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Point of View - 2004-02-06


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    SOUTH-EAST ASIA: Philippines


    --Report from Isis International-Manila

    Human rights organisations around the world staged protest actions on 3 July 2001 to raise public awareness and pressure governments to address the problem of caste-- an ugly daily phenomenon faced by more than 260 million Dalits, the lowest caste, in caste-based societies in South Asia.

    Along with the question of Palestinian occupation, caste-based discrimination has been identified by Asia-Pacific NGOs as priority issues when governments meet up for the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR), which will be held from 31 August to 7 September 2001 in Durban city, South Africa.


    The exclusion of the caste issue from the official documents that will be presented in WCAR has triggered concern among human rights activists, who organised the 3 July campaign.

    In the Philippines, the campaign was led by the Philippine NGO WCAR Committee, a coalition of non-government organisations who are in the forefront of advocating the rights of women, migrant workers, indigenous peoples, religious and ethnic minorities, among others.

    "After about a half hour, of us chanting and beating on drums and different people reading out our letter and other statements, the ambassador asked us to leave…. We managed to also plaster the gates of the embassy with all of our posters and slogans"

    Susanna George, ISIS International

    Members of the Philippine NGO Committee staged a picket before high noon in front of the Indian Embassy located in lush Dasmariņas Village, Makati City to protest the Indian government’s stance to exclude the caste issue in the official agenda of the WCAR. The demonstration lasted for almost an hour, with protestors chanting slogans such as "Caste out caste" "What do we want? Justice for the Dalits!" and reading out load the petition letter and press statement outside the embassy’s gates. Some representatives from media were present to cover news and shoot photos.

    Alerted by the embassy, village security guards did not allow entry to a number of protestors and media representatives.

    Follow-up activities such as showing of the film about caste "Lesser Humans," school campaigns, radio and television guestings, mass mobilisations and other advocacy activities will be conducted within the next few weeks.

    The members of the Philippine NGO WCAR Committee are: the Asian Women’s Human Rights Council, Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia and the Pacific, KAKAMMPI, Kanlungan, Migrants Forum Asia, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and Isis International-Manila.

    Posted on 2001-07-18
    World Conference Against Racism @ Asian Legal Recources Centre
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