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FOCUS March 2001 Volume 23



Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and other forms of intolerance are very much alive in the Asia-Pacific region. They are caused not only by an idea of racial superiority but also by the concept of "purity". This latter cause takes various forms. People discriminated by caste are considered unclean and are relegated to doing certain jobs such as butchering, and taking care of sewage and human waste. People with ethnic backgrounds different from the majority are deprived of equal opportunities and a host of other rights. These victims are normally poor and pessimistic about change in their condition.

The concept of "purity" is linked strongly to traditional culture. Its impact is still deeply entrenched in the present modernizing societies. It victimizes innocent people who happen to inherit such "unclean" background.

What measures are needed to stem this ancient tide of exclusion? How can people's minds be purged of prejudice?

There are examples of lower caste people in India overcoming the prejudice. There are also significant changes in the situation of socially discriminated people in Japan. But the problem still lingers despite the changes. And the danger of resurgence of discrimination cannot be dismissed. The work to obliterate this form of human rights violation must therefore continue.

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