Follow our new WhatsApp channel

See updates
  1. Home
  2. Asia
  3. Nepal

Low caste communities still suffering discrimination

[Pakistan] Low caste Dalit communities are still neglected and discriminated against in
Nepalese society. [Date picture taken: 01/04/2007] Naresh Newar/IRIN

Nepal’s impoverished low caste ‘Dalit’ community continue to be discriminated against almost 20 years after the caste system was banned, human rights activists in Nepal's southwestern city of Nepalganj have complained.

“We still have to live with the hard reality of being discriminated [against] in every aspect of our lives,” said Dalit school teacher, Hari Bahadur Biswokarma, in Nepalganj, 600 km west of the capital Kathmandu.

Biswokarma added that the situation was much worse in the remote western areas of Nepal, which remain among the least developed areas in the country with a per capita income of less than US $1 a day.

The Dalits have suffered from caste discrimination ever since the former Nepalese rulers, the Mallas, introduced the system in the 13th century. It was only in 1990, following the restoration of democracy, that the new constitution declared the practice of caste discrimination a crime.

“But even today, the situation has barely changed as discrimination is rife in both social and economic aspects,” said Dalit activist, Parsuram Nepali, from the local rights NGO, Neglected Community Awareness, Nepal.

He added that due to discrimination, the Dalit families are excluded from most development and economic activities, children are often deprived of education, and women have to work under exploitative conditions in the cities in order to make a living.

According to the Dalit NGO Federation (DNF), around 80 percent of the five million-strong Dalit population lives below the poverty line. DNF explained that the literacy rate is barely 10 percent, with only 3.2 percent of women literate, and most Dalit children suffering malnutrition.

Until recently, the former Maoist rebels had been supporting the Dalits while engaged in a decade of conflict with the Nepalese government. However, following a peace agreement between the two parties in November, the Maoists have been preoccupied with their own political issues, Dalit activists have complained.

“The Maoists had proved themselves committed to end discrimination by punishing especially the high caste landlords who had been exploiting the low caste farmers,” said activist Bhim Nepali from the NGO, Dalit Sewa Sangh.

“The only way to end the discrimination is by empowering and educating more Dalits, but the government has to be seriously committed, otherwise another civil war will start in the country if the neglect continues,” claimed activist Ram Singh Karki, who explained that one cause of the armed conflict over the past decade was related to the social exclusion of the low castes. He warned that the Dalits may be forced to take up arms if their wellbeing is constantly ignored by the state.

nn/ds/jm


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

Share this article

Get the day’s top headlines in your inbox every morning

Starting at just $5 a month, you can become a member of The New Humanitarian and receive our premium newsletter, DAWNS Digest.

DAWNS Digest has been the trusted essential morning read for global aid and foreign policy professionals for more than 10 years.

Government, media, global governance organisations, NGOs, academics, and more subscribe to DAWNS to receive the day’s top global headlines of news and analysis in their inboxes every weekday morning.

It’s the perfect way to start your day.

Become a member of The New Humanitarian today and you’ll automatically be subscribed to DAWNS Digest – free of charge.

Become a member of The New Humanitarian

Support our journalism and become more involved in our community. Help us deliver informative, accessible, independent journalism that you can trust and provides accountability to the millions of people affected by crises worldwide.

Join