United Nations member states have urged India to take a tougher stand on religious discrimination and sexual violence as they raised India’s human rights record during a Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
Many countries were quick to raise critical issues relating to India’s deteriorating stance on minority rights, freedom of speech and violence against women, in particular.
On Thursday, member states also asked India to reduce the broad application of “anti-terror” laws including the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
Hindu nationalist government in India led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been extensively using draconian laws like UAPA and Sedition , particularly targeting Muslim groups and human rights activists, without allowing them an opportunity for a fair trial.
Hundreds of Muslim youth and human rights defenders are languishing in jail across India on “terrorism” charges.
“We recommend that India reduce the broad application of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and similar laws against human rights activists, journalists and religious minorities,” said Michele Taylor, the US ambassador to the council.
She went on to say: “Despite legal protections, discrimination and violence based on gender and religious affiliation persist. The application of anti-terror legislation has led to prolonged detentions of human rights defenders and activists.”
Canada urged India to investigate all acts of sexual violence and protect freedom of religion by investigating religious violence “including against Muslims.”
Germany said that it “remains concerned about the rights of marginalised groups” in India.
Switzerland suggested that India should “ensure open access to social networks and not impose any measures that would slow down or block internet connections.”
Meanwhile, several countries appreciated India for implementing some of the recommendations shared during the last UPR held in 2017.
The Universal Periodic Review held every four years is a mechanism to examine the human rights records of member states. Any member state can ask questions and make recommendations to the state under review.
In reply, India said it appreciated the role played by human rights defenders.
“India condemns any form of torture and maintains an inviolable stand against arbitrary detention, torture, rape or sexual violence by anyone,” India’s Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the council.