End caste discrimination

End caste discrimination

Page 10 of 14: Caste discrimination should be prohibited by law.

Bigotry based on the idea of 'caste' has no place in modern Britain.

We want to see those at risk of caste discrimination protected by UK law.

'Caste' systems are rooted in ancient religious and cultural beliefs. They are imbued with inequality and discrimination, and are wholly incompatible with human rights.

There are an estimated 50,000 – 200,000 people in the UK who are regarded by some as 'low caste' (sometimes known as 'dalits') and at risk of caste discrimination. There is evidence of caste-based discrimination and harassment present in employment, education and in the provision of services.

Caste-based prejudice and discrimination is a gross violation of human rights and must not be tolerated. All individuals have the right to protection against discrimination on the basis of their caste or perceived caste, in the same way that they do on the basis of race or gender

Dawn Butler MP, Former shadow minister for women and equalities

Our equality laws do not explicitly deal with the issue of caste, meaning victims of caste discrimination have to use unclear and precarious case law to secure justice. Both parliament and the United Nation Human Rights Council have called on the government to explicitly outlaw caste-based discrimination, but it has delayed doing so for years.

It's time to outlaw caste discrimination.

Take action!

1. Have you experienced caste discrimination? Report it!

The Dalit Solidarity Network's "everyday casteism" campaign is cataloguing instances of casteist behaviour, including incidents of discriminatory or caste hate speech behaviour, experienced on a day to day basis by people perceived to be 'lower' caste in the UK.

If you have been affected by caste discrimination, please consider reporting it to them.

You can also report caste discrimination to the Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance here.

2. Write to your MP

Tell your MP that it's time to outlaw caste discrimination.

3. Join the National Secular Society

Become a member of the National Secular Society today! Together, we can separate religion and state for greater freedom and fairness.

Latest updates

NSS calls on Prime Minister to urgently enact legislation outlawing caste discrimination

Posted: Tue, 21 Jul 2015 14:57

The National Secular Society and Lord Eric Avebury have written jointly to the Prime Minister to protest against the Government's continuing failure to outlaw caste-based discrimination.

Despite announcing its intention make caste discrimination illegal by inserting a power into the Equality Act 2010, the Government delayed doing so for the entirety of the last parliament and appears set to continue to do nothing on the issue; which research suggests affects over well over 50,000 people in the UK.

The delay has prompted fears from campaigners over the poor state of legal protections for victims, and in light of the Government's continuing delay Lord Eric Avebury and the National Secular Society have jointly written to David Cameron to make the case for the "urgent enactment of legislation outlawing caste discrimination."

The Government's failure to legislate "is in breach of the UK's treaty obligations, running contrary to a recommendation of the UN Human Rights Council", the letter says.

"Leaving caste discrimination to case law makes it beyond the reach of victims," particularly because many of the victims have scant financial resources, by the very "nature of caste", the NSS has warned.

The NSS and Lord Avebury cited the case of the Begrajs, a couple who alleged caste discrimination on the part of their employer, and who have "been failed by both the justice system and, so far, the legislature."

The National Secular Society has pointed out that Parliament has now expressed an intention to legislate twice, but that in spite of this the Government has still refused to take action, leaving the matter to be established in case law- which is a prohibitively expensive option for victims to take.

The Government previously told the UN that it "intends to introduce legislation to make caste discrimination unlawful" and pledged to begin a public consultation process on prospective legislation. However, the letter notes, "almost a year later, these undertakings have not been honoured."

In addition, several honorary associates of the National Secular Society voiced their concerns in a recent debate in the House of Lords over the Government's continuing prevarication.

Lord Cashman asked if the Government would comply with the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination's recommendations on caste, but was told only that the Government was "actively considering" the matter – a phrase which was repeated throughout the debate by Baroness Williams, a Minister in the DCLG.

Lord Avebury asked to know which organisations had been campaigning against the change, but no answer was immediately forthcoming.

