Let my people go

Reprinted by permission | © 2007 WORLD magazine, all rights reserved | Subscriptions: 800-951-NEWS or http://www.worldmag.com

The abolitionists’ lament is older than William Wilberforce—whose anti-slavery campaign brought transatlantic slavery to an end 200 years ago this month—but today 27 million people live on in captivity, their lives worth far less than any colonial era slave.

By Priya Abraham. Originally published as cover article for Feb. 24, 2007 issue.

Premila’s parents sold their daughter for $18 on her 18th birthday. The buyer, from hundreds of miles away, said his Indian village had no good women to marry so he had to buy a wife. He took Premila as a concubine, then sold her into 10 grinding years of prostitution in two cities before rescuers returned the shattered woman to her home.

Premila is a modern slave, one of 27 million in the world today. Two hundred years ago, slaves were relatively scarce, expensive, and publicly owned by men holding title deeds to them. Today, they are plentiful and cheap like Premila—and much harder to spot.
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This week Western countries celebrate the life of William Wilberforce, the pioneering abolitionist who labored 20 years to end the British slave trade, a fight he won on Feb. 23, 1807. Today’s abolitionists are no less tenacious but find their work is different: Unlike in Wilberforce’s time, slavery is illegal almost everywhere. Yet modern slavery flourishes because corrupt governments and law enforcers do not enforce the law.

The type of slavery Wilberforce and his American contemporaries knew was chattel slavery, in which one man owned another human being. According to the abolitionist group Free the Slaves, a slave in the American South in 1850 cost $40,000 in today’s dollars. Today, the average cost of a slave is $90. A growing world population with millions of poor means an ample supply of potential slaves that has driven down the price.

That means slaveholders may not need to keep slaves as a long-term, generational investment: If a slave falls ill or otherwise cannot work, he or she is easy to replace.

What does slavery in 2007 look like? Chattel slavery is now relatively rare, largely limited to parts of Africa. Most of today’s slaves—about 20 million—are in debt bondage, and mostly in the South Asian countries of India, Pakistan, and Nepal. Others in places such as Southeast Asia and Brazil are contract laborers, lured by promises of well-paying jobs but forced to remain in harsh, menial conditions. Forced marriages enslave women and girls. Human trafficking, which ensnares 600,000 to 800,000 people a year, is the newest slave trade and the world’s third-largest criminal business after drugs and arms dealing.

Bonded slavery works this way: A poor man takes a loan to pay for an emergency such as a funeral or family illness. He repays it with his labor, although unscrupulous lenders will not say for how long. Soon, as the original debt does not diminish, he realizes the lender has trapped him—and often his family—into working years or generations without pay.

Nagaraj was such a man. Desperate for work, he took a loan from a brick kiln owner who also bonded his wife and children. Nagaraj was devastated: At 12, he had worked with his parents for three years to pay off a debt, and now his family was in the same predicament.

Like his fellow slaves, Nagaraj and his family lived in a concrete cell at the brick factory. Six days a week, his family began work at 1 a.m., slogging 16 hours and working under the hot sun. He said he hated seeing his children work as hard as the adults and fall ill, growing up as another man’s property. If workers complained or bolted, the kiln owner beat them savagely.

In 2004, the Virginia-based International Justice Mission (IJM) worked with local authorities to raid the kiln, freeing 138 people, including Nagaraj and his family. The kiln owner faces prosecution, while Nagaraj and his wife now run their own brick-making business and send their children to school.

Nagaraj’s case is the kind IJM’s workers see often in South Asia. As modern-day abolitionists, IJM hires lawyers and human-rights advocates to fill a crucial if ironic niche in fighting slavery: They work to ensure local officials enforce laws.

Despite ample laws at the local, national, and international level against bonded labor and other forms of slavery, each case involves a long and hard fight. Where police and authorities are corrupt, they let the powerful prey on the poor, says IJM senior vice president of interventions, Sharon Cohn: “If a young girl in a poor community is a victim of sexual assault, the rapist often has better connections with the police than the family will,” she told WORLD.

In slave terms, if people come cheap, she says, then slaveholders should pay dearly in other ways—with jail time. Cohn says it takes grit and tenacity to pursue such prosecutions, where bonded labor easily blurs into sex trafficking. In IJM’s biggest success, staff and Cambodian police raided brothels in Svay Pak. They rescued little girls between the ages of 5 and 10. The pedophiles caught running the brothels have received prison sentences.

