Dalit Civil Society launches anti-touchability campaign

KATHMANDU, May 25: Dalit Civil Society (DCS) members on Friday launched a twelve-day national campaign against caste-based discriminations and untouchability.

Announcing different programs as part of the campaign in the capital on Friday, DCS members said that the campaign would once again exert pressure on the government to implement the decisions it announced after the country turned republican. Parliament had declared Nepal as untouchability-free Nepal on June 4, 2006 and free of discrimination. It had also announced special economic programs for education, healthcare and employment of the oppressed community living under the poverty line. Similarly the parliament also passed a bill — Caste-Based Discrimination and Untouchability (Offence and Punishment) Act, 2068 — on May 24, 2011 acknowledging the principle that everyone is equal in terms of rights and human dignity.

Addressing the campaign launching ceremony, Madhav Paudel, Minister for Information and Communications, said that there are strong constitutional and legal grounds against the practice of untouchability and other forms of discrimination. “But again untouchability has remained a national issue, and I can without hesitation say that the implementation aspect is pathetic.” He also assured to step up measures to make sure that the law is implemented. He urged the media to focus in its news production on ending caste-based discrimination and untouchability right from the root.

Political analyst Shyam Shrestha said that government and media must work hand in hand to end the problem. He said, “It´s a shame for the any nation to undergo the pathetic situation despite the important declaration and announcement made by the government.”

Former lawmaker Binod Pahadi said that it is necessary to empower the downtrodden people to institutionalize democracy in the country, but government appears oblivious. DCS is also organizing interactions with Nepal Police, National Human Rights Commission and and the chairman of the Interim Election Council, and hold a peace rally to mark the camapaign.

UN experts call for an end to caste-based discrimination in Asia

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.

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