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UK Legislation on Caste Discrimination

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To Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC MP Leader of the House of Commons, Lord Privy Seal, Minister for Women and Equality House of Commons London SW1A OAA Dear Madam, Re : request to include in the Single Equality Bill a provision against Caste Discrimination. I would like to bring to your notice that the theme of Caste based discrimination has not been reflected in the content of the Single Equality Bill unveiled by the Government on 26th June 2008. Even though representations were made during the Equalities Review in 2005 and during the consultation processes the theme of Caste based discrimination has escaped the concerns of the Government, and is also not reflected in any of the documents, statements or drafts of the Government. Thus the Single Equality Bill will not be able to address the hidden inequalities among the Asian communities in the UK. The Caste System being practiced in SouthAsia has come here with Asians who migrated to Britain and actively put it into practice here. Thus you find that South Asians in Britain primarily relate with each other on a Caste basis, hence limiting contacts, forming boundaries and Caste groups, and emphasising Caste status. This has a considerable negative impact in the development of the Asian community. In the UK the practice of Caste discrimination can be found in the lives of many of the Asian communities, in that people mainly marry in their own Caste, and have social relationships only with their Caste members. If anyone tends to marry out of their Caste that will lead to the community abandoning the couple, couples are faced with hatred and even violence, and are ostracized. The portrayal of Caste can be seen in the matrimonial sections of the Asian newspaper columns and marriage bureaus. In the UK one also finds that most Asian temples are based on Caste and each temple depicts one’s Caste, eg Shri Guru Ravidass temple, Bagwan Valmik Temple, Ramgarhia temple, etc. There are also organizations based on caste supremacy such as the All India Brahmin Association(UK), Bardai Brahmin Samaj and so on. Caste is also propagated through media and songs. Caste prejudices can be found in work-places where Asians are employed and Asian social centres. Asians are still too Caste-conscious and hence undermine the goal of community cohesion. Caste is taught in the religious educational curriculum, however an analytical approach to the nature of Caste and its repercussions in society is not taught to the students. On account of this, children become Caste aware without any objective teaching, leading to caste bullying, calling of caste names and hence potentially sowing the seeds of Caste hatred in the young, leading to divided communities in the UK. This matter is of most concern to those Caste groups who are at the bottom of the system of caste discrimination. Caste-based discrimination is detrimental for the development of the Asian community and indeed the whole society. It is a barrier to community cohesion, leaving Britain with divided communities and diminishing the efforts of the Government to develop such cohesion. Because of its hidden nature I urge the Government to undertake a special review on Caste-based discrimination and in the meantime to incorporate in the Single Equality Bill a provision against Caste Discrimination, to help bring about a fairer and more cohesive community. Thanking you, Yours faithfully,


Committee for the Legislation on Caste Discrimination (CLCD-UK)
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