United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination reviews the United Kingdom

Disappointment again as the UK Government fails to advance the implementation of the caste discrimination...

Aug 12 2016

United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination reviews the United Kingdom

by Meena Varma in News

Disappointment again as the UK Government fails to advance the implementation of the caste discrimination legislation – despite the duty placed in it to do so by Parliament

4 and 5 August 2016, Palais de Wilson, United Nations, Geneva

Every two years all state parties to the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) are required to submit reports on the implementation of the treaty. In March 2015 the United Kingdom (UK) submitted three combined reports and was reviewed by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) on 4th and 5th of August 2016.

Before the review in Geneva thirteen NGOs and two national human rights institutions prepared shadow reports, including precise recommendations and highlighting areas of concern. Four organisations – DSN-UK joint with IDSN, Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) P.83 and Recommendation 9, Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance (ACDA) and the Runnymede Trust P.23 outlined their concerns in relation to caste-based discrimination in the UK and the government’s failure to implement the CERD recommendation number 30 from 2011. All 4 submissions urged the UK Government to perform its duty as required by Parliament and the rule of law and to amend the Act to add ‘caste as an aspect of race’.

In Geneva, alongside several UK NGOs and National Human Rights Institutions, DSN-UK Director, Meena Varma, made a formal presentation to the CERD Committee and other NGOs. She highlighted the importance of the caste legislation and the frustration with the delays in implementing it. The UK was going against the will of Parliament and to continue to use the Tirkey v Chandok case as a delaying mechanism to the decision is just plain wrong.

Although the review proceedings concentrated on institutional and individual racism against BME communities and the rise in hate crime post Brexit referendum, the rapporteur on the UK, Mr Gün Kut, asked for an explanation of what “careful consideration of court judgements in Tirkey v Chandok case” meant.

The UK delegation repeated the government’s position expressed previously that caste could be already covered under the ‘ethnic origin’ and since there is no clear definition of caste the government was uncertain of which characteristics would be protected under ‘caste’.   Once again we heard the refrain ‘we are considering the need for legislation in light of the Tirkey v Chandok case’

At the end of the review the Chair of the CERD committee stated she was still unclear to why the UK delegation is delaying to enact a law against caste discrimination but the UK representatives chose to ignore it.

DSN-UK and other NGOs campaigning for caste legislation were disappointed with the UK government’s lack of interest in making any progress with the legislation but remain hopeful that the concluding recommendations will once again propose to ‘invoke section 9(5)(a) of the Equality Act 2010 to provide for “caste to be an aspect of race” – and finally provide the necessary and much needed protection in the eyes of the law.

A summary of the CERD review of the UK is now available here.