07 April 2010

Caste discrimination a step closer to being outlawed in the UK

The Methodist Church has warmly welcomed an amendment to the Equality Bill which will enable the Government to make caste-based discrimination illegal in the UK.

The Government said it was prepared to ban caste prejudice against Dalits under the race discrimination clause outlined in the Bill. It has asked The National Institute of Economic and Social Research to carry out in-depth research to examine caste-based prejudice and discrimination more broadly across Britain. If the Government accepts the findings of the research, expected to be completed in August, then caste-based discrimination will be explicitly outlawed in the UK.

Revd David Haslam, a Methodist minister and Convenor of the Churches' Dalit Support Group, said: "This is tremendous progress. Caste discrimination is both a national and international issue.

"Caste discrimination does happen in the UK. There are at least a quarter to half-a-million Dalits here and there is a mass of anecdotal evidence demonstrating that Dalits are discriminated against in this country. Internationally, it mostly affects the countries of South Asia. In India, caste discrimination was outlawed 60 years ago, but still affects up to 250 million people and the Indian Government is failing to address the problem."

The Churches Dalit Support Group will meet at Methodist Church House in June to discuss the next steps, including the follow-up to the Equality Bill debate, relationships between UK and Indian churches and encouraging church investors to press companies in which they invest to address caste discrimination if they operate anywhere in the countries of south Asia.

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