1. Skip to content

National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Why is the Government dragging its feet over caste discrimination?

The UK Government appears to be very slowly edging towards outlawing discrimination on the grounds of caste.

Home Secretary Theresa May is reported to be closely following a legal case involving an Indian couple who have become the first people to claim caste discrimination in Britain. She is reportedly considering whether to add caste discrimination to existing safeguards for race, sex, religion and sexuality in equality law.

The couple, who met at a legal firm in Coventry, claim they were forced from their jobs after they married. Vijay Begraj is a Dalit (formerly known as the Untouchables) and Amardeep Begraj is a Jat, a higher caste. Amardeep was warned by colleagues not to marry Vijay because his caste are 'different creatures'. She also claimed that her workload increased and secretarial support was reduced 'as a punishment', and she was paid less than colleagues. He was sacked last year.

In 2010 the NSS worked closely with Hindu campaigners and peers, especially Honorary Associate Lord Avebury, to successfully lobby for enabling legislation in the Equality Bill to permit the outlawing of discrimination on the grounds of caste. Under the measure a Minister can initiate an order at any time without further primary legislation.

The NSS has been critical of both the Government and the Equality & Human Rights Commission for not taking action over caste discrimination despite research showing it is a real problem in theUK.

A government-sponsored report found evidence of bullying, problems finding work or being promoted, problems with access to social services and getting places in schools. However, some Hindu organisations have denied that it is a problem.

NSS Executive Director Keith Porteous Wood commented:

"The blight of caste discrimination, under which millions in India are regarded as Untouchable, has spread to this country virtually unnoticed.

"The report clearly demonstrated the need for protection and Parliament has given the Government the authority so it is absolutely disgraceful that it has not been enabled."

See also:

Out of job in UK due to caste

The secret scandal of Britain's caste system by Nick Cohen

Published Fri, 26 Aug 2011