The National Dalit Commission (NDC) and the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner in Nepal (OHCHR-Nepal) have welcomed the passage of the Caste-based Discrimination and Untouchability (Crime and Punishment) bill from the Legislature Parliament.

Issuing a joint press statement Wednesday, NDC and OHCHR said, the passage of the bill is a positive step towards elimination of caste-based discrimination and urged to further strengthen it to improve some shortcomings including the potential misuse of the provision that penalises complainants in cases where the complaints are not substantiated.

The Legislature Parliament had passed the bill, pending since past two years, on Tuesday.

“The NDC and OHCHR are particularly pleased to note the provisions in the new Act stating that caste-based discrimination and untouchability practices are prohibited in both public and private spheres; increased punishments for public officials found responsible of discrimination; requirements for perpetrators to provide compensation to victims; and the criminalisation of incitement for caste-based discrimination,” mentions the statement.

“We have undergone extreme suffering due to caste based discrimination and untouchability for centuries,” said NDC chairperson Bijul Bishwakarma. “I hope the passing of this bill will prove a milestone in access to justice for the Dalits.”

Head of OHCHR-Nepal, Jyoti Sanghera, urged to ensure effective implementation of the law, taking appropriate measures such as raising awareness of the law amongst the general public and specific training for the police.

Untouchability in public places was outlawed through the civil code introduced by erstwhile King Mahendra Shah about fifty years ago, but the implementation has remained poor.

The newly passed act prohibits practising untouchability even in private spaces.

Source: Nepal News – 26.05.2011