Nepal: Dalits campaign for equal rights

Dalit civil society organisations in Nepal have launched a 12-day campaign against caste discrimination and ‘untouchability’. The campaign will put pressure on the government to implement existing legislation against caste discrimination.

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A Dalit demonstration in Kathmandu last year. The 12-day campaign will end with a public rally on 4 June.

Nepal has strong constitutional and legal provisions against the practice of ‘untouchability’ and other forms of discrimination. But a government minister admitted last Friday that “the implementation aspect is pathetic.”

Madhav Paudel, Minister for Information and Communications, was speaking at the launch of a 12-day campaign against caste discrimination and ‘untouchability’, initiated by Dalit civil society members. Mr Paudel said that “untouchability has remained a national issue”. He promised that measures will be taken to ensure that the law against caste discrimination is implemented.

The organisations behind the 12-day campaign aim to mobilise significant parts of Nepalese society, including non-Dalit civil society groups, media, and political parties, for their cause. In an appeal launched in connection with the campaign they reach out to wider society with the following slogan: “Let’s fight caste-based discrimination and untouchability together.”

The appeal from Dalit civil society organisations mentions a number of legislative and constitutional initiatives that have been taken to protect Nepal’s Dalit population, but also notes that implementation has been ineffective.

“Despite these declarations and legal and constitutional provisions, Dalits are still facing worst form of discrimination on the ground of caste in every sphere of life. Rights have not been realised: the practices in society have not changed significantly, Dalits are facing abuses and brutal attacks while attempting to enjoy their rights and freedom enshrined by the constitution,” the appeal states.

According to the organisers, which include organisations that work closely with IDSN, the campaign has three aspects: It celebrates the state’s commitment towards ensuring equal rights for Dalits; it appeals to the state machinery and other stakeholders to do more to restore the dignity of Dalits and ensure their rights; and it raises awareness for the effective implementation of the anti-caste discrimination law.

The 12-day campaign started on 24 May, the second anniversary of the new law that made caste discrimination and ‘untouchability’ practices a criminal offense. It will end with a large public rally on 4 June, the seventh anniversary of the decision by Parliament to declare Nepal an ‘untouchability-free nation’.

Source: International Dalit Solidarity Network

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