Conservatives block moves to outlaw caste discrimination

eric aveburyEric Avebury has written before about the need to outlaw caste discrimination, and about the legislative processes as proposals within the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill  went through the Lords. It is therefore disappointing to learn that the campaign has suffered a serious setback. 

In 2010 the Government commissioned independent research into caste discrimination and harassment in the UK.  The summary (pdf) of that research reported that between 50,000 and 200,000 people in the UK are culturally identified as low caste. It found evidence of caste discrimination in work and in the provision of services, and evidence of harassment in schools and public places. All these would have been considered offences had they been interpreted as racial in origin. The report called for the Government to extend the Equality Act to make caste an aspect of race, and to encourage educational initiatives to combat discrimination and harassment.

In April it looked as though the Government had conceded the case, but yesterday the Dept of Culture, Media and Sport announced that consultation would go on until 2015 at the earliest. Indeed, it is unlikely that legislation will be completed within this Parliament.

In an article in the Guardian, we read:

Lord Avebury, a Liberal Democrat member of the all-party parliamentary group for Dalits (the caste formerly known as untouchables), said the scheduling was proof of the Tories’ enduring opposition to introducing legal protection on caste.

“I suspect that the objective is to lengthen the process so that it stretches into the approach to the general election and then probably to announce that they will be introducing provisions in the manifesto to repeal the whole legislation.”

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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  • Is the fear here that if they outlaw descrimination on the grounds of caste it may be used as a stepping stone to call for making it illegal to discriminate on the grounds of class or something? Otherwise any opposition to this measure simply makes no sense at all!

  • Alex Macfie 30th Jul '13 - 9:58pm

    @jedibeeftrix: It’s the people who practice caste (or race, &c) discrimination who are dividing society into atomised groups. Outlawing it is giving the message that people should be treated as individuals and not judged by the group that they are assigned.

  • Stephen Hesketh 30th Jul '13 - 10:00pm

    Good to see the Tories maintaining their historical position as the loathsome party. Unescapable hereditary discrimination must surely be one of the most difficult to justify for anyone of a libertarian persuasion.
    Jedi – in freeing everyone from conformity,enslavement etc – doesn’t that make a society less atomised?
    Simon … hmm class and caste … two five letter words from two different historical cultures on two different continents; how could anyone possibly consider them to be similar faces of the same injustice!

  • I can’t think of any reason why the Tories would want to block the outlawing of this despicable and outdated practice that clearly has no place here, nor in the Indian Subcontinent. Unless it’s to win favours with voters from upper caste groups. Opponents who’ve lobbied against any kind of amendment to the law claim that caste discrimination isn’t an ‘issue’ in Britain given the size of the Hindu and Sikh communities. That’s besides the point. Why should size matter? It is still discrimination and extremely dehumanising. Their denials are predicated on the notion that casteism is either non existent or not prevalent in Britain. Both are nonsense.

    The last government commissioned NIESR to undertake an independent study into the extent of caste discrimination in the UK. The report covered areas such as employment, education and the provision goods. Reading the numerous case studies was really upsetting as they conveyed some horrible experiences by those from Dalit backgrounds or Ravidassia Sikhs.

    Intra community discrimination should still be unacceptable and that is why caste must be covered as a protected category.

  • Helen Dudden 30th Jul '13 - 11:00pm

    You are in coalition with them, I had noticed there were other social issues like the housing situation and the disabled problems with now have.

    Today, you have won a case against disabled children, I have been doing consultation on the proposed changes of law within family Law. Another success for you.

    Bedroom tax is an insult to the poorer in our society, you helped bring that into being as well.

  • very disappointing, it does look as though they are stringing out the concession. I know the main problem is in the Indian sub continent, but we should lead the way if we can.

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