K.P Ashwini, a dalit scholar from Karnataka, was selected by the United Nations Human Rights Council as an independent expert on racism and related intolerance. She will hold the position as the first Asian and Indian to do so. The 47-member UN human rights panel headquartered in Geneva approved the appointment of political science professor Ashwini after Zambia’s E. Tendayi Achiume resigned before the completion of her term.
The Consultative Group suggested Ashwini as one of three candidates for the selection of mandate holders to the President of the Council. In addition to Ashwini, the shortlist includes India's Joshua Castellino and Botswana's Unity Dow.
The president of the UNHRC then nominated her to the Council, which officially appointed her on Friday, just prior to the completion of its 51st session. The three-year term of Ashwini will commence from November 1.
The mandate of the SR on contemporary forms of racism was created in 1994, which addresses racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance against Africans and persons of African descent, Arabs and Muslims, Asians and persons of Asian descent, migrants and non-nationals, persons belonging to indigenous peoples and minorities, as well as all other victims mentioned in the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
“Belonging to a marginalised community myself, an Indian Dalit woman, working on issues related to descent and occupation based discrimination has been part of my professional space, research and activism and are not new to me. Whether it was working with indigenous communities in the state of Chattisgarh and Odisha who were victims of illegal land acquisition or in my present role on working as an academician, researcher and being part of several grassroots organisations that specifically focus on descent and occupation based discrimination,” Ashwini had written in her application letter.
Ashwini, a former political science assistant professor at St. Joseph's College in Bengaluru, is a co-founder of the non-governmental organisation Zariya: Women's Alliance for Dignity and Equality. She is the sixth SR to occupy this position. All of her predecessors were African. We congratulate Ashwini on assuming and excelling in her new position.