Caste Freedom Index

The Caste Freedom Index (CFI) is a leading project of the ICDR; and, all other projects will provide information and help to meet the CFI goal.

Caste Freedom Index info
The CFI aims to support the analysis and formulation of effective and coherent development and social inclusive policies that address the adjustment challenges that Dalits and other minorities face. The CFI offers unique information on caste freedom of nearly 260 million Dalits and the most marginalized populations across the world under the domestic and international legal and development indicators.

The ICDR has developed research collaboration for the CFI, an advocacy framework to credibly enumerate caste-based atrocities, promote, and shape policies to reduce discrimination. The CFI will be implemented in Bangladesh, Nepal and India as a pilot project to strengthen social advocates, researchers and implementing partners to access, address and monitor the effects of caste-freedom. The project is implemented in collaboration with the Dalit Civil Society, independent human rights bodies and international institutions. The UN Women and UNICEF have accepted the CFI in the global thematic consultation on Addressing Inequalities in the post-2015 Development Agenda as an innovative approach.
The ICDR has received an overwhelmingly positive response on the CFI, which is further affirmation of the importance of a comprehensive measurement and advocacy framework that follows on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Caste Freedom Index provides ample information and advocacy frameworks:

Dalit women powerCaste Freedom Index (CFI) is a unique and universal framework addressing inequalities and measure discrimination based on caste or descent of nearly 260 million the world’s most marginalized and socially excluded population known as “Dalits” or “Oppressed people”, who have been victimized, discriminated against and excluded from mainstream development progress based on their caste or work and descent in South Asia, parts of Africa, the Middle East and other part of the world. 
The CFI covers a total of six Human Rights domains, and will expand its implementation to the whole of caste-affected countries. The pilot phase has been focused on two subject domains, Political Representation of Dalits and Family Life, Privacy, and Personal Dignity.  The pilot project team has been working in selected districts of Nepal in collaboration with Dalit NGO Federation with a technical support of Statistics Without Borders (SWB), and arms of American Association of Statistics.

The International Commission for Dalit Rights (ICDR) introduced the need for and value of developing Caste Freedom Index (CFI) as a unique and universal framework addressing inequalities and measuring caste discrimination, untouchability, and socio-political exclusion of nearly five million the world’s most marginalized, vulnerable, and socio-politically excluded population known as “Dalits” or “Oppressed people”. Dalits have been victimized, discriminated against, and excluded from mainstream development progress based on their caste or work and descent in many parts of South Asia, and many parts of the world.

2. CFI FUNCTIONALITY: Responding to Discrimination
At present, there is no single instrument to measure and monitor caste-based discrimination and untouchability, or caste and gender-based violence at the national and global level. ICDR believes that creating a standardized measurement and advocacy framework will provide a clear and present benchmark for determining the current status of discrimination and, importantly, will enable progress towards a positive social impact. The CFI would be testimonial information that helps US Congress to pass a binding resolution against Caste-based discrimination that expands the geographic scope of its historical HR 139 on Untouchability in India (House Concurrent Resolution 139). It will also provide information to advance the UN’s Draft Principles and Guidelines for the Effective Elimination of Discrimination based on Work and Descent (UN Human Rights Council, A/HRC/11/CRP.3).

The CFI instrument will be a comprehensive statistical measure of the degree to which Dalit people are allowed freedom and inclusiveness in their society. The project objectives are: 1) to develop the methodological basis for the CFI to promote individual rights and freedom, and political representation through a CFI pilot study in Nepal. The outcome of the CFI is to be an instrument achieving ten-year strategy program to eliminate caste-based discrimination and untouchability developed by the Dalit NGO Federation (DNF) with the technical assistance of the ICDR and funding support of Enabling State Program (ESP)/Department for International Development.

In the theoretical design of CFI, a comprehensive approach to measurement, that can lead to actions improving the situation of Dalits in a given country, is included a two-dimensional matrix of human rights juxtaposed with socio-political domains.  Included in this framework are the six dimensions of human rights: 1. Right to life, health, and shelter; 2. The right to family life, privacy, and person dignity; 3. Right to economic fair pay and economic opportunity; 4. Right to freedom of expression and freedom of movement; 5. Right to political representation; and 6. Right to access to justice and protection from crime.


Human Rights

Examples of human rights violations

1. The right to life, health and shelter

Physical assaults on individuals
Denial of access to water supplies
Unlawful destruction of homes

2. The right to family life, privacy and personal dignity

Prevention of inter-caste marriage or persecution of inter-caste couples
Institutionalised prostitution
Unlawful eviction from homes

3. The right to employment, fair pay and economic opportunity

Denial of entry to certain occupations
Prevention of equal access to education
Unfair pay or conditions compared to others

4. The right to freedom of expression and freedom of movement

Denial of entry to places of worship
Restriction to limited areas of residence

5. The right to political representation

Denial of rights to hold or stand for public office
Prevention from voting

6. The right to access to justice and protection from crime

Improper failure to prosecute offenders against Dalits or their property
Refusal by officials to enforce legal protections


Focus of measurement and action

A. Constitutional and legal principle

How well do the national constitution, laws, and rulings of superior courts, affirm and protect the rights of Dalits in respect of each dimension of human rights?

B. Political and social action

How well do government policies, the statements and actions of politicians and other influential figures, and the conduct of political life and civil society organisations, treat Dalits positively and/or equally in respect each dimension of human rights?

C. Economic activity

How far the policies and practices of economic actors such as do banks, employers and customers, give Dalits equal rights and opportunities with respect to each dimension of human rights?

D. Community relations

How far do prevailing social structures and the relationships between Dalits and others, at the community (social group and/or locality) level, uphold the rights and dignity of Dalits with respect to each dimension of human rights?

E. Individual and family experience

How much does the everyday experience of Dalits reflect the desired aim of equality and the absence of discrimination or persecution, with respect to each dimension of human rights?


The ICDR’s Board congratulated the Committee for its work to produce Caste Freedom Index. Furthermore, the board decided to reform the Committee and nominate two Co-chairs because of its wide technical scope and activities. The Committee is responsible for design and produces Caste Freedom Index, as well as its evaluation and its application in the caste-affected countries. Committee members include:

Dr. Dambar K Gurung, Co-Chair (Coordinate the Committee)
Dr. Maria Suchowski, Co-Chair (Coordinate the Technical Experts and SWB/ASA Team)
Dr. Don Zimmerman, Member
Dr. Steve Folmar, Member
Mr. Myer Glickman, Member
Dr. Mary Cameron, Member and Past Lead Advisor
Dr. Lasonja Kennedy, Executive Member
Ms. Selina Gibbs Singh, Technical Advisor
Mr. Peter Gibbs, Technical Advisor