The time has come to flush the use of manual scavenging performed largely by Dalit women down the toilet.  This task was stark discrimination based on caste and gender and is essentially the manual removal of human excreta from dry latrines and sewers.  Navi Pillay, the United Nations Human Rights Chief, condemned the practice: “Because of the nature of the work, manual scavenging has contributed to a self-perpetuating cycle of stigma and untouchability” and is a “deeply unhealthy, unsavoury and undignified job forced upon people because of the stigma attached to their caste.”


India has strong laws prohibiting caste discrimination, and Navi Pillay today welcomed recent efforts on eradication of the practice.


Thousands of courageous women from the Dalit caste marched to eradicate manual scavenging and for rehabilitation of those who performed it.  Wide-sections of Indian society supported their efforts. Last September, a new bill to ban manual scavenging was submitted to the Indian Parliament by the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment.


According to Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), the two leading causes of preventable child mortality rates for children under five are pneumonia and diarrhea. By eliminating manual scavenging, this is a victory for women, human rights and dignity, and basic health norms for the women, their families, and society.  It is a victory for the global citizen.


UN News Centre Source


The United Nations human rights chief today welcomed the recent movement in India to eradicate manual scavenging, a practice traditionally relegated to Dalit women, and seen as a form of discrimination based on caste and gender.


In November, thousands of women of the Dalit caste – also known as ‘untouchables’ – began a 63-day National March for the Eradication of Manual Scavenging, advocating the elimination of this practice and calling for comprehensive rehabilitation of those conducting it. The march crossed a total of 200 districts in 18 states and will end on Thursday in New Delhi, the capital.


“I congratulate the strenuous efforts and commitment of the organizers, and of all the participants – especially the thousands of liberated manual scavenger women – who marched across the country in support of the many others who are still being forced to carry out this dreadful practice,” said the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay.


Ms. Pillay said she was encouraged to hear that the national march has been supported by a wide cross-section of society and underlined that this degrading activity should be abolished and should not have a place in 21st century India.


In September, a new bill to ban manual scavenging and rehabilitate those who were forced to do it was submitted to the Indian Parliament by the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment. The bill builds on the strong legislative framework already in place prohibiting untouchability and bonded labour, and adds a comprehensive definition of manual scavenging.


“India already has strong legal prohibitions on caste discrimination, so the key to the new law will be effective accountability and enforcement. It is also crucial that adequate resources are provided to enable the comprehensive rehabilitation of liberated manual scavengers,” Ms. Pillay said.


“This is the only way these grossly exploited people will be able to successfully reintegrate into a healthier and much more dignified work environment, and finally have a real opportunity to improve the quality of their own lives and those of their children and subsequent generations,” she added.



Susan Sacirbey


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PHOTO Credit: Leena Patel/UN Women