Mechanisms to investigate systemic discrimination


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  • Budding WASH researcher, especially interested in governance, public policy, finance, politics and social justice. Architect, Urban & Regional planner by training, Ex. C-WAS, India. I am a patient person :)
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Mechanisms to investigate systemic discrimination

Came across this very important piece of news titled:  DoJ to investigate Alabama’s sewage failures over possible discrimination

Copying the relevant paras below for easy reference: 

The crux of the federal investigation is whether access to sanitation systems in Alabama’s Lowndes county is based on race. The DoJ will examine whether the state and county health departments violated the civil rights of Black residents in Lowndes county, by blocking their access to adequate sanitation systems, thereby increasing their risk of a host of health problems such as parasitic infections.

A 2017 study found that hookworm, an intestinal parasite which was once widespread in North America but had not been detected in the US since the 1980s, was thriving in Lowndes county. The study was conducted by researchers from the Baylor College of Medicine, working together with the non-profit Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise (now called the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice).

“For generations, many residents have had little choice but to resort to the practice of straight piping,” Clarke said, referring to the practice of relying on pipes and ditches to guide sewage away from the home, into the open areas immediately surrounding it. Often, it means that households live with raw sewage in their backyard. The clay-like soil in this region is unsuitable for absorption and drainage. During heavy rain and floods, the disease-containing fecal waste and other raw sewage remains on the surface of the soil or back up into people’s sinks, toilets and bathtubs.

I think this quote explains the context: “Sanitation inequality is one of the last vestiges of the confederacy,” Catherine Flowers

I am sure such discrimination exists (knowingly or unknowingly, it doesn't matter from the victim's perspective) in many countries and there is tonnes of literature on how minority communities and the already marginalised sections are at the receiving end of such practices. In this context, this is an important development and worth celebrating from the 'leave no one behind' perspective. But I am  wondering if systems to investigate such systemic discrimination in provision of services exist  in other parts of the world? If yes, what is their form and have there been any significant change because of their existence? If you know of any such system, incident, please share here for all of us to learn and contribute. 

Paresh Chhajed-Picha
Researcher at Indian Institute of Technology - Bombay, India
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Twitter: @Sparsh85
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