The European Parliament (EP) has recognised caste-based discrimination as a human rights violation and adopted a resolution condemning it and urging European Union institutions to address it. The EP consists of 28 member-countries of the EU.
Acknowledging that caste-affected communities are still subjected to ‘untouchability practices’ in India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, the October 10 resolution stressed the need to combat discrimination based on work and descent, which occurs also in Yemen, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal and Somalia.
In December last, the EP passed a similar resolution, expressing alarm at the persistence of human rights violations against Dalits in India. Last week’s resolution recognised the presence of caste-based discrimination globally and pointed out various forms of caste-related violence against Dalits, especially women.
The EP reiterated serious concern over violence against Dalit women and other women from similarly affected communities in societies with caste systems, who often do not report it for fear of threat to their personal safety or of social exclusion. It pointed out the multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination based on caste, gender and religion, affecting Dalit women and women from minority communities, leading to forced conversions, abductions, forced prostitution, and sexual abuse by dominant castes.
Caste discrimination continues to be widespread and persistent, affecting an estimated 260 million people worldwide, despite the governments of some affected countries taking steps to provide constitutional and legislative protection, the EP said.
It noted that caste-based discrimination occurred in diaspora communities, untouchability practices took on modern forms and the affected communities faced restricted political participation and serious discrimination in the labour market.
“In a few countries, such as India, mandatory affirmative action has to some extent contributed to the inclusion of Dalits in the public sector, but the lack of protective non-discrimination measures in the labour market and the private sector adds to exclusion and growing inequalities,” it said.
The International Labour Organisation estimates that an overwhelming majority of bonded labour victims in South Asia are from the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and that forced and bonded labour is particularly widespread in the agriculture, mining and garment production sectors, which supply products to a number of multinational and European companies.
The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights welcomed the EP resolution.