United Nations human rights experts are calling for more effort to protect an estimated 260 million people in South Asia who are victims of caste-based discrimination.
The experts say the victims, commonly referred to as the Dalits, are treated as “untouchables” and 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, and are subjected to working conditions similar to slavery.
The UN experts say Dalit women and girls are particularly vulnerable and are exposed to multiple forms of discrimination, sexual violence and trafficking.
The experts are calling on states in South Asia to adopt legislation to prevent caste-based discrimination and violence and punish perpetrators of such crimes.
They are also calling for political leadership, targeted action and adequate resources to be devoted to resolving the long-standing problems, discrimination and exclusion faced by the Dalits.