Eliminating UK caste discrimination



Last week, equality campaigners led by the Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance (ACDA) met in the House of Lords to call on the Government to answer their calls for protection from caste discrimination under British law. Many may think that this is an issue that is only practised in South Asian countries, but this is not so. Over the last 60 years, the immigration of people from the Indian subcontinent has meant that these communities have settled here and brought with them their own social habits, norms and religious customs including the caste system.

Caste is a combined social system of occupation, endogamy, culture, social class, and political power. It is not the same as class and is a system of social divisions organized according to relative purity, with “Brahmins” at one extreme and “Dalits” and ‘untouchable’ people, considered impure and polluting to ‘higher’ castes, at the other end. It is estimated that there are over 200,000 people of so-called Dalit origin in the UK (NIESR’s conservative estimates) out of the population’s three million-plus people of South Asian descent.

In 2010, a provision was included in the Equality Act (section 9(5)a), that was pendent on Government research to determine the extent of discrimination based on caste in the UK, a victim of caste based discrimination would have the same protection as other victims who are currently provided protection (race, sexual orientation, age, gender etc).

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) presented its independent report to Government two years ago and confirmed without a doubt, that there is evidence of caste based discrimination in the UK in the areas covered by the Equality Act 2010.

Key findings from research shows that 45% of Dalit people reported being treated in a negative way by co-workers or had dismissive comments on account of their caste. The findings also revealed that nearly 10% had been subject to threatening behaviour when they were under 12 years old. These statistics demonstrate the extent of caste based discrimination however despite the strong evidence by the NIESR proving that caste discrimination exists in the UK, to date no action has been taken by Government to provide legal protection for its victims.

Ravi Kumar, a graduate of OBV’s Parliamentary Shadowing Scheme and General Secretary of ACDA said,

The Government’s lack of action on this matter should be a huge concern to all. It has failed to follow through on the promises that it made.”

He further added:

There is a real danger that BME communities who have suffered from racism and discrimination will desert any political party that does not take tangible action to ensure they are provided protection under the law – free to live a life of dignity, without fear and discrimination here in the UK”

A joint statement supported by over 50 organisation working to eliminate caste discrimination was issued last week demanding that the government activate the legislation immediately.

Anthony Iban