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United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination - General Comments

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General recommendation No. 29 - On article 1, paragraph 1, of the Convention (Descent) [2002] UNCERDGC 2; INT/CERD/GEC/7501 (23 August 2002)

Sixty-first session (2002)
General recommendation XXIX on article 1, paragraph 1,
of the Convention (Descent)

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination,

Recalling the terms of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights according to which all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and are entitled to the rights and freedoms therein without distinction of any kind, including race, colour, sex, language, religion, social origin, birth or other status,

Recalling also the terms of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action of the World Conference on Human Rights according to which it is the duty of States, regardless of political, economic and cultural system, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Reaffirming its general recommendation XXVIII in which the Committee expresses wholehearted support for the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance,

Reaffirming also the condemnation of discrimination against persons of Asian and African descent and indigenous and other forms of descent in the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action,

Basing its action on the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination which seeks to eliminate discrimination based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin,

Confirming the consistent view of the Committee that the term “descent” in article 1, paragraph 1, the Convention does not solely refer to “race” and has a meaning and application which complement the other prohibited grounds of discrimination,

Strongly reaffirming that discrimination based on “descent” includes discrimination against members of communities based on forms of social stratification such as caste and analogous systems of inherited status which nullify or impair their equal enjoyment of human rights,

Noting that the existence of such discrimination has become evident from the Committee’s examination of reports of a number of States parties to the Convention,

Having organized a thematic discussion on descent-based discrimination and received the contributions of members of the Committee, as well as contributions from some Governments and members of other United Nations bodies, notably experts of the Sub-Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights,

Having received contributions from a great number of concerned non-governmental organizations and individuals, orally and through written information, providing the Committee with further evidence of the extent and persistence of descent-based discrimination in different regions of the world,

Concluding that fresh efforts need to be made as well as existing efforts intensified at the level of domestic law and practice to eliminate the scourge of descent-based discrimination and empower communities affected by it,

Commending the efforts of those States that have taken measures to eliminate descentbased discrimination and remedy its consequences,

Strongly encouraging those affected States that have yet to recognize and address this phenomenon to take steps to do so,

Recalling the positive spirit in which the dialogues between the Committee and Governments have been conducted on the question of descent-based discrimination and anticipating further such constructive dialogues,

Attaching the highest importance to its ongoing work in combating all forms of descentbased discrimination,

Strongly condemning descent-based discrimination, such as discrimination on the basis of caste and analogous systems of inherited status, as a violation of the Convention,

Recommends that the States parties, as appropriate for their particular circumstances, adopt some or all of the following measures:

1. Measures of a general nature

(a) Steps to identify those descent-based communities under their jurisdiction who suffer from discrimination, especially on the basis of caste and analogous systems of inherited status, and whose existence may be recognized on the basis of various factors including some or all of the following: inability or restricted ability to alter inherited status; socially enforced restrictions on marriage outside the community; private and public segregation, including in housing and education, access to public spaces, places of worship and public sources of food and water; limitation of freedom to renounce inherited occupations or degrading or hazardous work; subjection to debt bondage; subjection to dehumanizing discourses referring to pollution or untouchability; and generalized lack of respect for their human dignity and equality;

(b) Consider the incorporation of an explicit prohibition of descent-based discrimination in the national constitution;

(c) Review and enact or amend legislation in order to outlaw all forms of discrimination based on descent in accordance with the Convention;

(d) Resolutely implement legislation and other measures already in force;

(e) Formulate and put into action a comprehensive national strategy with the participation of members of affected communities, including special measures in accordance with articles 1 and 2 of the Convention, in order to eliminate discrimination against members of descent-based groups;

(f) Adopt special measures in favour of descent-based groups and communities in order to ensure their enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, in particular concerning access to public functions, employment and education;

(g) Establish statutory mechanisms, through the strengthening of existing institutions or the creation of specialized institutions, to promote respect for the equal human rights of members of descent-based communities;

(h) Educate the general public on the importance of affirmative action programmes to address the situation of victims of descent-based discrimination;

(i) Encourage dialogue between members of descent-based communities and members of other social groups;

(j) Conduct periodic surveys on the reality of descent-based discrimination and provide disaggregated information in their reports to the Committee on the geographical distribution and economic and social conditions of descent-based communities, including a gender perspective;

2. Multiple discrimination against women members
of descent-based communities

(k) Take into account, in all programmes and projects planned and implemented and in measures adopted, the situation of women members of the communities, as victims of multiple discrimination, sexual exploitation and forced prostitution;

