Caste Discrimination and Fair Trade

Caste Discrimination and Fair Trade

Caste Discrimination

The Caste System in India may not be based on race, but the impact is the same.

True Story:
When a child fell into a well in Kaladi an untouchable saved the child after hearing the alarm from the mother.  He was thrashed for polluting the waters.

True Story:
In Kavitha, a village in Gujarat, the houses of untouchables were burnt down for sending their children to school.

What is the caste system?

In the Hindu caste system, the two opposing ends – Brahmin and Dalit – have become rigid with ascending order of reverence and descending degree of contempt. It gives pride and superiority complex to upper castes and inferiority complex to untouchables. Dalits, who number over 250 million, share the common stigma of untouchability and are considered a polluting people -- unseeable, unapproachable and untouchable. They are forced to live in segregated dwellings, assigned most degrading and polluting occupations and are denied access to education, public utility services and temples.

India is much in the news for its expanding economy and the high tech industries that are booming there. The globalizing economy is providing many gains in this region, but the jobs that are being created are not going to lower caste people or untouchables. Because they are generally ineligible to get an education, they cannot compete for good jobs. The booming economic sectors are really only benefiting higher caste communities -- those who were already doing well. 

How is the World Trade Organization involved?

In recent trade talks among some of the World Trade Organization members, there was no "progress" in reaching agreements. The U.S. has been soundly criticized for demanding that third world nations open their markets to U.S. exports, but the U.S. has not been willing to eliminate price supports which make it possible for U.S. agricultural interests to undercut the prices that third world farmers need to barely survive. Many farmers who are very poor have been unable to sell their harvests at a profit.

How is the Christian church involved?

Christians are still a small minority in India, but the liberative aspects of the Christian message have brought many Dalits and untouchables into the church over the last two hundred years. The Church has done much to empower and educate these communities, yet even in the church, there are lingering and pervasive hierarchies based on caste. The attitudes that go with the caste system are embedded in the culture. Many feel that the caste system will only end when the marginalized people grow empowered and when enforcement of laws on civil and human rights render the caste system irrelevant.

How can I be involved?

Take Action NOW!
1. Advocate for Fair Trade.

2. Advocate that trade agreements not prohibit governments of developing nations from making decisions that protect the interests of their own people and the environment.

3. Do business with companies that are ethical and responsible in their dealings with businesses in the developing world.  Use shopping guides that educate you about the performance of the companies with which you do business.