Freeing slaves is one hurdle abolitionists have to clear, but keeping them free is another. Sivakasi is a city in India’s southeastern state of Tamil Nadu, dubbed “Little Japan” for its matchstick, fireworks, and printing industries. Behind factory doors, however, are thousands of bonded child workers, making the city one of India’s worst slavery hubs.

Most of India’s bonded slaves are “untouchables”—Hinduism’s outcasts now more charitably known as Dalits, or the “downtrodden.” Dalits are desperately poor, and so most at risk for becoming enslaved.

The Dalit Freedom Network (DFN), an advocacy and charitable group, helps run a network of schools for Dalit children and, in Sivakasi, the students come from surrounding cottage factories.

They come, but not always regularly. Twelve-year-old Manjula is one such student. At first, her parents often pulled her from school to work in the factory, desperate for the extra cents a day she earned. Manjula began working with her parents at their local matchstick factory when she was 4.

The adults usually prepare the dangerous chemicals for the match heads—chlorates, phosphorus, and sulphur—and cut the sticks to size. The children work separately, typically in a 300-square-foot workroom lit dimly by a small, high window. The only ventilation is a concrete grille in the wall.

Though owners bribe local police to look away, the window’s strategic placement prevents passersby from looking in, since India bans children under 14 from working. The children sit in rows, peering at their matchsticks. They dip each in sulfur, lay it to dry—often on a newspaper—then place it in a match box. Dip, dry, dip, dry, goes the work, for 12 hours or more at a stretch. If the children meet the quota, they get less than $1. More reliably, they get chronic bronchitis and allergic skin rashes.

Manjula worked seven years in a matchstick factory and now labors to breathe sometimes. The school’s teachers cajoled her parents to let her stay in school, though her younger sister still has to work. Manjula had to start at kindergarten level, having never learned the alphabet or how to count.

When students like her miss class, teachers visit their parents and coax them into returning. More students skip school during the seasonal Hindu festivals, when demand for fireworks and matches is high. Sivakasi supplies three-quarters of India’s matches and almost all its fireworks.

Persuasion on the benefits of education doesn’t always work, said Albert Lael, national director of Dalit education for Operation Mercy Charitable Company, a partner with DFN. “The problem is [families] want their immediate needs met,” he said. ”[There’s] a long way to go because they don’t see the benefit they get in the long run.” Many Dalits have been slaves so long, they think only like slaves. Ask them what they want to do with their future, and they often name menial jobs.

Lael has loftier hopes. A Dalit himself, he sees the children and remembers his grandfather’s plight “was exactly like the kids in Sivakasi.” Canadian missionaries educated his family, and Lael now holds an MBA. But pulling other Dalits alongside him can be hard labor with few compensations, too.

DFN schools know to compromise. The parents of one student, 11-year-old Shiva, let him attend for seven years only because he also continues to work. So when school is out at 3 p.m., he dips and packs matches for another 12 hours. Exhausted, he struggles to do his homework and keep up. But school is a haven: fresh air and playtime, sports and lessons.

For years Afghan women have suffered under a slave system actually sanctioned in customary law called baad. Under baad, a family offers a daughter in marriage as a debt payment or as restitution for a crime. Womankind, a British nonprofit, reported last year that between 60 percent and 80 percent of Afghan marriages are forced. More than half of Afghan women marry before age 16, and some as young as 6.

Two seasons of drought and a bad winter mean Afghan families have turned more desperate in the last two years, with reports of some selling their daughters to feed their other children. In Helmand Province, which produces most of Afghanistan’s opium crop, some farmers cannot repay drug smugglers for loans to plant opium. So they turn to trading in women instead. Last November, the UN reports, a 25-year-old woman who had been traded for an opium debt turned an AK-47 on herself after suffering daily beatings from her husband.

Other bonded women who commit suicide, however, set themselves on fire. Medica Mondiale, a German group that helps women in conflict zones, found hundreds of cases of self-immolation in Afghanistan. Among some survivors, the group’s workers found women lying in hospital scarred and screaming with pain.

Medica Mondiale project manager Ancil Adrian-Paul lived in Afghanistan for the last year and recounted one case: A 17-year-old girl survived self-immolation after her father married her to a man in Iran who beat her. Once a girl marries, she leaves her family. The saying goes, “The only way you come back is in a white coffin.”

