Press Release: European Parliament calls for an EU policy to address caste discrimination

The International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN) welcomes the adoption of the European Parliament’s annual report on human rights and democracy in the world 2018 and the European Union’s policy on the matter.

The European Parliament’s report notes “with great concern the scale and consequences of caste hierarchies, caste-based discrimination and the perpetuation of caste-based human rights violations, including the denial of access to the legal system or employment, continued segregation, poverty and stigmatisation, and caste-related barriers to the exercise of basic human rights and facilitation of human development”.

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) call on the EU to “to act on its own grave concerns over caste discrimination” and move to develop an “EU policy on caste discrimination”. MEPs also call for “the adoption of an EU instrument for the prevention and elimination of caste-based discrimination”.  Moving forward, the EU and its Member States are once again urged, “to intensify efforts and support initiatives at UN and delegation level to eliminate caste discrimination”.

At least 260 million people around the globe face appalling and dehumanising discrimination based on caste and similar systems of inherited status. Caste-based discrimination involves massive violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Caste systems are found in South Asia, in communities migrated from South Asia across the globe and in other caste-stratified countries in Africa and Asia. Caste systems divide people into unequal and hierarchical social groups. Those at the bottom are considered inferior, ‘impure’ and ‘polluting’ to other caste groups. Despite policy development and new legislation in some countries, fundamental challenges still remain in all caste-affected countries.

Barriers also exist in addressing caste discrimination in multilateral fora. IDSN’s application for UN consultative status has been unjustly deferred by the UN NGO committee for over 11 years, making it the longest pending application.

The European Parliament has been at the forefront of the international community in addressing the serious human rights violations and persistent development challenges linked to caste-based discrimination. The annual report is the first overarching human rights report to be adopted by the newly formed parliament following the May 2019 European elections.

The European Parliament has once again shown itself to be one of the most principled and vocal international actors in addressing caste-based discrimination. IDSN would like to see MEPs now turn their words into action and use every opportunity to insist that EU member states and in particular, the new European Commission and the European External Action Service, make ending caste discrimination a clear priority by pursuing concrete action through the EU’s trade, development and foreign policy., said Meena Varma, Executive Director, IDSN

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