End caste discrimination

End caste discrimination

Page 5 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

Government must outlaw caste discrimination, says NSS

Posted: Tue, 19 Sep 2017 13:45

The National Secular Society has promised to "actively support" efforts to outlaw caste discrimination after calling on the Government to legislate in response to an official consultation.

In its submission to the consultation, which closed yesterday, the NSS said a new law was the only way of providing those discriminated against with an effective remedy.

The Government launched the consultation in March. It said its goal was to find out "whether legal protection against this form of discrimination is best ensured by developing case law or by making caste explicitly an aspect of race" under the 2010 Equality Act.

In 2013 Parliament ordered the Government to legislate and the UN has repeatedly called on it to pass legislation as a treaty obligation. NSS executive director Keith Porteous Wood, who last month wrote that the Government was "in hock to the increasingly powerful Hindu right", said the consultation appeared to be a tactic designed to evade its responsibility.

"Our meeting with the Department responsible suggests the consultation was seeking to flush out legal obstacles to the Government continuing to ignore Parliament and the UN.

"The language used and concerns expressed in the consultation seemed to be directed at those of the so-called 'high caste'. It is difficult to conclude other than that they are being invited to veto protection against those vulnerable to caste-based discrimination."

The consultation invited "views from all those potentially affected by a legal prohibition against caste discrimination". But pro-legislation campaigners say it was so legally complex that few other than lawyers or specialist campaigners would have understood it.

In its submission, the NSS said relying on the courts would be unsatisfactory because of the message the Government's actions were sending to the judiciary. It referred to the case of Permila Tirkey, where the judge specifically declined to develop case law. It said cases were unpredictable and complainants, who were unlikely to be wealthy, could face financial ruin.

"Legislating is easy, quick and precise," it added. "It will declare formally that such discrimination is against public policy, which will be a deterrent. It will enable cases to be brought cheaply and with certainty. It will also conform to Parliament's will and that of the UN under our treaty obligations. We suggest that caste be neither classified as a subset of race nor ethnic origin."

The NSS has also provided the Government with a legal opinion which it commissioned and material from the UN and EU, in an attempt to prompt legislation.

Caste is a hereditary social hierarchy, mainly but not exclusively practised by Hindus. It allows those at the bottom called Dalits – so-called "untouchables" – only to undertake the most menial of tasks.

Many of Britain's Dalits say those of so-called higher castes accuse them of polluting everything they touch. Some say they have been taunted in schools, abused in shops and humiliated at work by colleagues, who refused to drink from the same tap or share kitchen utensils with them.

The NSS has been agitating for legislation against caste discrimination since helping to organise the first international conference on Dalits in 2009, out of which came the Conway Hall Declaration. The society pressed for caste discrimination to be included in the Equality Act 2010, the last major piece of legislation before the Labour Government fell. A power was included to allow a Minister to introduce it without further primary legislation.

Since 2010 the Government has opposed such legislation. It has argued that education was sufficient and that the development of case law would provide legal protection. More recently it has said legislation would be disproportionate, despite a Government-commissioned report identifying caste discrimination in the UK in employment, education and the provision of goods and services. These activities are all covered by the Equality Act for other protected characteristics.

Mr Porteous Wood said the Government was failing to translate its rhetoric into action.

"On the steps of No. 10 on Mrs May's first day in office she expressed touching concern for those disadvantaged by their background, for example race. Sadly, these words have not been translated into action on so-called caste discrimination. Her Government remains intransigent by failing heartlessly to provide legal protection. It seems that not upsetting a trade deal with India and keeping so-called high caste Hindus on board is more important."

He added that it was "quite likely" the Government would face a judicial review to challenge its stance, and said the NSS would "actively support" such efforts.

The campaign to outlaw caste discrimination in Britain has also gained the support of Sir Anish Kapoor, the Mumbai-born British sculptor. Speaking to the Sunday Times, Kapoor said: "It is outlawed in India, so why not in Britain?"

"We love to think of Britain as progressive," he added. "It would be disgraceful if the government bows to pressure and does not act on this key area of human rights."

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You can now read the NSS response to the consultation here.

Caste: Anti-discrimination groups issue ‘urgent call’ to participate in government’s consultation

Posted: Thu, 22 Jun 2017 12:29

The NSS has urged supporters to respond to a Government consultation on caste discrimination. The Society has assisted with launching a new website aiding those who support specifically outlawing discrimination based on 'caste' to respond to the consultation.

The site says, "No matter who you are, this consultation gives the opportunity to send a clear message to the Government that legislation should protect people subjected to caste discrimination."

Currently, caste discrimination is not expressly prohibited under UK equality legislation. However, in 2013 Parliament directed the Government to legislate by amending the Equality Act 2010 to require the Government to make 'caste' a protected characteristic, as an aspect of race.

The UN has also formally recommended on several occasions making caste discrimination unlawful "in accordance with the UK's international human rights obligations".

Despite this, NSS executive director Keith Porteous Wood said, "The Government has procrastinated, seemingly determined to ignore both Parliament and the UN, we fear to appease 'high caste' Hindu groups determined to prevent any such legislation. Caste discrimination is not confined to any one religion."

The Government promised a consultation, which it finally launched this year. But the consultation itself was harshly criticised by the National Secular Society and departing Labour MP Graham Allen, who said it was "misleading and biased."

Mr Allen said the Government's "clear intention is to delay – probably forever – legislative protection against caste discrimination".

A coalition of anti-caste campaigners behind the website are urging everyone to "ensure protection against caste discrimination by completing the Government consultation and specifically choosing the option to add caste to the Equality Act 2010."

In 2010 the Government commissioned independent research into Caste Discrimination in the UK by the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR). They found strong evidence of caste-based discrimination in the areas covered by the Equality Act 2010 - employment, education and the provision of goods and services, but the Act does not extend to religious or social life. In 2014, the EHRC published two independent research reports from the project Caste in Britain confirming the undeniable existence of caste discrimination in the UK in areas covered by the Equality Act 2010.

Mr Wood called on supporters of equality to: "Please complete the consultation to maximise pressure on the Government to legislate. It seems desperate to avoid hearing from the people who are actually affected by this or who abhor such demeaning discrimination, despite the concern Mrs. May expressed on her first day in office about race discrimination. Please make sure your voice is heard."

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