(June 23, 2014)

Sexual violence against Dalit women:

Minister Timmermans discusses Dalit issue with Indian government
- commitment in UN still largely absent

MPs from the Dutch political parties ChristianUnion, Socialist Party, GreenLeft, D66 and SGP urged the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Timmermans on June 11 to raise the issue of mostly unpunished violence against Dalit women with the Indian government, the UN Human Rights Council and the EU.

Answering these questions, Minister Timmermans said:

"During the conversation with my Indian colleague at the Foreign Ministers Meeting in New Delhi on November 11, 2013, we talked extensively about the situation of Dalits. During recent consultations the gruesome incident in Uttar Pradesh was raised by the Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs."

Answering the question whether he was willing to raise the issue of caste discrimination and impunity of sexual violence against Dalit women during the current session of the UN Human Rights Council, the Minister replied:

"The Netherlands has raised the issue of the position of marginalized groups and multiple discrimination during the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women."

Mr. Timmermans also reacted to a question about the need to strengthen the legal system against multiple discrimination and violence against Dalit women:

"The President of India, President Pranab Mukherjee, announced on 9 June this year a policy of zero tolerance with regard to violence against women, including a reform of the legal framework and supervision on its implementation. The recently elected Prime Minister Modi reinforced this on 11 June during his first speech before the parliament.
The Netherlands will continue to draw attention to the issue of violence against women, multilaterally, through the EU and in bilateral dialogues. During the upcoming session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, the Netherlands will once again, together with France, propose a resolution against violence against women."

Minister Timmermans was not willing to support (to co-sponsor in the jargon) a side-event of Human Rights Watch and the International Dalit Solidarity Network on 'Violence against women and girls affected by caste affected communities' politically. He explained:

"So far two European countries have agreed to co-sponsor the event. To increase the effectiveness of this event, it is important that not only European countries will co-sponsor this event, but also countries from other parts of the world. So, co-sponsorship of the Netherlands has no added value at the moment."

It is clear from the answers of the Minister that he has raised the issue of caste-based discrimination and violence against Dalit women with the Indian government and - though rather in general terms - in dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women. That is positive news. However, the approach to the topic of violence against Dalits and Dalit women remains extremely reluctant. The Netherlands did not - despite the horrible recent events and the fact that women are a priority in the Dutch human rights policy - want to give a 'political signal' by co-sponsoring the Side Event on violence against Dalit women and girls. But also more generally it is clear that the Netherlands is not willing to actively raise the issue of violation of the human rights of 260 million Dalits - almost half of them women - at the UN, nor in the EU.

Download the full parliamentary questions and answers here.

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