Desperate, the girl said a voice repeated to her, “Burn yourself, burn yourself.” When she awoke, she could not remember if the burning had been deliberate or accidental. The girl needs six more operations to repair her ravaged body, but she was speaking publicly about her experience.

Modern-day abolitionists admit they can free only so many slaves at a time from such conditions. Groups like IJM asked WORLD that specific locations of their work not be disclosed, lest the reports jeopardize their workers. And slave victims, including those in this story, use aliases to protect their families and their own lives from retribution at the hands of contemporary slave traders.

Twenty-first-century slavery may stretch in directions Wilberforce never imagined, but its crucial trait has not changed: One person still controls another completely using coercion, force, and restrictions on all movement. Like Wilberforce, abolitionists today have a keen eye for freedom—and they see plenty of work left to do.

For more information:

International Justice Mission: http://www.ijm.org
Free the Slaves: http://www.freetheslaves.net
Dalit Freedom Network: http://www.dalitnetwork.org
The Amazing Change: http://www.amazingchange.com

Posted on: February 26, 2007

 


Christians and Dalits Mount Legal Challenge to Himachal Pradesh Anti Conversion Law

Dalit Freedom Network partner All India Christian Council to lead fight against unconstitutional law
For Immediate Release:

Greenwood Village, CO – Christians and Dalits decided to challenge the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act 2006 in the High Court at a state-wide meeting organized by the All India Christian Council at Shimla on February 22, 2007.

The Governor of Himachal Pradesh, Shri Justice Vishnu Sadashiv Kokje, signed the state law on February 19, 2007. The Bill was passed the state legislature on December 19, 2006. The law is unique as it was generated and passed by the secular Congress party while most other anti-conversion laws have been passed in states ruled by the Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Dr. John Dayal, member of National Integration Council and General Secretary of the All India Christian Council, spoke to the media at Shimla, “Fraternal Christian, Dalit and mass movement organizations have decided to take the issue as far as the Supreme Court if we do not get a favorable decision at the state level.”

“The Governor, Chief Minister, as well as the Congress leadership in New Delhi including Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, should rescind the Act which was given Governor’s assent two days ago in a surreptious manner without the matter being discussed at public forum, or even in the state assembly at any length,” continued Dr. Dayal. “It is a matter of shame and concern to Democratic India that a Congress-ruled state such a Himachal Pradesh has enforced this act to target Christians, Buddhists and other religions in the same way law have done in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.”

Dr. Joseph D’souza, President of the All India Christian Council, said, “This law is unacceptable and betrays the promises of the Congress party to address the needs of minority faiths across India. This law severely undercuts the fundamental right to freedom of religion, particularly for exploited Dalits and tribals. The assent of the governor amounts to an endorsement of the discrimination and persecution against religious minorities in Himachal Pradesh state.”

Mr. Rakesh Bahadur, North India Convener of the National Conference of Dalit Organizations, said, “The Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Bill 2006 is targeted to those Dalits who want to get out of caste oppression by choosing the faith they like. This bill violates the fundamental rights of every Indian citizen provided in article 25 of Indian Constitution as well as article 18 of the UN’s Universal Declaration.”

The bill punishes anyone found involved in conversion by any fraudulent means with imprisonment up to two years and/or a fine of twenty five thousand Rupees. If Dalits or minors are involved, five years imprisonment and/or a fifty thousand Rupee fine is the penalty. Any members of religion wishing to change his/her faith is required to give 30 days prior information to district authorities or otherwise face punishment of one month imprisonment and/or a one thousand Rupee fine. However, any member returning back to previous religion is not considered violating this law.

Himachal Pradesh is the eighth state in India to pass an anti-conversion law. However, Tamil Nadu repealed its law in June 2006 and several states have not framed rules that outline the penalties if the bill’s provisions are violated.

The All India Christian Council (http://www.aiccindia.org), birthed in 1998, exists to protect and serve the Christian community, minorities, and the oppressed castes. The AICC is a coalition of thousands of Indian denominations, organizations, and lay leaders.

The Dalit Freedom Network’s mission is to partner with the Dalits (India’s Untouchables) in their quest for religious freedom, social justice, and human dignity by mobilizing human, informational, and financial resources. Their website is: http://www.dalitnetwork.org

For more information, contact:

Ben Marsh
Washington D.C. Coordinator
Dalit Freedom Network

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
(703) 974-1243

Posted on: February 24, 2007

 


Himachal Pradesh Governor Signs Anti-Conversion Legislation. DFN condemns draconian legislation

Press Statement from the Dalit Freedom Network.