(l) Take all measures necessary in order to eliminate multiple discrimination including descent-based discrimination against women, particularly in the areas of personal security, employment and education;

(m) Provide disaggregated data for the situation of women affected by descent-based discrimination;

3. Segregation

(n) Monitor and report on trends which give rise to the segregation of descent-based communities and work for the eradication of the negative consequences resulting from such segregation;

(o) Undertake to prevent, prohibit and eliminate practices of segregation directed against members of descent-based communities including in housing, education and employment;

(p) Secure for everyone the right of access on an equal and non-discriminatory basis to any place or service intended for use by the general public;

(q) Take steps to promote mixed communities in which members of affected communities are integrated with other elements of society and ensure that services to such settlements are accessible on an equal basis for all;

4. Dissemination of hate speech including through
the mass media and the Internet

(r) Take measures against any dissemination of ideas of caste superiority and inferiority or which attempt to justify violence, hatred or discrimination against descent-based communities;

(s) Take strict measures against any incitement to discrimination or violence against the communities, including through the Internet;

(t) Take measures to raise awareness among media professionals of the nature and incidence of descent-based discrimination;

5. Administration of justice

(u) Take the necessary steps to secure equal access to the justice system for all members of descent-based communities, including by providing legal aid, facilitating of group claims and encouraging non-governmental organizations to defend community rights;

(v) Ensure, where relevant, that judicial decisions and official actions take the prohibition of descent-based discrimination fully into account;

(w) Ensure the prosecution of persons who commit crimes against members of descentbased communities and the provision of adequate compensation for the victims of such crimes;

(x) Encourage the recruitment of members of descent-based communities into the police and other law enforcement agencies;

(y) Organize training programmes for public officials and law enforcement agencies with a view to preventing injustices based on prejudice against descent-based communities;

(z) Encourage and facilitate constructive dialogue between the police and other law enforcement agencies and members of the communities;

6. Civil and political rights

(aa) Ensure that authorities at all levels in the country concerned involve members of descent-based communities in decisions which affect them;

(bb) Take special and concrete measures to guarantee to members of descent-based communities the right to participate in elections, to vote and stand for election on the basis of equal and universal suffrage, and to have due representation in Government and legislative bodies;

(cc) Promote awareness among members of the communities of the importance of their active participation in public and political life, and eliminate obstacles to such participation;

(dd) Organize training programmes to improve the political policy-making and public administration skills of public officials and political representatives who belong to descent-based communities;

(ee) Take steps to identify areas prone to descent-based violence in order to prevent the recurrence of such violence;

(ff) Take resolute measures to secure rights of marriage for members of descent-based communities who wish to marry outside the community;

7. Economic and social rights

(gg) Elaborate, adopt and implement plans and programmes of economic and social development on an equal and non-discriminatory basis;

(hh) Take substantial and effective measures to eradicate poverty among descent-based communities and combat their social exclusion or marginalization;

(ii) Work with intergovernmental organizations, including international financial institutions, to ensure that development or assistance projects which they support take into account the economic and social situation of members of descent-based communities;

(jj) Take special measures to promote the employment of members of affected communities in the public and private sectors;

(kk) Develop or refine legislation and practice specifically prohibiting all discriminatory practices based on descent in employment and the labour market;

(ll) Take measures against public bodies, private companies and other associations that investigate the descent background of applicants for employment;

(mm) Take measures against discriminatory practices of local authorities or private owners with regard to residence and access to adequate housing for members of affected communities;

(nn) Ensure equal access to health care and social security services for members of descent-based communities;

(oo) Involve affected communities in designing and implementing health programmes and projects;

(pp) Take measures to address the special vulnerability of children of descent-based communities to exploitative child labour;

(qq) Take resolute measures to eliminate debt bondage and degrading conditions of labour associated with descent-based discrimination;

8. Right to education

(rr) Ensure that public and private education systems include children of all communities and do not exclude any children on the basis of descent;

(ss) Reduce school drop-out rates for children of all communities, in particular for children of affected communities, with special attention to the situation of girls;

(tt) Combat discrimination by public or private bodies and any harassment of students who are members of descent-based communities;

(uu) Take necessary measures in cooperation with civil society to educate the population as a whole in a spirit of non-discrimination and respect for the communities subject to descent-based discrimination;

(vv) Review all language in textbooks which conveys stereotyped or demeaning images, references, names or opinions concerning descent-based communities and replace it by images, references, names and opinions which convey the message of the inherent dignity of all human beings and their equality of human rights.

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