Joining forces for a caste-free world


Invitation to Hearing on Caste-Based Discrimination

onsdag 28. mars 2012, kl. 09:00

Sal: Amalie Skram

Arrangør: The Norwegian Dalit Solidarity Network

Inngang: Gratis

Caste discrimination is one of the most serious human rights issues in the world today. Yet in our part of the world, many are not even aware that it still exists. Affecting at least 260 million people globally, caste discrimination involves massive violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. On March 28th, Norwegian authorities, politicians, organizations working with countries affected by caste based discrimination, and the general public are invited to a hearing on caste based discrimination. This hearing/seminar will examine the still existing problem of caste-based discrimination, the double plight of women and possible responses.

09.00 – 09.25 Welcome and introduction
Welcome by the Norwegian Dalit Solidarity Network
Short Film Screening: from IDSN

09.30 – 10.30 The damaging descent – What does caste based discrimination entail? “Caste discrimination and the struggle for dignity – an introduction and overview” by Mr. Paul Divakar, General Secretary, National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights
“Class, cast and gender – women’s roles in the Dalit struggle” by Mrs. Ruth Manorama, National Federation of Dalit Women (NFDW)

10.45 – 12.30 compellingly global – Challenges best and practices in responding internationally Introduction by Jan Egeland, Europe Director and Deputy Executive Director, Human Rights Watch

Sushil Raj, The High Commissioners Office for Human Right, the Indigenous Peoples and Minorities Section
 Representative from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (to be confirmed)
Helen Bjørnøy, General Secretary, Plan Norway
Berit Hagen Agøy, General Secretary, Church of Norway Council on Ecumenical and International Relations
Rikke Nöhrlind, Coordinator, International Dalit Solidarity Network
Chaired by Ed Brown, Stefanus Alliance

A light lunch will be served after the debate

Please send your confirmation of attendance before March 23rd (or as soon as possible) to

Caste discrimination based on untouchability can be described as one of the most serious human rights issues in the world today. Affecting at least 260 million people globally, caste discrimination involves massive violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights and denies whole communities of “untouchables”, also called Dalits, a life in dignity and equality.

Global phenomenon
Caste discrimination is a global human rights issue, with the vast majority of the affected living in South Asia; in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. In India alone it severely affects the lives of up to 200 million people – despite it being illegal. In Japan, discrimination against the Buraku people persists, and In Yemen, the Al Akhdam people suffer from similar forms of discrimination. In a number of African countries, caste discrimination is also common practice, and in many caste-based  diaspora communities throughout the world Dalits still experience discrimination.

Untouchability practices
A central feature of caste-based discrimination is the so-called “untouchability practices”. It stems from the notion that different caste groups are born with varying degrees of purity and pollution. Groups that are considered to fall outside the caste system are considered “lesser human beings”, “impure” and thus “polluting” to other caste groups. They are known to be “untouchable” and subjected to so-called "untouchability practices". Paradoxically, sexual abuse and rape against Dalit women is not considered polluting to men from dominant castes. In South Asia traditionally these believes in untouchability are rooted in the Hindu caste system, in Japan association is made with Shinto beliefs concerning purity and impurity, and in marginalized African groups the justification is based on myths. Common untouchability practices include segregation in housing, schools and cremation grounds, prohibition of access to and ownership of land, restriction on occupation (assignment of the most menial, dirty and dangerous jobs as defined by the caste hierarchy), prohibition of inter-caste marriage, and limitation or prohibition of access to public places such as roads, temples and tea houses and to public services such as water taps, health care and education. The untouchability practices lead to social, political, and economical exclusion of Dalits and a large number of Dalits live in poverty with exclusion from, or reduced benefits from development processes and prevented from being involved in decision making and meaningful participation in public and civil life. Dalit women often suffer a triple oppression, by being poor, untouchable and women.

When Dalits and other caste-affected groups challenge the untouchability practices, they often face violent sanctions and social boycott. The sanctions are frequently carried out in public and meant to scare whole communities and to show what will happen to people who oppose the social and economical order laid out for them. Untouchability practices and discrimination based on caste is often outlawed in countries affected by it, but a lack of implementation of legislation and caste-bias within the justice systems largely leave Dalits without protection, and very few cases of crimes against Dalits lead to conviction.