Dalit bangladesh discrimination discriminatie

Discrimination

Discrimination based on gender, religion, caste and tribal background is a widespread issue in the workplace in South Asia.

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In its research on international supply chains, Arisa encounters a wide range of discriminatory practices in the workplace. Gender, religion, caste and tribal background determine workers’ employment opportunities and affect how they can perform their jobs and how they are treated in the workplace.

While Arisa’s work addresses all forms of discrimination, it focuses on caste-based discrimination, an issue that is deeply rooted in South Asian societies. India, Bangladesh and Pakistan have many laws to combat caste-based discrimination and protect all residents and citizens of these countries. However, the implementation of these laws remains poor. 

Caste-based discrimination

Caste is an ancient system of social hierarchy based on birth and linked to concepts of purity and social status. This system is deeply rooted in the culture of several South Asian countries. In particular, casteless people or people belonging to the Scheduled Caste (also called ‘Dalits’) are considered to be inferior in countries where the caste system exists. They face all kinds of social exclusion. This caste-based discrimination affects 260 million people.    

Studies of supply chains show that where there are many labour rights violations, Scheduled caste people are often the victims. They are usually uneducated, mistreated and given only the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs. This large number of people suffers all kinds of discrimination in the workplace: for example, they have to use separate transport, have to eat and drink separately, have segregated sleeping and working areas, and have to perform all kinds of extra cleaning activities. 

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The link between caste and religion 

There are clear links between caste-based discrimination and religion in South Asia. Both lower-caste communities and religious minorities occupy marginalised economic, social and cultural positions in South Asian societies.   

Specific social characteristics based on caste and religion are the main determinants of poverty across India. Scheduled Castes, alongside tribal communities and Muslims are the worst off. Hindu Dalits in India have been converting to other religions, such as Christianity, Buddhism and Islam for years to try to escape the hardships and discrimination that are inextricably linked to being from a Scheduled Caste background. An estimated 70% of Christians in India are from Scheduled Caste communities. In other South Asian countries, Scheduled Castes are often part of the Hindu community and face double discrimination, being both Dalits and members of a religious minority. Although most Dalits identify as Hindus, a similar caste system also occurs among other religious groups in South Asia. Islam and Christianity do not formally have a caste system, but in practice, it exists in several South Asian countries within Islamic and Christian communities. 

Intersectionality: caste, religion and gender

Women from lower castes and or religious minorities in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan face intersectionality because they are Dalit, members of a religious minority and women. Dalit women and women from religious minorities face frequent exclusion from economic opportunities and experience gender-based violence and harassment. Being raped is a constant fear among Dalit women in India. Women and girls from Scheduled Castes and or religious minority in India often lack access to a proper toilet which causes issues of safety and menstrual hygiene. In Scheduled Caste communities in Bangladesh, early marriages and restricted freedom of travel are prevalent for girls and women. And in Pakistan, most forced conversions to Islam concern young Scheduled Caste women and girls.  

Discrimination in international supply chains

Caste-based discrimination and intersectionality, sometimes linked to religion, are high-risk factors for companies sourcing products from India, Bangladesh or Pakistan. Caste-based discrimination is an under-reported human rights problem and a significant risk for all companies with international supply chains in South Asia. Arisa pays attention to the position of Scheduled Castes in the production sectors in which it works. It puts caste-based discrimination on the agenda internationally through International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN).