Senior UN human rights officials at a UN Human Rights Council event have called for immediate efforts to end caste-based rape and violence against women. The event, co-sponsored by Human Rights Watch, followed calls for action from human rights organizations and India's UN representative in response to the gang-rape and hanging of two girls in Uttar Pradesh May 27.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said: "I urge governments to fully implement all the recommendations made by international human rights mechanisms as well as those arising from national processes. "Our outrage is not enough. We must take real and focussed action to mend our societies' dramatic failure to support the rights of people of discriminated castes, particularly women and girls." The UN Women policy director, Saraswathi Menon, said: "The UN has an important role to play and must step up to the plate to help stop caste-based violence against women."
Dalit women leaders from South Asia and other speakers urged concrete support for the victims of caste-based violence and the need to strengthen the UN's role. Asha Kowtal, who is leading a delegation of Dalit women to the Human Rights Council, said: "Caste-based rape and violence against Dalit women and girls is escalating as we fight to claim justice. "The amount of cases is growing and the brutality of the crimes becoming increasingly severe. Systems of justice meant to protect Dalit women at the national level are completely failing us. We are asking for immediate loud and clear global support in our struggle."
Manjula Pradeep, a leading Dalit rights activist, added that caste-based violence and discrimination not only affects women in India but millions in Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Yemen and other caste-affected countries. Pradeep stated: "The discussion on how to end this inhuman system needs to take place on both a national and a global level with UN engagement." Juliette De Rivero, Geneva advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, cited institutional barriers to ensuring justice and support for survivors of sexual violence. "Dalit communities have long suffered serious abuses, but the state response has fallen short."