Minorities in South Asia face widespread violence and discrimination, and governments fail to protect rights – new regional report on minority rights

Hundreds of millions of people belonging to minority communities in South Asia are being denied their basic rights and experience high levels of violence and discrimination, yet there is a lack of action and appropriate laws to address these issues at both the regional and national levels, a new report launched today finds.

The South Asia State of Minorities Report provides an overview of the condition of minorities in the region, covering Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

‘The findings of the report are sobering,’ says Sajjad Hassan, lead author of the report, ‘Vast numbers of citizens are being denied basic rights to life, security, identity and culture, socioeconomic well-being and participation.  Yet, South Asia is the only region without any regional minority rights instrument or mechanism, and governments are failing to fulfil their international obligations to protect people’s rights.’

Minority communities in South Asia are among the poorest and most vulnerable people in the region. The report shows how minority communities such as Christians, Dalits, Hindus, Muslims and indigenous peoples across the region suffer the worst socioeconomic drawbacks, such as poor access to education, housing and healthcare.

According to the report, illegal detentions, torture, custodial deaths, extra-judicial killings and fake encounters and enforced disappearances are all human rights violations that occur with regularity in the region – with minority communities disproportionately affected.

Minorities are facing widespread physical violence from governments and non-state actors (such as militant arms of xenophobic nationalist groups). Examples include the violence by Afghan Taliban against Hazaras and other minorities in Afghanistan; or in Bangladesh by groups such as the Ansarullah Bangla Team and the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) against religious minorities and progressive bloggers.

Minorities are often excluded from government and other powerful positions throughout the region. For example, Pakistan does not allow a person of any other faith but Islam to stand for office as President, while in India Muslims are very poorly represented in elected assembles at national, state and local levels.

The report points to the failure of national laws on minority rights and highlights the lack of enforcement of international treaties and agreements, even though most South Asian nations are signatories.

The report recommends increased regional cooperation and action from governments and also civil society organizations, who must work together to improve the outcomes for these communities. The report calls for a South Asia charter of minority and human rights in place to which governments will be held accountable, and highlights the need for disaggregated data.  

Notes to editors: 

- South Asia State of Minorities Report will be launched on 9th of November 2016 and available at www.sacollective.misaal.ngo/?page=experience . For an embargoed copy of the report, to arrange interviews or for more information, please contact one of our representatives:

-           Asia: Tabish Ahsan, Misaal NRC.  thesacollective@misaal.ngo / +91 9968 996669

-           London, UK: Jasmin Qureshi, Press Officer, jasmin.qureshi@mrgmail.org /

            +44 7921 559 479

- The report was produced by a group of activists and institutions from the region called the South Asia Collective. The Collective decided last year to start producing annual surveys of minority rights in order to spur more coordinated regional action from governments and civil society. This report is the first edition of these annual surveys.

- The South Asia State of Minorities Report provides an overview minority rights in the region through country overviews, profiles of marginalized minority groups and case studies.

- The South Asia Collective will hold a launch event on 11th November 2016, at 10 am at Kathmandu, Nepal. Contact us if you would like to attend.

- Interviews are available with the following experts: 

1. Afghanistan: Omar Sadr (omersadr@yahoo.com)

2. Bangladesh: Zakir Hossain  (zhossain@agni.com)

3. India: Sajjad Hassan (Iamsajjadhassan@gmail.com)

4. Nepal: Deepak Thapa (dthapa@soscbaha.org)

5. Pakistan: Bushra Khaliq (bushra.khaliq1@gmail.com)

6. Sri Lanka:  Dinushika Dissanayake (dinushika@gmail.com)

More information available at: www.sacollective.misaal.ngo

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Date: 09/11/2016

Categories:

Religion/Religious minorities

Press Contact Information

Name: Jasmin Qureshi

Telephone: +44 (0) 7921 559 479

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