Thursday, February 04, 2010

Equality Bill - caste

This morning we had a one and three quarter hour meeting with the Minister, Baroness Thornton, who is steering the Equality Bill through the Lords, at her invitation, to put the case for dealing with caste discrimination while the Bill gives us the opportunity. The agenda is reproduced below and would you believe it, all those listed spoke, plus others besides. It was a unique and historic demonstration of unity by the organisations representing several hundred thousand people from the Dalits and 'Scheduled Castes' living in the UK, and as the Minister said in her reply, this is an issue whose time has come.

It still remains to be seen whether the Government will agree to amendments while the Bill gives us the opportunity and the pressure needs to be maintained.


11.45 February 4, 2010 Meeting

Caste and the EQUALITY BILL

Committee Room 4a, HOUSE OF LORDS

Chair Baroness Thornton

Introduction Lord Avebury

Speakers (maximum 3 minutes except for Annapurna who gets max 10 minutes)

ACDA (Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance) Dr Raj Chand

MMU(Manchester Metropolitan University) Ms AnnapurnaWaughray

CWUK (CasteWatch UK) Mr Sat Pal Muman

DSN UK (Dalit Solidarity Network UK) Mrs Meena Varma

SGRS-UK (Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha UK) Mr Sat Paul

CARJ/CACD Mr Haynes Baptiste

(Catholic Association for Racial Justice)/(Coalition Against Caste Discrimination)

British Asian Christian Council D Mr William Sidhu

Asian Christian Association Mr Ramesh Alexander

ACC (Association for Community Cohesion) Mr Savio Mahimaidass

VODI (Voice of Dalit International) Mr Eugene Culas

Central Valmik Sabha International(UK) Mr Gian Chand Ghaiwal

Central Valmik Sabha (Southall) Mr Gurpal Gill

Shri Guru Ravidass Temple (Foleshill, Coventry) Mr Pashori Lal

Federation of Ambedkerite and Buddhist Organisations Mr Gautum Chakravarty

Asian Rationalist Society, Britain Mr Sachdev Virdee

International Humanist and Ethical Alliance Keith Porteous Wood

Response by Baroness Thornton

Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC
Rodney Bickerstaffe, president of the UK National Pensioners Convention and former leader of Britain's largest trade union, UNISON

The Rt Rev the Lord Harries of Pentregarth

Baroness Northover

The press release issued by the Anti-Caste Discrimination Alliance:


An unprecedented meeting on 4 February 2010 between 17 organisations representing over One Million people in the UK, came together with one voice and called on the Government to outlaw Caste Discrimination in the same way as other forms of discrimination. They produced a Joint Statement which is attached. It is the hope of the organisations that the Government would table an amendment to include Caste (as a subset of Race) at the Report Stage of the Equality Bill to protect victims or potential victims of Caste Discrimination in the UK

Campaigners have been lobbying Government in recent years to introduce legislation to protect victims or potential victims of caste discrimination here in the UK. The Equality Bill is currently being debated

in the House of Lords and aims to strengthen protection against discrimination, advance equality and simplify the law.

At present, if someone is discriminated against or harassed because of their Caste in places of employment, or if they are in receipt of public services like health and social care or education for example, there is no legislation in place in the UK to protect them.

Campaigners have been lobbying for caste to be legally recognised as a form of discrimination here in the UK for many years..

The Anti Caste Discrimination recently linked up with four academic centres and produced a report and presented it to the Government. The report, Hidden Apartheid, Voice of the Community, Caste and Caste Discrimination in the UK, highlighted many examples of how Caste discrimination affects numerous people here in the UK in the areas covered by the Equality Bill.

At the meeting on 4 February 2010,, the Government acknowledged that caste discrimination does exist in the UK, and it is hoped that the Government would table an amendment to include Caste (as subset of Race) at the Report stage of the Equality Bill in the House of Lords.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson on Discrimination Law Reform, said :

“Let us hope the Government will add a power in the Bill to enable them to make caste discrimination unlawful by Ministerial order so as to prevent this ancient source of injustice and oppression from taking root here. Mahatma Gandhi's struggle against the evils of caste-ism should inspire Government and Parliament.”

Lord Avebury, who moved the amendment on caste discrimination at Committee Stage, said:

“If the momentum of the campaign is kept up, we should get there”.

ACDA’s Chairman said:
The Government have finally conceded that caste discrimination is an issue here in the UK, and has taken on aboard some of the recommendations ACDA made to Government in our report
`Hidden Apartheid – Voice of the Community – Caste and Caste Discrimination in the UK’ November 2009.

“We know providing legal protection in cases of known discrimination (alongside other non legislative actions) helps brings about a societal change for the better. When the first Race Relations Act was introduced in the ‘60s, it brought about a real change in behaviour. Legislating on Caste will have the same affect and bring about a much fairer and a more cohesive society to which we are all committed

The meeting on 4 February 2010 was requested by Government and organised by the Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance, and was in response to the amendment clauses that had been tabled to the Government’s Equality Bill which cover Caste. The consortium of community, voluntary and charity organisations also endorsed a Joint Statement which was previously presented to Harriet Harman’s office calling on Government to treat all its citizens fairly and treat Caste discrimination like it does other forms of unacceptable discrimination and to include this in the Equality Bill.

Note to Editors

What is Caste?
Caste is a combined social system of occupation, endogamy, culture, social class, and political power. Caste is not the same as class, in that members of a Caste are deemed to be alike in function or culture. Castes are often assumed to fit into the four varnas, jati, which means ‘birth, is a system of social divisions organized according to relative purity, with Brahmins at one extreme and low caste and ‘untouchable’ people (who are considered impure and polluting to ‘higher’ castes) at the other. What is a Dalit? Dalit is a self-designation for a group of people traditionally regarded as low caste or untouchables (outcastes).

Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance (ACDA)
ACDA is an independent, non-profit making voluntary organisation and is an alliance of like-minded organisations sharing a common goal and similar values ACDA was formed in 2008. More information is available on

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