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Government representatives, activists and experts from around the world will address the first “World Conference on Untouchability” at Conway Hall Humanist Centre, London, UK, on June 9 and 10, 2009. Speakers include political leaders Lord Desai of St. Clement Danes, from the British House of Lords, and Mahendra Paswan, Nepal’s Minister for Land Reform, as well as grassroots campaigners against untouchability, including Babu Gogineni in India and Leo Igwe in Nigeria. The conference is organized by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) to explore a problem that afflicts nearly 250 million people in countries from Japan to Nigeria.

“The international community seems to want to ignore the dehumanizing discrimination experienced by ‘untouchables’ across the world,” says Sonja Eggerickx, president of IHEU. “Despite the efforts of IHEU and other groups, last month’s UN Conference on Racism — ‘Durban II’ — did nothing to address the problem of untouchability. We hope that the London conference will move the world from denial to action against this crime against humanity.”

“Untouchability” – the social exclusion of people because of the population they are born into – is a problem in Bangladesh, Burma, India, Japan, Korea, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Yemen and elsewhere. The IHEU ‘World Conference on Untouchability’ is the first conference of its kind to explore untouchability in many different cultures and to bring together activists to share strategies that have helped untouchable communities around the world. Campaigners plan to use the conference as the launch pad for a global campaign against untouchability.

The IHEU ‘World Conference on Untouchability’ is supported by the British Humanist Association and South Place Ethical Society. The conference starts at 9 am, Tuesday, June 9 and ends at 1pm on June 10. The cost is £75. To register go to http://www.humanism.org.uk/june2009

The International Humanist and Ethical Union is the world union of more than 100 Humanist, rationalist, secular, ethical culture, atheist and freethought organizations from more than 40 countries. Founded in 1952, IHEU is an international NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) with Special Consultative Status with the United Nations, General Consultative Status at the Council of Europe, Observer Status with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and operational relations with UNESCO.

For more information contact Matt Cherry at or on +1 518 632 1040.

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