New York: In a significant step toward achieving equality and justice, the NGO forum of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) has successfully passed a groundbreaking resolution aimed at “Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Communities Discriminated based on Work and Descent (CDWD)” in Africa.
This resolution marks a significant milestone in the ongoing struggle to address discrimination based on work and descent and to protect and promote the rights and dignity of CDWD across the continent.
The ACHPR, composed of representatives from various African nations, NGOs and other stakeholder groups convened in Arusha, Tanzania from 16-18 of October 2023, to deliberate on this vital issue. After intense discussions, the NGO forum of the Commission unanimously adopted a comprehensive resolution dedicated to combat discrimination against CDWD.
The NGO forum acknowledged that discrimination based on work and descent is widespread across Africa and that multiple, aggravated, and intersecting forms of discrimination impact women, children and youth, persons with disabilities, and those of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity, which makes them more vulnerable to the denial of their human rights in par with others.
“Acknowledging that discrimination based on work and descent is widespread across the African continent, and that multiple, aggravated and intersecting forms of discrimination impact women, children and youth, persons with disabilities and those of diverse sexual orientation and gender identity, which makes them more vulnerable to denial of their human rights on an equal basis with others,” says the resolution.
“Strongly deploring acts of violence, untouchability and segregation committed against persons on the basis of work and descent, as well as acts of sexual and gender-based violence predominantly committed against women and girls from communities discriminated on the basis of work and descent.”
In order to tackle discrimination based on work and descent, the NGO Forum of the ACPHR has called upon the States Parties to acknowledge the existence of discrimination based on work and descent as a distinct form of discrimination that deserves the attention of the African community and that affects peoples across Africa. The Forum also called upon the States Parties to take all necessary constitutional, legislative, administrative, budgetary, judicial, educational, and social measures to eliminate discrimination based on work and descent in their respective states and respect, protect, promote, restitute, implement and monitor the human rights of those facing this discrimination, including thorough, robust disaggregated data collection in line with data protection and data privacy principles.
Article 2 of the African Charter prohibits any form of discrimination against any person on the basis of race, ethnicity, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Article 5 of the Charter recognises that every individual shall have the right to the respect of the dignity inherent in a human being and that all forms of exploitation and degradation, particularly slavery, slave trade, torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment shall be prohibited
According to the resolution, the Forum urges the States Parties, in collaboration with the National Human Rights Institutions, civil society organizations and human rights defenders belonging to communities discriminated on work and descent, to combat prejudicial beliefs and practices in all their forms, including notions of untouchability, pollution and caste superiority or inferiority, as well as prevent human rights violations taken on the basis of such beliefs.
The Forum has requested the Africa Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights to initiate a process to realise a continental study on the situation of communities discriminated on work and descent to be shared with the African Union organs and institutions.
“The Forum decides to establish a Working Group on Discrimination Based on Work and Descent, composed of Members of the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, with the participation of representatives of communities discriminated on work and descent, further study the practices of discrimination based on work and descent in the African region and their impact on the realization of human rights under the African Charter, with the aim of developing further interventions to prevent discrimination based on work and descent,” states the resolution.
The passing of this resolution generates visibility for the various regional communities in Africa oppressed by caste and caste-like structures, encourages the state and other mechanisms to address their issues nationally and regionally, and is a significant step towards a United Nations Declaration recognizing and protecting the rights of CDWD globally. It is a major stride towards a more inclusive and equitable Africa, where all individuals, regardless of their work and descent, can enjoy their human rights and freedoms without the fear of discrimination. It is a testament to the continent's commitment to upholding human rights and peoples' dignity. The resolution represents hope for a brighter and more inclusive future for CDWD throughout Africa.