Nepal UN rights office proposes changes to draft law on caste discrimination

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal (OHCHR-Nepal) and the National Dalit Commission of Nepal (NDC) said in a joint statement yesterday that if the current gaps in the draft “Caste-based Discrimination and Untouchability Crime Elimination and Punishment Act” are addressed, it could become a key tool to curbing the practice of caste-based discrimination in the South Asian nation. The so-called Dalits are considered a low-caste community or “untouchables” and are often subjected to discrimination and mistreatment in Nepal.“The NDC and OHCHR-Nepal urge the Legislature-Parliament and the Government of Nepal to make public the content of the draft bill to seek views from concerned stakeholders and to incorporate their concerns and recommendations,” said Bijul Kumar Biswakarma, the chairperson of NDC, and Anthony Cardon, officer-in-charge of OHCHR-Nepal, in the joint statement.Mr. Cardon said in separate remarks that the OHCHR-NDC recommendations would ensure that the proposed law “is consistent with the highest human rights standards and the commitments made by Nepal.”Nepal is a State party to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which obliges signatories to prohibit discrimination based on descent, including caste-based discrimination. The country’s Interim Constitution and other laws also prohibit any discrimination based on caste.In their statement, the NDC and OHCHR-Nepal said the draft bill should fill the gaps of the current legislation to ensure effective prosecution of offences based on caste-based discrimination and compensation for victims. Penalties should correspond to the seriousness of each offence, they said. 9 December 2010The United Nations human rights office in Nepal and the national commission against caste-based discrimination have analyzed draft legislation intended to ensure equality and prevent mistreatment, and recommended further consultations and a revision of the bill to include appropriate penalties and compensation.