UN calls for strengthened protection of more than 260 million victims of caste-based discrimination

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Continued plight of the ‘untouchables’

UN experts call for strengthened protection of more than 260 million victims of caste-based discrimination

GENEVA (24 May 2013) – They occupy the lowest levels of strict, hierarchical caste systems founded on notions of purity, pollution and inequality. They face marginalization, social and economic exclusion, segregation in housing, limited access to basic services including water and sanitation and employment, enforcement of certain types of menial jobs, and working conditions similar to slavery.

They are the Dalits of South Asia, who constitute the majority of victims of entrenched caste-based discrimination systems which affect some 260 million stigmatized people worldwide, people considered ‘untouchable’.

Caste-based discrimination remains widespread and deeply rooted, its victims face structural discrimination, marginalization and systematic exclusion, and the level of impunity is very high,” a group of United Nations human rights experts warned today, while urging world Governments to strengthen protection of the hundreds of millions of people across the globe who suffer from discrimination based on work and descent.

“This form of discrimination entails gross and wide-ranging human rights abuses – including brutal forms of violence,” they said. “Dalit women and girls are particularly vulnerable and are exposed to multiple forms of discrimination and violence, including sexual violence, on the basis of gender and caste. Children victims of caste-based discrimination are more at risk to be victims of sale and sexual exploitation.”

On this day, two years ago, the experts recalled, Nepal adopted the ‘Caste-based Discrimination and Untouchability Bill’, a landmark legislative piece for the defense and protection of the rights of Dalits. A recent decision by the British Government in April 2013 to cover caste discrimination by the Equality Act serves as a good practice to protect Dalits in diaspora communities.

“We urge other caste-affected States to adopt legislation to prevent caste-based discrimination and violence and punish perpetrators of such crimes, and call on world Governments to endorse and implement the UN Draft Principles and Guidelines for the Effective Elimination of Discrimination Based on Work and Descent.”*

The UN experts expressed concern about a serious lack of implementation in countries where legislation exists, and called for effective application of laws, policies and programmes to protect and promote the rights of those affected by caste-based discrimination. “Political leadership, targeted action and adequate resources should be devoted to resolving the long-standing problems, discrimination and exclusion faced by Dalits and similarly affected communities in the world,” they stressed.

“Caste-based discrimination needs to be addressed as a major structural factor underlying poverty,” the expert said, while welcoming the acknowledgment of caste-based discrimination as a source of inequality by the global consultation on the post-2015 development agenda.

However, they expressed hope that the agenda will also include specific goals for the advancement of Dalits and particularly affected groups. “Their specific needs require tailored action to lift them out of poverty and close the inequality gap between them and the rest of society,” they underlined.

“We will pay specific attention to the particularly vulnerable situation of people affected by caste-based discrimination and advocate for their integration and inclusion so that they can fully enjoy their human rights in accordance with international human rights law and national legislation”, the UN independent experts said.

“No one should be stigmatized; no one should be considered ‘untouchable’”.

The experts: Rita IZSÁK, Independent Expert on minority issues; Rashida MANJOO, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; Gulnara SHAHINIAN, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and its consequences; Najat Maalla M’JID, Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; Mutuma RUTEERE, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; Catarina de ALBUQUERQUE, Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation; Magdalena SEPÚLVEDA, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.

(*) UN Draft Principles and Guidelines for the Effective Elimination of Discrimination Based on Work and Descent:

For further information on the experts mandates and activities, log on to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/SP/Pages/Welcomepage.aspx

For further information and media requests, please contact Marta Franco (+41 22 917 9268 / mfranco@ohchr.org) or write to minorityissues@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)





TB screening for Indians seeking UK visa

United Kingdom: stamp


From August 16, Indians planning to travel to UK for more than six months will be screened for tuberculosis before they are given a visa under a pre-entry TB screening programme extended to India. However, the screening will not be required for those travelling for six months or less.

The Home Office announced that all such applicants would be required to submit a certificate from a local clinic approved by the British Government to show that they are “TB-free’’. There will be a fee of Rs 1500 for screening, to be borne by the applicant.

The Home Office said, “If you want to travel to the UK for more than 6 months you must be screened and obtain a certificate from an approved clinic to show that you are free of TB before you make a UK visa application in the categories listed above. The UK Border Agency has set up a wide network of approved clinicians in India.”

