A group of UN independent experts on Friday urged South Asian countries to strengthen legislation to prevent caste-based discrimination [press release]. In South Asia, those members of society who are of low caste are referred to as "Dalits" or "untouchables." The UN experts noted that Dalits endure "marginalization, social and economic exclusion, segregation in housing, limited access to basic services including water and sanitation and employment, enforcement of certain types of menial jobs, and working conditions similar to slavery." The experts emphasized that Dalit women and girls are particularly susceptible to abuse born from this type of discrimination. Besides urging countries to adopt legislation to combat case-based abuses, the UN experts also called on world governments to support and implement the UN Principles and Guidelines [text, PDF] for the elimination of caste-based discrimination.
South Asian caste systems remain controversial. Last year the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK) [advocacy website] reported that North Korea's caste system leads to abuses [JURIST report] and human rights violations. In 2010 the Nepalese District Court in Baitadi issued two judgments [JURIST report] against caste-based discrimination in Nepal. In 2008 the Supreme Court of India [official website] upheld a government program [JURIST report] reserving seats at India's top state schools for members of lower castes.