UK caste battle taken to the UN
(Press Release, Geneva, 25 May 2012) As the UK’s first ever caste discrimination case is pending in court, the UK is given a strong recommendation to immediately adopt legislation outlawing caste discrimination, at the UN human rights review of the UK.
Caste discrimination occurring in the South Asian diaspora in the UK, affecting the rights of more than 250,000 lower caste citizens also known as Dalits, has been a well kept secret on the international arena. But at the UN Universal Periodic Review of the human rights situation in the UK on 24 May, several states voiced concerns about the UK Equality Act and anti-discrimination legislation. The UK was specifically recommended to
”… develop a national strategy to eliminate caste discrimination, including the immediate adoption of the clause in the Equality Act of 2010 that prohibits caste discrimination, in accordance with its international human rights obligations.”
Vijay Begraj, who has launched a case at the Employment Tribunal for unfair dismissal, discrimination, victimisation and harassment, due to his caste, was present at the UN review. Mr. Begraj and his wife were seriously harassed and Vijay was dismissed by the firm, because they had married across caste divides. Following the review, a statement was read out on behalf of Mr. Begraj commenting,
”I am extremely distressed and traumatised by the painful, humiliating and violent events that I have been subjected to because of my inter caste relationship and marriage. I welcome the involvement of the member states of the United Nations to take steps exploring this issue and provide long awaited relief to victims like my wife and I and provide clarity in the legislation.”
Mr. Begraj’s case is the first of its kind but is unfortunately not a unique occurrence. In 2010 a UK Government commissioned report found that caste discrimination in the UK was found to have extensive personal consequences including reduced career prospects, lower earnings, detrimental effects on education, social isolation, reduced access to social provisions, depression, anger, and loss of self-esteem.
Human rights activists and organisations in the UK, as well as the All Party Parliamentary Group for Dalits, have been fighting a battle to outlaw caste discrimination for years. They are calling for action to be taken by the Government without further delay. At the UN review, the UK delegation pledged to respond to all issues raised in writing.
”Caste discrimination must be outlawed in the UK,” said Meena Varma of the Dalit Solidarity Network – UK (DSN-UK), also present at the review, ”we are looking forward to immediate action being taken by the Government in response to the UN concerns and concerns of hundreds of thousands of UK citizens affected by this type of discrimination, from which there is currently no proper method of redress.”
Jeremy Corbyn, UK MP and chair of DSN-UK, spoke at the UN side-event held to follow up to the UK review,
“As a result of campaigning we achieved a breakthrough in 2010 when Parliament amended the Equality Act to outlaw caste discrimination, pending Government commissioned research. We now have the report with the evidence and the UK Government must act immediately to adopt the caste discrimination clause, and deliver proper access to justice for victims.”
Meena Varma, Director, Dalit Solidarity Network – UK, Telephone +44 (0) 7966081558 • Email firstname.lastname@example.org • web: www.dsnuk.org
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