'Caste discrimination in India', Humanists International

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