For Immediate Release.

Denver, CO – The Governor of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, Shri Justice Vishnu Sadashiv Kokje, signed into law on Monday legislation that severely limits the fundamental rights of religious people across the state. The “Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Bill 2006” was passed by the Himachal Pradesh legislature on December 19, 2006. The law was unique as it was generated and passed by the secular Congress party while most other state-level anti-conversion laws were passed by the Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“This law is unacceptable and betrays the promises of the Congress party to address the needs of minority believers across India,” said Dr Joseph D’souza, President of the Dalit Freedom Network and the All India Christian Council. “This law severely undercuts the fundamental right to freedom of religion, particularly for exploited Dalits and tribals. The assent of the governor amounts to an endorsement of the discrimination and persecution against religious minorities in that state.”

Anti-conversion laws have been used in other states to justify vigilante violence against Christians and Muslims. Such laws require fees and legal paperwork for religious conversions but exempt conversions to Hinduism.

The Dalit Freedom Network is working closely with Christian Solidarity Worldwide UK and the All India Christian Council to mount a legal challenge to this and other anti-conversion laws.

The Dalit Freedom Network’s mission is to partner with the Dalits (India’s Untouchables) in their quest for religious freedom, social justice, and human dignity by mobilizing human, informational, and financial resources. Their website is: http://www.dalitnetwork.org

For more information, contact:

Ben Marsh
Washington D.C. Coordinator
Dalit Freedom Network

.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Posted on: February 22, 2007

 


Kobia likens India Dalit issue to apartheid, hails Korea nuclear deal

Anto Akkara for Ecumenical News International
Bangalore, India (ENI). The head of the World Council of Churches has likened the treatment of Dalits in India to apartheid, while on the same day issuing a welcome to a perceived breakthrough on the issue of North Korea’s nuclear armaments.

“As Christians we cannot be mere spectators as the world struggles for justice and peace,” said Kobia, the general secretary of the WCC, the world’s largest grouping of churches. “When the practice of apartheid continues in India, our task is not complete.”

Kobia was speaking at a 15 February ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the Banagalore-based Christian Institute for the Study of Religion and Society in southern India, which was founded 10 years after the country gained its independence from Britain.

In his speech, Kobia touched again, as he has done on his nine-day visit to India, on continuing discrimination against Dalits, or people from low castes treated as untouchables in a caste-ridden society.

“South Africa has abolished apartheid [and] it is a sin to practice it in India in the 21st century,” Kobia told nearly a thousand church leaders, pastors activists and theological students in Bangalore, the Indian city with the most church institutions.

Separately, Kobia later released a statement saying: “The agreement reached on 13th February, at the Six Party Talks in Beijing, in which Pyongyang pledged to close its nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, in return for nuclear fuel, is a major breakthrough in efforts to restore peace and normalcy in the region.”

Kobia noted: “The breakthrough vindicates the WCC’s long standing policy of engagement and dialogue to resolve tension and conflict in North East Asia.” He said the agreement produced a sixty-day timetable under which North Korea “will take initial steps towards denuclearisation in return for energy and economic aid”.

The Presbyterian Church in the South Korea, a member of the WCC, also welcomed the agreement and urged that the Six Party states “develop a concrete road map for the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”. It also urged the “the normalisation of diplomatic relations” between the North Korea, the United States and Japan.

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Posted on: February 22, 2007

 


Let my people go

The abolitionists’ lament is older than William Wilberforce—whose anti-slavery campaign brought transatlantic slavery to an end 200 years ago this month—but today 27 million people live on in captivity, their lives worth far less than any colonial era slave | Priya Abraham

Premila’s parents sold their daughter for $18 on her 18th birthday. The buyer, from hundreds of miles away, said his Indian village had no good women to marry so he had to buy a wife. He took Premila as a concubine, then sold her into 10 grinding years of prostitution in two cities before rescuers returned the shattered woman to her home. Read full article by clicking here (log in required)

Posted on: February 19, 2007

 


Christian activist urges Italy and Europe not to close their eyes to human rights issues in India

by John Dayal in the AsiaNews.It
Appeal is made to Italian PM Prodi. Economic interests should not monopolise relations. India should be helped to protect religious freedom and respect minorities and Dalits. Otherwise, there is no development.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Christians in India, especially Catholics, are following Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi’s imagevisit to India with particular interest, perhaps more than any other Western leader. His stops at St Thomas Church in Chennai and the tomb of Mother Teresa in Kolkata have been much appreciated.

