. . . . . . "Dalit Solidarity News" is an information project run by the International Dalit Solidarity Network. News stories are extracts from online newsservices. Link to the full story is found at the end of each blog. Visit the International Dalit Solidarity Network at www.idsn.org

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Formed in 2000, the IDSN is a network of international organisations, national solidarity networks and affected country groups, campaigning against caste-based discrimination throughout the world, from the dalits of South Asia to the Osu of Nigeria and the Burakumin of Japan. Visit our website International Dalit Solidarity Network for more information. SUBMIT DALIT NEWS HERE

Monday, June 04, 2007  
PAKISTAN: Call to make caste bias a criminal offence

The Dawn, Pakistan
By Staff Reporter

KARACHI, June 3: Speakers at a workshop on Sunday demanded that a national commission be set up to solve the problems being faced by the scheduled castes and that caste-based discrimination be declared a serious crime.

They were speaking at a national workshop on "Caste-based discrimination in Pakistan," organised by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) and the Thardeep Rural Development Programme (TRDP).

The workshop was part of an international research project being conducted in Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh, sponsored by the Denmark-based International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN) and Indian Institute of Dalit Studies (IIDS).

The speakers demanded that a constitutional package and protection for scheduled castes be provided. They said steps should be taken to stop forced conversions of scheduled caste girls and an independent commission should be formed to investigate the conversions.

They demanded that special scholarships be provided to Dalit students and steps be taken to end the discrimination in schools against them, along with reforms in the curriculum. It was further demanded that the Dalits be given due representation at the decision-making levels so that they could protect their rights.

Earlier, researcher Zulfiqar Shah presented the initial findings of his study carried out on 5,000 households. He focussed on four districts – two in lower Punjab and two in lower Sindh. He said that about two million scheduled caste people – belonging to the Kolhi, Meghwar, Bheel, Balmiki, Oad, Jogi, Bagri and other communities – were the poorest of the poor and were discriminated against in day to day life, despite the fact that the country's constitution promises equal rights to all citizens.

The survey revealed that the worst form of discrimination — from both upper caste Hindus and Muslims — came in the shape of untouchability, which means they were denied access to public places like restaurants, barber shops, etc.

In some places they were served in separate crockery and in other areas they were even denied entry to certain restaurants and shops.

They had segregated housing, while the situation is worse in rural areas as 95 per cent of Dalits living in Rahimyar Khan reported untouchability as compared to 35 per cent living in Multan. Sixty-nine per cent of those surveyed said that their upper caste Hindu and Muslim neighbours either do not invite them to their social gatherings like weddings, or if invited they are served food separately. This attitude was relatively more prevalent in Rahimyar Khan (87 per cent) than in Tharparkar (60 per cent).

The study claims that only one per cent of scheduled caste people were in government service, that also in the lowest tiers like primary school teachers. The illiteracy level in Dalits stood at 73 per cent against the national literacy level of around 50 per cent. The majority of these literates are educated up to the primary or secondary school levels, while only one per cent were graduates.

Approximately 56 per cent of Dalit families live in single-room katcha houses, while 35 per cent reported the death of a child under 5 years in their families. The data showed that they were ignored by the political groups and government; hence they were unable to reap any benefits from the devolution plan. They also faced economic exploitation and the majority of bonded labourers in Sindh are from the scheduled castes.

The research, conducted by Mr Shah and his team, revealed that very little information was available on the status of issues being faced by marginalised groups like the scheduled castes. Also, there was no legal protection or affirmative action policy to combat caste-based discrimination in Pakistan, unlike in India.

The research presentation was followed by a discussion in which about 40 participants, including Dalit community representatives, political leaders, academics, researchers and activists, took part. At the end of the workshop the participants decided to form a Pakistan Dalit Solidarity Network.

Former MNA Dr Khatumal Jewan, former MPA of Punjab Lala Mehar Lal Bheel, Rochi Ram Advocate, Dr Sono Khingharani of the TRDP, journalist Surrendar Valasai, Dr Aly Ercelawn of the Piler and others also spoke.

A number of representatives of the scheduled castes from Sindh and Punjab attended the workshop.

Link to the article

10:28 AM

Friday, May 11, 2007  

AKI - Italiy
10 May

Low caste Hindus or Dalits in Pakistan have written a letter to Pakistani president Gen. Pervez Musharraf urging him to take "swift action" to ensure an end to "many forms of untouchability, caste discrimination, human inequality and humiliation" at the hands of higher caste Hindus and those who have converted to Islam. The letter was written by the founder president of the Scheduled Castes (or Dalits) Federation of Pakistan, Surendar Valasai, but is yet to receive any response from the general.

Speaking to the Indian daily, the Asian Age, in a telephone interview from Pakistan, Valasai, who takes pride in being the "first" Dalit journalist in Pakistan, said the two million Dalits in that country did not want to be clubbed together with higher caste Hindus. They are currently classified as part of a single community. He said most Dalits live in Lower Sindh and Lower Punjab and have been deprived of their due share in government schemes, with all the benefits going to upper caste Hindus. He said 70 percent of Hindus in Pakistan are Dalits, and pointed out that in many areas they were not allowed to share the same utensils in schools and government offices.

Valasai said the situation was bad, but even then "it is better than that of dalits in India, as at least our lives are secure." Pointing out that the discrimination faced by dalits was similar in all South Asian countries, he said the discrimination against the entire community should be recognised and addressed by the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) as an issue on its agenda. He said the Dalits in Pakistan were in the process of conducting a study to determine the social indicators of development. Admission to schools was not a major problem, but discrimination faced by students after they were admitted certainly was.

The letter to Gen. Musharraf was written on the eve of his visit to Naunkot in Sindh province, the centre of Mirpurkhas division, where Dalits form almost 35 per cent of the population. It has drawn the general's attention to the "Law (Code) of Manu" being followed in the region despite Mohammed Ali Jinnah's statement in 1944 when he is quoted as having said: "I can tell my friends of the scheduled castes (or Dalits) that at no time have I overlooked their interests and position, and I may claim that in the past I have done all I could to help them and I shall always stand for their protection and safeguard ... for I think the wrongs and injustices inflicted on them for centuries should not be allowed to continue under any civilised form of government."

The Dalits have started a signature campaign to be considered as a distinct group, separate from the "Hindus and scheduled castes" category. The petition points out that Dalits are poorly represented in Pakistan's parliament compared to higher caste Hindus. It also demands separate reserved seats for Dalits in parliament and the four provincial assemblies in accordance with their population, as well as special concessions in the economic, educational, social and political fields to remove "the wrongs and injustices done to them in the past." Other demands include the constitution of a National Commission on Scheduled Castes; allotment of land to landless Dalit peasants and state protection against harassment and discrimination.

Valasai said they had not received any positive response from the government but were optimistic that their demands would be listened to. He is in touch with Indian Dalit groups but rules out any "pro-active cooperation." He has made common cause, however, with resistance movements within Pakistan and participated last year at the Karachi World Social Forum.

Link to the article


1:55 PM

Caste based discrimination still prevalent in India, says ILO report

Hindustan Times
11 May 2007

Caste-based discrimination maybe abolished by law in India but it remains a major cause why backward classes, especially the Dalits, remain confined to menial tasks like manual scavenging and removal of dead animals, a latest report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on discrimination in the job sector has said.

Affirmative action has been able to assist only a small number of Dalits in finding formal jobs but has failed to provide even and equal opportunities to all, the report added.

"Violence, discrimination and segregation are a daily experience for millions of men and women in several regions of the world. But the practice (of discrimination that is rooted in caste or similar systems) is most widespread in South Asia, particularly in India and Nepal," the report, titled 'Equality at Work: Tackling the Challenges' remarked.

The report, a follow-up to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, was released in New Delhi by the Union Labour and Employment Minister, Oscar Fernandes, on Thursday.

The report added that Dalits are generally not accepted for any work involving contact for water and food for non-Dalits or entering a non-Dalit residence. "Thus, they are excluded from a wide-range of work opportunities in the area of production, processing or sale of food items, domestic work and the provision of certain services in the private and public sectors," the report said, adding their situation is further impaired by limited access to education, training and resources.
The report advised authorities not to merely adopt a "purely development approach to improve the lot of Dalits". It suggested that underlying structural causes and caste barriers need to be addressed simultaneously.

The ILO is also looking closely at the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme (NREGP). "It is premature to draw any conclusions about the impact of the scheme on poverty and gender equality, but concerns have been voiced about possible tensions within families over the selection of the member to be given the job and about women being left out," it said.
The ILO is conducting surveys in select districts to examine the decent work and gender equality aspects of NREGP. "The ultimate goal is to devise the necessary safeguards to be put in place in the NREGP so that men and women can benefit from it equally," the report said.

Link to the article

1:51 PM

Workplace discrimination persists - ILO

Daily News, Sri Lanka
11 May 2007

GENEVA: - Despite major advances in fighting discrimination at work, mounting inequalities in income and opportunities and significant and persistent forms of workplace discrimination are causing growing concern, according to a new report by the International Labour Office (ILO) published today.

In its most comprehensive report on discrimination on date, the ILO’s “Equality at work: Tackling the challenges” provides a global picture of job-related discrimination, citing both progress and failures in the struggle to fight discrimination ranging from traditional forms such as sex, race or religion, to newer forms based on age, sexual orientation, HIV/AIDS status and disability.

“The global picture of the struggle to overcome discrimination shows a mixture of major advances and failures,” the ILO report says, citing progress since its first edition issued four years ago and noting that most of the ILO’s 180 member States have ratified its two core conventions on discrimination and are thus committed to creating legislation and policies against discrimination.

A major theme of the Report is the persistence of gender gaps in employment and pay and the need for integrated policies addressing sex discrimination in remuneration and occupational segregation by sex, while reconciling work and family responsibilities.

For example, the report states that throughout the EU, the difference in average gross hourly earnings between women and men across the economy throughout all establishments has remained high at 15 per cent.

Female labour force participation rates continued to rise significantly, currently at 56.6 per cent, thus narrowing the worldwide gender gap in labour participation rates. However, the report states, progress has been uneven with North America at 71.1 per cent, 62 per cent in the European Union, East Asia and the Pacific at 61.2 percent and the Middle East and North Africa at 32 per cent.

The report also provides many examples of discrimination on the basis of race and religion, social origin, caste or indigenousness, as well as against migrant workers. And it warns of the consequences of discrimination against younger and older workers, as well as inequalities based on sexual orientation, HIV/AIDS status, or a person’s disability.

With approximately 470 million people with disabilities of working age, there is a growing concern regarding discrimination against persons with disabilities.

The report states that the likelihood of a person with a disability finding a job decreases as the level of disability increases. In Europe, a person aged between 16 and 64 has a 66 per cent chance of finding a job. This rate falls to 47 per cent for a moderately disabled person and 25 per cent for a person with a severe disability.

The Global Report recommends a series of steps to combat discrimination and achieve the ILO’s proposed action plan.

Link to the article

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7:52 AM

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