The announcement followed a decision by the UK Government in May to extend its pre-entry TB screening to India and 66 other countries on the basis of the World Health Organisation figures of “high TB incidence” in these countries.

“The screening requirement will be extended to applications for work visas (Tiers 1, 2 and 5 of the points-based system) from 10 September 2012 and student visas (Tier 4) from 1 November 2012”, the Home Office said.

UID brings serious discrimination concerns

Published: Friday, Apr 20, 2012, 9:00 IST

By Yogesh Pawar | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

Professor Edgar Whitley
Shraddha Bhargava | DNA

A major facilitating factor in this nationwide campaign was the release of a London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) report that demonstrated the futility of nationwide biometric-basedidentity schemes, showing that they were slated to become endless exercises of ever-increasing expenditure, bringing in their wake serious risks like identity theft.The lead author of this study Professor Edgar Whitley – Reader in Information Systems at the Information Systems and Innovation Group in the LSE was in Mumbai for a talk on :’The Challenge of Effective Identity Policies: Lessons from Around the World.’ Excerpts of an interview byYogesh Pawar:

Was the UK government’s decision in 2004 to bring in an identity card project born of only security concerns or was there a development angle too as it is being done by Indian authorities? 
(Laughs) We are still trying to figure that one out. The idea of identity cards has often been bandied. In 2002, it began with a discussion about entitlement cards and slowly gave way to identity cards. From improving access to public services, to national security concerns and even the enabling of young people, who did not necessarily have a documents for transactions like opening bank accounts or getting a mobile number. Sometimes it was even suggested that the ID card could be used to travel freely across Europe without passports.

The claims and responses kept changing. If the idea of having a centralised database was to address questions of identity fraud, so that people would not have more than one identity card, then there were other ways in which you do that without centralising personal information. So when some aspects of the project found less favour, other claims were made and so on.

There are both kinds of views. Some feel such an ID card would increase discrimination while others felt it would help reduce it. Your comment 
If a surgeon is checking for entitlement, and I, as a white middle-class male, come along and say, “I don’t have my card. But can I book a doctor’s appointment?”Will I be treated the same way as another fellow national who is not white and speaks English with an accent? The latter might face morechecks despite their entitlement being same as mine. So concerns of discrimination are very serious.

What were some of the concerns raised by the LSE report?
We argued that the ID card system could offer serve some basic public interest and commercial sector benefits. There were however six key areas of concern. First, there was clear lack of specific focus in purpose. Secondly, there was concern over whether the technology would work since smaller and less ambitious schemes had encountered huge technological and operational problems. The use of biometrics was of particular concern since it had never been used on such a scale. Thirdly there were legal issues over privacy and discrimination. Fourthly, we felt that the National Data Register was likely to create a very large data pool in one place that could be an enhanced security risk for hacking or other malfunctions. Fifthly, a system well accepted by citizens is likely to be more successful in use than a controversial one that raises privacy concerns.

Finally, compliance with the new system would mean that even small firms would have to pay for smartcard readers and other requirements, which would have added to their burden.

Your report says “the scheme should be regarded as a potential danger to public interest and legal rights of individuals”. Please elaborate.
You see there was a genuine concern about the audit trail. If you produce your ID card for every transaction and the system keeps a record, this can check forgery. On the other hand, this provides details of every transaction, which can be seen by anyone with access.

It also goes beyond that. If you went to a sexual health clinic and used your card and fingerprint for verification, the audit trail would show you were there on a number of occasions. It might be reasonable to infer things about your lifestyle you may not want to disclose. This may not be done purposely but this danger is there in the design.

The other concern was the biometrics. If someone breaks into your e-mail account, you can always reset your password. But if the biometric is stolen, the possibility of revoking it is almost impossible.

Give us a sense of how the average Briton reacted to the identity project? What built the momentum enough for the project to be finally shelved in 2010?
It was scrapped because parties that came to power were opposed to it. A lobby group -NO2ID- got the message out about concerns with this process. Many activists across the political spectrum got involved. They were just explaining the project and some of the dangers it was fraught with. They worked closely with the media which also showed considerable interest and the result is there for everyone to see.

India is in the thick of the debate on the unique ID  scheme.

What are the resonances in the scrapped British identity project.
I know you are looking at me giving you a headline point but I do not want to be (Laughs) the imperialist who takes the top down view of things. On the whole it will be in the interest of India and her people to look very closely at some of the questions raised in the debate in the UK. The sooner it is done the better.


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