Late last week, I caught up with Liberal MP Mario Silva to talk about some of his work on the Subcomittee on International Human Rights. On that particular day, they had just heard about a particular rights issue in India.
“Right now we’re doing a study on India,” Silva said. “We had a fellow by the name of Dr. Joseph D’souza who heads the Dalits Freedom Network, who came before the committee, and he was very specifically talking about the Dalits, which is the “untouchables” and their situation, and the committee was just hearing about that. I think we’ve got into a broader topic of human trafficking and child trafficking and so forth, and so those are issues that we’ll want to look at in a broad-based in terms of human trafficking and so forth.
“The Dalit situation is a unique situation – there is some information provided by Dr. Joseph D’souza, but there is also another side too that I think needed to be brought forward that wasn’t brought forward at the committee, number one that India is a democracy, that in fact the Dalits do have a right to vote and that they are very active in politics, and they also do occupy positions in government as well in India. Those are issues that needed to be addressed within the balance and context of the statements made by Dr. D’souza. I don’t agree with them that the situation is similar to apartheid – I quite disagree with them on that – however I do understand that there are issues of concern with human rights that we should all care about, that we need to listen to, but I think it needs to be done in the balance.”
The subcomittee is currently in the midst of a study on human rights in Iran, and I plan to check in with Silva periodically to see if he is addressing GLBT issues as a part of that study.
For anyone interested in the committee hearing on the Dalits in India, the webcast is available here (as Meeting 9, with feeds available in both official languages).