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A comprehensive, open access, online database on DWD communities across the World who are forced to live under the framework of contemporary forms of Slavery

 Nature and Forms of Discrimination 

Discrimination based on work and descent (DWD) is the terminology used to denote the various forms of discrimination including caste, work, and birth-based discrimination.


While DWD is often identified with the caste-based discrimination prevalent in the Indian sub-continent, it is a global phenomenon with various communities around the world facing similar kind of discrimination and exclusion.


Some of the major communities who are identified as victims of DWD are Burakumin (Japan), Roma (Europe), Osu (Nigeria and Cameroon), Quilombo (Brazil), Al Mohamasheen (Yemen) and Dalits (Whole of South Asia, especially India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Malaysia).

The Four Main Forms of DWD

1. Prohibitions, distinction and restrictions

  • Prohibited from eating with members of other castes

  • Prohibited from inter-marriages 

  • Prohibited from entering village temples

  • Prohibited from wearing sandals or holding umbrellas in front of dominant caste members

  • Prohibited from entering dominant caste homes

  • Prohibited from riding a bicycle inside the village

  • Prohibited from contesting elections and exercising their right to vote

  • Notions of purity and pollution

2. Forced and Menial Labour

  • Bonded Labor

  • Forced labour, attached labour

  • Manual scavenging (cleaning human excreta with bare hands)

  • Child labour

3. Discrimination and exclusion from civic amenities

  • Separate glasses for Dalits in village tea stalls

  • Segregated housing

  • Discriminatory seating arrangements and separate utensils in restaurants l Segregation in seating and food arrangements in village functions and festivals l Discrimination in access to health services

  • Social boycotts by dominant castes for refusing to perform their “duties”

  • No access to common/public properties and resources (wells, ponds, temples, etc.)

  • Prohibiting from hoisting the national flag during Independence or Republic days

  • Denial to access land ownership

  • Separate burial grounds

  • Segregation (separate seating area) of Dalit children in schools

4. Violence

  • Violence against Dalit women

  • Forced to vote or not to vote for certain candidates during elections

  • Sub-standard wages

  • Derogatory terms in speech and writing against the excluded communities l Foisting of false cases

  • Assault, attempt to murder, murder

  • Rape of women, children

  • Gang rape

  • ‘Dishonour killings’


Violence is used as a tool to subjugate communities and obstruct any attempts of resistance by communities affected by DWD to challenge the unequal social order. In spite of increasing awareness in the past few decades, violence and atrocities have not subdued. In some countries, like India and Nepal, violence seems to have increased in recent years. The lack of disaggregated data from countries makes it impossible to estimate this at the global level.

Atrocities are more intense as they are perpetrated to remind communities affected by DWD about their status in the caste-based social structure, and to ensure they remain there. These atrocities are committed to ensure that DWD- affected communities live a life of indignity, humiliation and exclusion from mainstream society; so that they continue to provide caste-based services ‘so essential for society’ and remain at the bottom-rung without access to higher education and better economic opportunities.

DWD, including caste, as a form of discrimination is prohibited by international human-rights law as proclaimed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as  several otgher international covenants. It is also prohibited by the International Labour Organization Convention No 111. In addition to being human-rights violations, they are also impediments to development. When members of the DWD community challenge these restrictions and prohibitions,  there is an outbreak of violence and atrocities committed  against the community. 

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