Lord Desai asked if the problem was that "that the majority Hindu and Sikh organisations are responsible for discrimination of the minority in their own ethnic origin community?"

He added, "I do not think that one should quietly concede the majority's view in this respect."

Baroness Flather pressed this point further, and argued: "The Hindu community says that there is no caste discrimination in this country and therefore we do not need this subsection. Fine—but if that is the case, why are they fighting so hard against it?"

"Because they are fighting so hard," she said, "it leads me to believe that there is discrimination."

However Lord Popat, a Conservative peer, said the "vast majority of the British Hindu and Sikh community" would be "outraged" if the Equality Act were amended to ban caste discrimination.

Baroness Williams said she agreed with Lord Popat that the issue is "divisive."

The Baroness added that the Government did not want to "exacerbate the problem", after Lord Popat claimed that any amendment outlawing caste discrimination would be a "blow to community cohesion".

A legal opinion commissioned by the National Secular Society in 2013 was scathing of the Government's inaction and concluded that the UK is "obliged in international human rights law to legislate for caste discrimination and further obliged to provide victims of such discrimination with an effective remedy."

The failure to do this, the opinion finds, "cannot be justified, either in principle or on the facts, by the necessity of either further evidence gathering or consultation."

"As a matter of international law", legislation prohibiting caste-based discrimination must be "enacted without delay."

That legal opinion, which has previously been shown to Ministers, has now been sent directly to the Prime Minister.

The National Secular Society's executive director, Keith Porteous Wood, commented: "That legal opinion was written two years ago and the Government's delay then was indefensible. To still be waiting in 2015 is inexplicable."

UK government criticised for stalling on caste discrimination

Posted: Wed, 11 Mar 2015 14:40

The Government has been criticised for not taking action to tackle caste-based discrimination after a long campaign by anti-caste campaigners to have it specifically recognised under anti-discrimination laws.

Baroness Garden of Frognal has written to NSS honorary associate Lord Avebury, stating that the Government "have no plans to launch the consultation imminently, since it would not be appropriate to run public consultation of this sort in the period immediately before an Election."

In 2013 the Government undertook to "carry out a full public consultation on the prospective legislation in early 2014." Shortly after this guarantee, Lord Avebury warned that the Government was intentionally dragging out the process of dealing with caste-based discrimination until the General Election.

Now, Baroness Garden writes that "there is now no longer sufficient time in the current Parliament for public consultation of the appropriate length for this complex and controversial issue to be carried out."

The Government claims that a remedy for caste discrimination is already available under the Equality Act 2010. It has argued that an Employment Appeal Tribunal ruling made complaints about caste-based discrimination possible under the "ethnic origins" provision of the Equality Act. However in February 2015 Lord Avebury questioned this, and noted that the judgement in question "is not binding on all future cases of caste discrimination." Additionally, House of Commons research concluded that caste discrimination is currently unlawful only if "the circumstances of the case fall within the existing prohibition of race discrimination."

Peers were highly critical of the Government's handling of caste discrimination in February, and NSS honorary associate Lord Cashman described the Government's "procrastination" as "entirely unacceptable".

Research suggests that as many as 200,000 people in the UK may be affected by caste based discrimination.

Baroness Garden wrote that the Government has "always slated that we completely oppose caste discrimination and in that context we note that the judgment opens the possibility of legal remedy for claims of caste-associated discrimination under existing legislation".

The National Secular Society has argued that this remedy is at best partial, and that the Government has an obligation to enact secondary legislation tackling caste directly.

Keith Porteous Wood, NSS executive director, said: "The government has been directed to introduce anti-discrimination legislation by parliament and the UN. For it to defy both can only be explained by conflict with a strong vested interest.

"Victims of caste discrimination deserve much better and will rightly feel betrayed by the Government's failure to meet its obligations."

He added that the NSS would continue to lobby the new Government after May's General Election to ensure it takes the appropriate action.

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