End caste discrimination

End caste discrimination

Page 9 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: New Government must act to outlaw caste discrimination

Posted: Tue, 12 Jul 2016 13:13

The National Secular Society is calling on the new government to legislate to outlaw caste discrimination, as directed by Parliament and the United Nations.

During a House of Lords debate this week, the Government rebuffed repeated cross-party appeals to legislate specifically to outlaw caste-based discrimination.

In 2010 government research found that caste discrimination could be behind incidents of school bulling, denial of school places and workplace discrimination.

The new Prime Minister, Theresa May, has spoken of building a "better Britain" that "works for every one of us" and the NSS has urged her to tackle caste discrimination to protect vulnerable members of society.

Keith Porteous Wood, the National Secular Society's executive director, said: "Without clear legislation those suffering from caste discrimination are not being protected. We call on Theresa May to honour parliament's will, our international obligations and those subject to caste discrimination by outlawing it. We are hopeful she will be responsive to this."

During the debate in the House of Lords the Conservative peer Lord Deben said that the new Prime Minister's "first principle was to ensure that all people had a fair do in life."

"Can one possibly say that and yet exclude from the fair do in life those who happen to be Dalits? This is the first chance that a new Government have got to stand up and tell this House that they intend to obey the law. The only alternative is to tell this House that they intend to disobey the law. I do not believe that is a proper position for any Government."

He said that refusing to explicitly recognise caste-based discrimination as a form of discrimination under UK equality law, despite promising to do so, had brought "shame on our democratic system".

Baroness Flather (pictured right) said there was a need to recognise that Hindu organisations "have a lot of connections in ​Parliament" and "have quite a lot of pull in this matter".

Seven peers, four of them Honorary Associates of the National Secular Society, spoke in the debate in favour of legislation to outlaw caste-based discrimination. Baronesses Flather and Thornton, Lords Cashman, Deben, Desai, Harries and Lester were scathing about the Government's failure to legislate, on grounds which Mr Wood described as "disingenuous".

The Government claimed that it "may well be" that case law, and in particular a recent Employment Appeal Tribunal ruling, "provides the appropriate level of legal protection that is needed against caste discrimination."

But Mr Wood said: "The ambiguous and untested case law which the Government relies upon to deflect calls for explicit legislation in this area fails to meet our international obligations and our societal obligations to vulnerable members of low castes."

Only one peer, Lord Popat, spoke explicitly against legislation on caste discrimination, saying that "The British Hindu community has felt somewhat persecuted by this caste discrimination campaign."

Mr Wood added: "This presumably means those of higher castes. That is no reason to deny legislative protection to the oppressed. As the late Lord Avebury put it, that would be 'like saying that ending apartheid in South Africa was wrong because white organisations were opposed to the idea'."

Parliament's direction to legislate on caste came in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, with an instruction to the Government to "make an order which includes 'caste' within the definition of 'race'" in the Equality Act 2010.

In 2012 the UN recommended that the UK "eliminate discrimination against caste".

Despite this, no action has been taken.

Calls for Government to outlaw caste discrimination after tribunal rules in favour of victim kept in “domestic servitude”

Posted: Wed, 23 Sep 2015 14:56

A victim's charity has slammed Government inaction on caste discrimination, following an Employment Tribunal awarding nearly £200,000 to a woman who worked for four and a half years in horrendous conditions.

Despite the ET ruling in favour of a woman who claimed to be a victim of caste discrimination, it is feared that many will remain without legal protection from discrimination because the Government is refusing to enact legislation to clarify that caste is an aspect of the protected characteristic of 'race'.

The victim, known as Ms Tirkey, was kept in "domestic servitude" by a couple who employed her for over four years on 11p an hour, forcing her to sleep on the floor after working long days. They also prohibited her from contacting her family and from bringing her Bible with her from India, telling her that she would have "no time to read whilst she was working".

The claimant was of the "lowest class" in the "caste pyramid" and her family "has always carried out domestic work or one kind or another", according to the ruling.

When she arrived in the UK Ms Tirkey's employers set up a bank account in her name, which they retained control of, and she was made to work for 18 hours per day, for seven days a week.

The Employment Tribunal ruled decisively in her favour for "indirect religious discrimination" and "direct race discrimination". She was awarded £183,773 for underpayment of wages, with a further hearing to determine punitive damages for the discrimination.

Ms Tirkey was keen for others to avoid her fate: "I want the public to know what happened to me as it must not happen to anyone else. The stress and anxiety that this sort of thing creates for a person can destroy them."

The Anti Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit, a charity that provides legal representation to victims of labour exploitation and which aided Ms Tirkey in her case, has described the Government's position on caste discrimination as "untenable".

Chris Milsom, Ms Tirkey's barrister, said, "Those who have closely followed the legislative history of the Equality Act will recall that the Government's original rationale for refusing explicit prohibition of caste-based discrimination was that there was no evidence of it taking place in the UK. The damning findings of the Employment Tribunal render that stance untenable. Where such discrimination exists its victims must be protected".

The report on caste prepared for the Government almost five years ago "identified evidence suggesting caste discrimination and harassment" in relation to "work … provision of services and education."

The National Secular Society has called once again for the Government to legislate immediately to explicitly prohibit caste discrimination after "years of prevarication and procrastination".

Keith Porteous Wood, the executive director of the National Secular Society, commented on the ruling: "While the individual ruling is clearly good news for the claimant, it does not set a precedent that can be used in future cases. The ruling completely undermines the Government's disingenuous claim that this case makes legislation unnecessary.

"The Government's refusal to act is in defiance of Parliament's twice expressed wish, the UN's recommendation, and our treaty obligation to enact law explicitly prohibiting caste discrimination.

"The Government must recognise the extent of the problem and offer an accessible and effective legal remedy. This case shows that the case law they advocate provides neither.

"As this example demonstrates, satisfactory outcomes to case law are very limited. The process is beyond the financial reach of most, especially those of low caste, hence the necessity for the assistance of a charity to pursue this case. That is why the law must be changed to provide access to justice for all victims of caste discrimination, but the Government has set its face against this, for less than noble reasons.

"I am alarmed at the growing visibility and strength of those opposing such legislation, who will almost inevitably include high caste Hindus, and the carelessness with facts with which they pursue their opposition.

"Sadly, the protection demonstrably needed by those of low caste in the UK, as seen in this case, seems further away than ever given the Government's obdurate refusal for over five years to acknowledge the strength of the case for legislation."

Anthony Lester QC, a human rights lawyer has also described the case as being "of no value as a precedent" and said the government "should not be allowed to use it as an excuse for defying the will of parliament" and refusing to outlaw caste discrimination.

The National Secular Society and Lord Eric Avebury recently wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron protesting the Government's failure to outlaw caste discrimination and calling on him to act urgently to deal with the problem. The reply completely failed to answer the charges.

In February 2015 a debate in the House of Lords saw honorary associates of the National Secular Society strongly criticise the Government's inaction and its failure to implement specific legislation.

In late 2010 research suggested that perhaps in excess of 200,000 people in the UK were victims of caste-based discrimination.

More information