Beyond formalities, there is however great hope that closer ties between India and Europe might persuade Indian leaders to address more directly the country’s social problems which continue to threat its development.

Lest we forget, both John Paul II and Benedict XVI talked straightforwardly, not hiding behind diplomatic niceties, and denounced the persecution of Christians and the violence perpetrated by majority nationalists in India and elsewhere in South Asia.

Now that ties between India and the West grow deeper in terms of industrial development and trade, activists for human rights and religious freedom are hopeful that the Old Continent might put pressure on New Delhi at every level in ways that might see the Indian government, political leaders and economic elites respect basic rights.

So far there are reasons to be sceptical. Large Indian and Western companies have turned a blind eye to what is happening in Gujarat, a state that remains hostile to Muslims and Christians but not to large-scale infrastructural investments.

No one expects leaders to make strong statements on human rights or commitments to their defence during state visits, but one might expect them to take advantage of such rare opportunities to send a message to New Delhi that economic progress, a strong democracy and world-wide trade ambitions require greater focus on issues such as religious freedom and full protection of civil liberties.

No one is demanding coercive steps like trade restrictions or bans on foreign aid, but as India finds its place in the global village, it must be aware that it has responsibilities like improving its citizens’ quality of life, protecting the rights of Dalits and respecting its religious minorities.

The fact that Europe, too, may have skeletons in its own closet can provide an opportunity for a wider reflection on the matter.

John Dayal
Secretary General of the All India Christian Council and President of the All India Catholic Union.

Posted on: February 15, 2007

 


Muslims demand speedy implementation of Sachar Committee recommendations

Article from DailyIndia.com

New Delhi, Feb 10 (ANI): Hundreds of thousands of Muslims on Saturday took out a rally here, demanding implementation of the recommendation of the Sachar Committee.

Braving rains, Muslim clerics, political leaders, journalists and others attended the rally.

“Dalit Muslims are facing the same problems as Dalit Hindus and Dalit Christians. So they should get their rights according to the Indian constitution,” Janata Dal (United) Party president Sharad Yadav, who came to support to protesting Muslims.

Appointed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Sachar Committee in its report had said that India’s Muslims were lagging behind, facing more poverty, illiteracy and unemployment than any other community in the country.

The report was submitted to the Prime Minister in November.

Ali Anwar, a prominent Muslim leader said it was time the community came forward for its own development and rights.

“They don’t have representation in politics, government jobs, and even their religion. So they have to come forward. This is just the beginning,” he said.

The report, based on research by the committee is a part of a campaign aimed at bridging the economic status of the country’s majority Hindus and its minority Muslim population.

The committee stressed the need for programmes to address the educational and economic backwardness of the Muslim community.

Singh has said the government should devise plans to ensure minorities reap the benefits of development.

Muslims account for 140 million of India’s 1.1 billion people, the world’s third-largest Islamic population after Indonesia and Pakistan.

Although India’s secular Constitution promises equal rights and opportunities to all communities, Muslims have traditionally registered lower educational levels and, as a consequence, higher unemployment rates than Hindus.

In recent months, Singh has urged regional political leaders to provide better access to education for Muslims as well as recruit more Muslims into police and intelligence agencies to help counter a growing sense of insecurity in the community. (ANI)

Posted on: February 12, 2007

 


Thinking about others: Norfolk wrestler sponsoring children in India

Thursday, January 25, 2007

JEREMY BUSS/CORRESPONDENT, Norfolk Daily News

Norfolk High Wrestler Caleb Baber has spent the past year sponsoring four children in India. Through support from his relatives, Baber returned to the wrestling mat this season.
For Christians, their faith in Jesus Christ can lead them in different directions while still seeking common ground.

For Caleb Baber, his faith has led him on a journey with a goal of helping to make a difference in the lives of less fortunate children across the globe.image

Baber, a Norfolk High senior, has spent the past year sponsoring children in India through the Dalit Freedom Network. It’s an aspect of his life that perhaps isn’t as well known as his accomplishments on the high school wrestling mat.

