Social Protection as a Human Right in South Asia
Social protection is variously seen as a right or poverty alleviation mechanism or shield from the vagaries of market. Although Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have brought out various social protection programmes through policies, legislations, constitutional guarantees and so on, their comprehensiveness and implementation remain a challenge. In this backdrop, this article explores the utility of delineating the foundations of social protection in international human rights law as an advocacy tool to demand the adoption of comprehensive social security systems. This human rights approach is demonstrated through eight key principles, backed with examples from the five countries. The article finds that the social protection measures in South Asia exist as scattered programmes, rather than as comprehensive systems. Most programmes tend to be targeted rather than universal. The article highlights the advantage of the human rights approach to social protection in understanding the gender dimensions and implications for socially marginalized groups, while noting that cost and institutional capacities can pose challenges before its implementation.