Preventing Discrimination in COVID-19 crisis Creates respectful Society

Washington, D.C., April 02, 2020

During this global COVID-19 pandemic crisis, we urge that all governments, social institutions and the international community to enforce inclusive and anti-discrimination laws to ensure equal access to the resources needed for recovery for all people, especially the underprivileged sections of society, such as Dalits, Adivasis, ethnic minorities and other marginalized populations, who have historically faced systematic social exclusion, exploitation and discrimination based on caste, race, religion, gender, disability or sexual orientation and origin.

The International Commission for Dalit Rights (ICDR) and its associates have recorded discrimination in relief management processes in the past, including in governmental and non-governmental recovery programs after the 2001 and 2015 earthquakes in South Asia (India and Nepal), the 2004 tsunami, in 2015 floods in India. During the recovery efforts after these and other natural disasters, the needs of Dalits, Adivasis and other marginalized communities were ignored and underprivileged groups faced discrimination in accessing healthcare, relief materials, shelter or other forms of post-disaster rehabilitation because of their caste, work and descent. Such discrimination is unlawful and unconstitutional and violates international human rights conventions. Amidst the challenges we are all facing during this global COVID-19 pandemic time, anti-discrimination laws and human rights covenants should be enforced.

This global pandemic is creating life or death challenges for these underprivileged populations in terms of availability of food, clothing, shelter, security and other basic requirements. We believe that there will be wide-ranging socio-economic consequences as a result of unemployment, insecurity, lack of access to public health remedies and services.

We suggest that you consult with your elected representatives, local governments, civil society institutions, NGOs and police in order to prevent discriminatory actions and to ensure inclusive and equal access to relief materials, shelter, healthcare and financial compensation to overcome the negative consequences of COVID-19. Our collective efforts to create respectful society by preventing discrimination and exclusion for each of us, during this trying time, will enable us to emerge from this crisis stronger and with greater visibility.

We appeal you to educate and advocate the following issues along with other local, national and global efforts for public awareness:
1) advocating a change in phrase from “social distancing” to “physical distancing”; there’s been a bit written about the caste connotations of social distancing and how calling for social distance rather than physical distance could further the exclusion of underprivileged caste communities.
2) advocating that any governmental or non-governmental relief or compensation package explicitly discuss caste and the effects of the lockdown on Dalits, Adivasis, and other  underprivileged caste communities.
3) advocating that safety equipment be given to sanitation workers.

Marginalized people, particularly Dalits, should also be aware of the added risks associated with practices of untouchability.  Because such practices control the flow of food and water from non-Dalits to Dalits, coronavirus potentially has greater ability to be transferred to Dalits from other groups, than from Dalits to others.  Dalits should keep in mind that during this crisis that they should not accept food or water from others for fear that they can be infected.  Physical distancing should be practiced by all in order to discourage the transmission of this disease. Please visit us:

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