Caste-based discrimination continues across Nepal: Report

"Dalits are unable to sell dairy products due to superstitious beliefs in society" 

Kathmandu, March 4

Practice of caste-based discrimination still exists in the country despite criminalisation of the social evil, according to Annual Report-2019, published recently by the National Human Rights Commission.

Article 24 of the constitution states that no person shall be subjected to any form of discrimination or untouchability on grounds of his/her origin, caste, tribe, community, occupation or physical condition. Any act of untouchability and discrimination shall be punishable by law, and the victims shall have the right to obtain compensation for the damage caused to him/ her.

“National and international laws are in effect to protect and promote the rights of every person. The country was declared free from caste-based discrimination on 4 June 2006. However, social evils still exist,” reads the report. The society continues to be divided over so-called high caste and low caste. Mostly, the lower caste Dalits are landless and homeless.

According to the report, many children from the Dalit community are not able to attend school regularly and they drop out in the middle. Filing complaints against incidents of caste-based discrimination with the police and local level authority is not easy.

“Dalits are not able to sell dairy products including milk due to some superstitious beliefs in society. They also face various hurdles in purchasing such products. There are instances where different utensils are used to serve them tea,” reads the report.

The practice of not inviting them to non-Dalit’s home for puja, marriage and other social functions is pervasive. Even if they are invited, a separate arrangement is made to serve prasad and food for them. The Dalits are not allowed to attend funeral rites of non-Dalit families and they are compelled to use separate place for cremation of dead. Practices like preventing Dalits from using well and taps in non-Dalit area and entering into a temple continue unabated. Inter-caste marriage is not recognised. Dalits find it difficult to rent a room or a flat.

“Despite these hurdles there have been some positive changes in society compared to the past. The new generation has been rising above the mentality of discrimination. Issue of castebased discrimination has become a national issue. Dalit communities are able to fight the injustice meted out to them. Their issues are prioritised by media. Laws have been enacted to protect the rights of Dalits,” reads the report. Problems facing the Dalits can be addressed only through collaboration and coordination among the stakeholders.

Collective role of all three tiers of the government, the NHRC, the National Dalit Commission, the National Women Commission, the National Inclusion Commission, the National Madhesi Commission, political parties, civil society, human rights defenders and the media is important. “There is a need to end this harmful practice of discrimination. Effective enforcement of the prevailing laws, upgrading economic status of the Dalits and sensitisation programmes should be implemented together,” suggests the report.

A victim of caste-based discrimination or a witness in such case may lodge a complaint at the nearest police office seeking legal action against perpetrators. If police refuse to register the complaint and do not initiate action against the suspect, one may file complaint at the National Dalit Commission or the concerned local level within 15 days of the incident.

If convicted, the perpetrator shall be liable to imprisonment for maximum two years and fine of up to Rs 20,000 as per the law. Court many order the offender to provide compensation of up to Rs 200,000 to the victim.