Caste discrimination outlawed in UK

Positive News

The UK has become the first country outside Asia to ban discrimination towards Dalit, the so-called ‘untouchables’ at the bottom of the Hindu caste system

The UK is to become the first country outside Asia to outlaw discrimination based on caste.

Benefiting from the new legal protection will be up to 400,000 UK-based Dalit – the so-called ‘untouchables’ at the bottom of the Hindu caste system – who until now were unprotected from discrimination in work and social situations.

The landmark decision is a victory for campaigners who had fought to have caste treated as an element of race under the Equality Act 2010. The government had initially rejected the amendment proposed by the House of Lords in March 2013, arguing the matter was best dealt with by an education programme inside Hindu communities. The U-turn was announced on 23 April 2013 by business secretary Vince Cable, followed a fresh Lords vote in favour.

The news sparked jubilation among Dalit supporters. Ravi Kumar, general secretary of the Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance, told Positive News: “The legislation has the potential to pave the way for real social reform and eradication of this unacceptable form of discrimination in this country.”

Caste discrimination has roots in traditional Hindu society, where Dalit were regarded by higher castes as ritually ‘untouchable’ for their performance of roles such as waste collection. India itself outlawed such discrimination in 1949, and has implemented affirmative action policies aimed at increasing the status of Dalit in society.

However, UN research demonstrates that prejudice continues to affect tens of millions of Dalit both inside and outside India.

Photo title: Demonstrators outside parliament celebrate the passing of the anti caste discrimination law

Photo credit: © Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance

  • SN Chamaria

    Untouchability manifests every single dimension in today’s society throughout the world in varying degree. The evolution of untouchability is from deniale of equal status: access to resources and priviledges. It has evolved from the belief that a group of people in the society were more priviledged to access and use the resources and facilities as a matter of right owing to their status and those discriminated became untouchables.As a result, an inhumane behaviour of discrimination against those denied or deprived became the order of the day and we consider this as untouchability rendering the class of people as untouchables.

    In modern times, the dimensions of untouchability are still much larger than that prevailed in primitive times. Denian of equal opportunity or reservation of facilities to a group of people in priviledged class is also untouchability of still the worst dimension.

    I was once denied a seat in the front row of the aircraft on the basis that the then Chief Justice of India was travelling and occupying a seat in the front row. The other time, at the airport in Delhi, an ordinary citizen cannot use the first exit road which is reserved only for VIPs. The number of seats are blocked in the train for VIPs. Hospitals discharge or shift a pastient from a specialised bed to ordinary bed because a VIP needs it. The traffic on road is blocked because a VIP needs it And the list is unending.

    These are the real class of untouchability and untouchables. It is not the caste by birth or the colour of your skin but denial and denial alone.

    Today, British Authomity asks the Indian to deposit 3000 pounds as security to get a Visa. They do not do this to others. Is it not untouchability ?

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