Global Lawyers against Untouchability in Nepal
We are overwhelmed by the response lawyers have globally made to our request for Pro-Bono Legal Assistance Program under Lawyers without Borders. Unfortunately, in a short span of time the situation in Nepal has changed a lot. However, considering the present unfavorable conditions in Nepal, we have planned to form a Global Lawyers group for the same cause, which shall govern the policies, programs, activities and evaluate them as well as monitor the field-based activities. We extend our heartfelt gratitude for the concern you have shown and invite you to join us in forming this group, Global Lawyers against Untouchability in Nepal GLUN, a Non Profit Organization, based in the United States, involving International lawyers, Jurists, and Nepalese lawyers, solely for the cause and benefit for the victims of untouchability in Nepal.
Based on Hinduism, the society in Nepal (the only official Hindu state) is basically divided into four classes or castes. The uppermost being the Brahmin or the pure; followed by Kshetriya or the warriors and state employees; the Vaisya or the economically active in small or large businesses and the lowest being Shudra or the untouchable laborers! The practice of untouchability literally divided the society as the upper three as touchable and the remaining as untouchable. Even the state ratified this customary practice in 1843 AD and included in its first written codified law ‘Civil Code’ a provision that legalized untouchability in Nepal. One of the chapters in the code required mandatory untouchability practice against eh untouchables and degradation of the touchable to untouchables upon violation of the law.
Innumerable direct and indirect practices of untouchability repeat in the Nepalese society everyday. Usual practice of untouchability include social boycott; ban on economic activities; arson of community habitat, murders, rapes, heinous hate crimes, bar from entering religious, public and private places, prohibition on usages of public recourses like water, community forest, farms and intimidation to conduct degrading activities such as taking care of carcasses, cleaning toilets tanks etc. Even though the people from this community have special skills and have been fulfilling the needs of the society functioning as ironsmith, cobbler, tailoring, pottery, woodcraft and indigenous craftsmanship using locally available resources; on contrary the society has not been treating them equally or even with the least respect. An axe made by an untouchable finds a place inside the home but the creator keeps squatting outside, hoping for the least income! The kitchen if filled with nearly every utensils made by them but one is never allowed to put a foot inside! The public tap foundation and construction is made on their sweat but, their thirst cannot be quenched from the same tap! The statute of the god made by an untouchable blesses all but him! The attire the priest wears is sewed by one but may not receive a blessing from him!
It was in this context, in 2002, Lawyers National Campaign against Untouchability LANCAU Nepal was constituted by a group of committed young lawyers from the ‘untouchables’ group as well as their counterparts. Today, the ‘untouchables’ also known as the ‘Dalit’ Community (literally meaning oppressed), constitute nearly ¼ of the total population and continue to be inhumanely treated. Due to the weak law, forms and practice of Untouchability are still persistent.
Aforesaid and numerous other reasons oblige us to create a favorable environment with the means of law, for those who have been exploited. We feel this obligation as an opportunity to make an apology to them for all the hardship they have been through for generations. Through proper execution, enactment and interpretation of laws, either local or global, we believe we can make a difference in their lives and our descendants.
Legal awareness campaigns for empowerment; adequate legal research prior to enactment of laws; thorough study on the need and nature of the laws needed to curb untouchability; identifying adequate socio-legal and political measures; sustainable legal development and planning; modernization of the traditional profession in the realm of globalization and creation of a global market for their product vis-à-vis protecting their intellectual property and indigenous methods; mediatory discourse with the conflicting parties to leave the vulnerable group as peace zone; creation of free domestic education and international education scholarship fund for their empowerment; formation of a global pressure group of lawyers sustain to curb untouchability; National and Global level Pro-Bono Legal Support; Adoption of Informative, Educative and Communicative (IEC) methodology to aware and empower; are only some of the targets we wish to achieve with the support of international lawyers. As we have dreamt of 2005-2015 to be the untouchability elimination decade, we seek your support either voluntary, compensatory or field based. With your support, we believe, we can ensure equality, justice and dignity
and create a socially justified society for the millions of victims of untouchability in Nepal.