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conceptual mapping >  basic human rights and societies  > Hidden apartheid : caste discrimination against India’s « Untouchables »

Human Rights Watch (HRW)

Hidden apartheid : caste discrimination against India’s « Untouchables »

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> Shadow Report to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), February 2007, 118 p. (pdf)

Discriminatory and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of over 165 million people in India has been justified on the basis of caste. Caste is descent-based and hereditary in nature. It is a characteristic determined by one’s birth into a particular caste, irrespective of the faith practiced by the individual. Caste denotes a traditional system of rigid social stratification into ranked groups defined by descent and occupation. Caste divisions in India dominate in housing, marriage, employment, and general social interaction-divisions that are reinforced through the practice and threat of social ostracism, economic boycotts, and physical violence.

This report focuses on the practice of « untouchability » - the imposition of social disabilities on persons by reason of their birth in certain castes. This practice relegates Dalits, or so-called untouchables (known in Indian legal parlance as scheduled castes), to a lifetime of discrimination, exploitation and violence, including severe forms of torture perpetrated by state and private actors in violation of the rights guaranteed by the Convention. Although the practice has been condemned by many Indian leaders, including most recently by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, unless the government accepts responsibility to end the widespread prejudice, crimes against Dalits will continue.

India has consistently cited its numerous legislations and government policies as a measure of compliance with its obligations to end caste-based discrimination, choosing to ignore its failure to implement these measures which has resulted in continued, and sometimes enhanced, brutalities against Dalits.

document de référence rédigé le : 1 February 2007

date of on-line publication : 15 March 2007

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