2nd April 2004

EU 'ignores' caste discrimination, says MEP
Commission and Council must act to halt 'hidden apartheid'

EU LEADERS failed to heed UN calls for action to stamp out caste-based discrimination affecting more than 260 million worldwide, according to a London MEP.

Green Party Euro-MP Jean Lambert has demanded an explanation for the Commission and Council of Ministers' refusal to heed UN and MEPs' calls to use their political and economic leverage to put pressure on India - home to 160m Dalits who suffer daily discrimination and human rights abuses - and other nations where caste-based discrimination remains prevalent.

"Systematic caste-based discrimination is the shocking reality faced by millions in India and worldwide," said Mrs Lambert.

"The UN Special Rapporteur on Racism has described tackling this hidden apartheid as a priority - and both the UN Commission on Human Rights and the European Parliament have made recommendations on ways in which the EU can combat caste-based discrimination.

"By failing to adopt any of these recommendations - or even acknowledge the problem - the EU is sweeping this apartheid under the carpet and must share some responsibility for it."

In a written question to the Commission, Mrs Lambert - who is a member of the European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee - criticises the EU's failure to take any action or even open dialogue on the issue with caste-afflicted societies.

Specific UN Commission on Human Rights and European Parliament recommendations have included:

  • Promoting the appointment of a UN Special Rapporteur on Caste Discrimination

  • Including references to caste-based discrimination in all relevant EU statements, including Country Strategy Reports

  • Placing caste discrimination on the agenda at all forthcoming EU-India summits

"Millions suffer gross violations of their human rights in the name of caste and the EU must use its political and economic leverage to take the steps that the UN Special Rapporteur on Racism and the European parliament have recommended, said Mrs Lambert.

"I wonder whether the EU would turn a blind eye to such suffering and ongoing abuses if they weren't happening in such a strategic important economic ally."

India Committee of the Netherlands / Landelijke India Werkgroep - 6 april 2004