The 160-pound wrestler is currently 19-7 on the season and ranked No. 2 in Class A by the Nebraska Scholastic Wrestling Coaches Association.

Baber returned to the mat this season after abruptly quitting wrestling during a 27-3 season last year. Why? Ostensibly it was because he began work part time after school as a waiter at The Meadows.

But there’s more to the story.

The money he earned wasn’t spent on himself. Baber needed the money as part of his quest to help make life better for some of India’s Dalit children – who are considered among that country’s outcasts.

“It didn’t make sense to me the whole time when I quit wrestling,” he said. “I was more successful last year than I am right now. I beat mostly everyone in the top six. I was headed toward the state championship when God spoke quietly for me to do something else. It sounded crazy to me. But I listened to Him and walked in obedience.”

Last July, Baber had the opportunity to visit India and the children he supports financially as part of mission trip sponsored by Christ Is King Community Church in Norfolk.

While in India, Baber and his friend, Jason Thomas, taught classes to first- and second- graders at a Good Shepherd school located in one of the villages.

“When I went to the village, it was obvious what side of town was Dalits and which side wasn’t,” Baber said.

It wasn’t until his arrival back to the United States when Baber realized one of the children who made an impression on him during his trip – named Bhargav – also was one of the Dalits he supports.

“Bhargav had a peaceful smile,” he said. “I recognized the name but wasn’t sure if he was one of the kids I support. He stood out from all the other kids during the week.

“It was really awesome to see the way God was with me. To go over there and see the kind of kids, especially Bhargov . . . it was amazing. Not one of the kids there took it for granted that they were receiving an education. They all love to learn. It made my decision to step away from wrestling last year worth it.”

After receiving encouragement from his family and friends during the offseason, Baber decided to make a return to the mat this year.

During the three-month wrestling season, Baber’s family has offered to help him assist with the support of the children. Baber, the second of three children of Marc Baber and Tami Tucker, missed wrestling.

He also wanted to spend his final Panther season wrestling with his younger brother, Levi, who transferred from Pierce.

Levi Baber, a Class B state qualifier last year, is a 135-pound wrestler on the Norfolk roster.

“I had that responsibility that I wasn’t just going to give up,” Baber said. “After talking with my family, they all wanted me to wrestle again. They decided to support those kids during wrestling season so I could wrestle and not have to worry about that.”

One can witness Baber’s spiritual side on and off the mat.

A two-time Class A state qualifier, Baber acknowledges that he once enjoyed dominating the competition. But his return to the mat this year now brings with it a desire by Baber to know Christ even more fully.

“I do want to wrestle to the best of my ability and I’ve been disappointed this year because I know I’m not yet (because of injuries),” he said. “But it’s not about me getting all the glory, it’s about Christ and doing everything for Him.”

When the wrestling season concludes in three weeks, Baber is looking to resume his duties of supporting the children in India.

Baber also is looking ahead to the future and spending time with his family in Northeast Nebraska before heading off to college.

He plans to attend Lee University, a Christian liberal arts school located in Cleveland, Tenn., in the fall. Once there, he plans to study theology. He wants to learn more about the Bible and what it says about God.

“When wrestling’s over, I’d rather start working again and start supporting the children on my own and save what little I can for college,” he said.

Posted on: February 6, 2007

 


EU passes resolution on human rights of Dalits

On February 1, 2007, the European Parliament passed a resolution demanding better protection of Dalits in India. In the resolution, the European Union commends the Indian government for good laws but expresses great concern about ongoing injustices.

The resolution notes the huge challenges for Dalits in India today including bonded labor, atrocities, forced child labor, and much more. The EU Committee on Development (DEVE) had proposed the resolution on December 19, 2006, which led to the parliament passing the resolution in February. Paul Divakar, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights and Ruth Manorama, National Federation of Dalit Women, had testified eloquently at a hearing on December 18, 2006.

Although India’s Constitution and other laws offer some protection, the resolution noted numerous problems that need attention. India’s own National Human Rights Commission and other human rights groups continue to report that laws are often ignored by police and other authorities. People who attack Dalits are rarely convicted.

The European Commission and the European Council were asked to implement several solutions. These include: to talk about caste discrimination in dialogues with India, to measure development initiatives to make sure they help Dalits achieve the UN Millennium Goals, and to promote equal opportunities for Dalits to work in private EU-based corporations.

For more, see the EU press release and read the EU resolution.

Posted on: February 4, 2007

 


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