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Friday, 19 April 2013

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UK Parliament rejects caste legislation

UK: British Parliament has rejected a controversial amendment to introduce an anti-caste legislation in the UK that calls for caste to be recognised among other forms of discrimination.

The House of Commons voted yesterday against the motion 307 to 243, which called for caste to be recognised among other forms of discrimination in the Equality Act, 2010. "There is a range of views within those communities that are very, very concerned about the possibility of actually increasing stigma through using legislation to try to deal with this particular issue," Business Minister Jo Swinson told the House.

Similar views are shared by the Alliance of Hindu Organisations UK (AHO), which had labelled it a "backward step" for the Hindu community.

The House of Lords had passed the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill amendment with a majority during a debate last month, forcing another debate in the Commons which had previously rejected the idea of including caste among other forms of discrimination.

The Conservative-led coalition government has announced a new education programme titled 'Talk For A Change' instead as a more "appropriate or effective way" to tackle this "complex and sensitive issue".

Caste Watch UK, which has been campaigning in favour of caste-based discrimination to be included in the country's equality laws for years, had gathered hundreds of its supporters outside Parliament to reinforce calls in favour of the motion.

"We knew this would be a difficult fight because the government has already taken a stand on this matter which is not in line with our human rights.

"Today's vote will be perceived as them siding with the perpetrators rather than the victim community. We will not stop here and we will continue with our campaign," the group's general secretary, Davinder Prasad, said.

The government had commissioned the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) to carry out research into the issue, resulting in a report in December 2010 entitled 'Caste discrimination and harassment in Great Britain'.

The report had pegged Britain's Dalit or lower caste community between 50,000 and 2,00,000 and found that caste awareness was largely focused among people with roots in the Indian sub-continent. The government has asked the Equality and Human Rights Commission to further examine the nature of caste prejudice and harassment in the UK, the findings of which are to be tabled later this year.

- PTI

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