According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. It also states that marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
Castes, by definition, are endogamous and caste endogamy establishes and enforces marriage relationships only within one’s caste group. It is known by man that marriage and procreation are the basic natural rights of man and fundamental to every existence and survival of the race. To deny this fundamental freedom on the basis of purity or weaker and stronger blood is an infringement on his right to marriage and family.
In Nigeria, the Osu caste system comes with human rights restrictions and violations and literature on the Osu caste system has paid little attention to the human rights dimensions. The right to marry is one such right that is violated as a norm.
The Osu do not have the right to marry or have a family with the a Diala, or the free borns. It is an atrocity for the Diala to marry an Osu. The Osu and Diala do not inter-marry. Diala do not marry Osu or Diala parents do not allow their children to marry Osu is because they see the Diala as having a purer and stronger blood and the Osu an impure and weaker blood. They believe that if the two blood meets together, it will invoke a punishment on both the people and the entire community.
Yet, while the Osu abolition Law legally abolished the Osu caste system, work and descent-based discrimination, the Osu continue to be subjected to social exclusion, human rights abuses, mistreatment, segregation and discrimination in marriage.
According to the laws of Manu who founded the caste system in India, a woman, at no stage in her life, is fit to be independent – the father should guard her until she is married, the husband during her adult life, and the son in her old age.
This is the founding spirit of the endogamous nature of caste. This is also the reason behind the cruel murders, often in broad daylight, of young Dalit men who marry or propose to marry girls from upper castes, such is the obsession with the notion of purity.
The caste system is a dominant idea of being hereditary superior and “pure” to others. Thus, the practice of marriage within the caste ensures the hierarchy is maintained and in case of its violation, violence is committed against the Dalit or community belonging so-called ‘lower caste’.
Japan’s Burakumin, the underclass from a centuries-old social hierarchy were oppressed by laws that mandated even their hairstyles, the colour of their clothes and the types of shoes they wore – and whom they married. There has been a degree of change. But marriage outside the Barakumin caste system still remains a strict No.
Prof Risa Kumamoto, of the Human Rights Research Institute of Kindai University, vividly remembers how, in university, her then boyfriend told her to hide her identity. “He told me, ‘You are a good person, but it is better not to mention your burakumin background to my family for your own good. This isn’t discrimination, but mentioning it draws unnecessary attention to it, so it is just better not to talk about it at all.’ ”
A government survey in 2017 found that just 11.8 per cent of Japanese believe that Burakumin discrimination no longer exists, with 40.1 per cent seeing such prejudice in marriage. Another survey, by the Tokyo metropolitan government in 2014, found that 26.6 per cent would oppose their children marrying someone of Burakumin lineage.
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