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House of Lords votes to outlaw caste discrimination in UK

The government was defeated by 256 to 153.

Written by PTI | London |
March 5, 2013 9:10:04 pm

The House of Lords in the UK has voted to outlaw caste discrimination among South Asians,a move hailed by activists as a major step in combating the social menace.

Discrimination on the grounds of caste should be outlawed in the UK,peers said as they defeated the government in a vote in the upper house of Parliament yesterday.

The government opposed the move,saying it had set up an education programme to tackle caste discrimination.

But peers said this was not enough,and the law needed to be changed. The government was defeated by 256 to 153.

The defeat was the second of the day for the government,with peers also challenging the government over the role of the Equality and Human Rights Commission in promoting a more equal society.

Caste Watch UK has been campaigning for caste-based discrimination to be included in the country’s equality laws,which would give nearly one million lower caste south Asians in Britain the same legal protection as people who face mistreatment on the basis of gender,sexuality or race.

“We have the support of not only the Dalit community but all Asian communities in the UK,including Hindus,Sikhs and Muslims,who believe that unless this law is passed the UK’s Equality Act 2010 is not worth the paper it is written on,” Davinder Prasad,general secretary of Caste Watch UK said.

“Winning a majority in the House of Lords is a major victory for us and the government will have to re-consider the bill,” Prasad said after a rally at Parliament Square here yesterday as the peers debated the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill amendment to add caste to race discrimination laws.

Nearly 400 people,largely members of the Dalit community,were backed by the British Organisation of People of Indian Origin (BOPIO) and other human rights groups during the protest.

Caste Watch UK now plans a larger protest rally when the bill comes up in the House of Commons.

The Bishop of Oxford,Lord Harries of Pentregarth — who introduced the amendment — said the British Dalit community had reached 4,80,000 and evidence showed they suffered discrimination in education,employment and the provision of public goods and service.

“Nothing could be more significant and effective in reducing discrimination on the grounds of caste than to have a clear-cut law that discrimination in the public law would not be tolerated,” he said during the debate in Parliament.

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