News

May 23 2018

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on racism visit to the UK

by Danni Kleinaityte in News

The Special Rapporteur (SR) on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Ms. E. Tendayi Achiume, on Friday, 11 May 2018, concluded her official visit to the UK and issued her end of mission statement. During the visit the Special Rapporteur met with the UK government and Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales representatives. Ms Achiume also met with civil society in London, Bristol, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Belfast. Dalit Solidarity Network UK made a submission to the SR prior to her visit to raise the issue of caste-based discrimination and attended meetings in London to further discuss the issues of lack of protection against caste-based discrimination in the UK. The SR took a note of it and included a paragraph in her end of visit statement: ‘In my consultations, it emerged clearly that most stakeholders largely view the formal UK legal framework governing equality and hate crimes positively. There are some exceptional concerns however, including: the decision by the UK Government not to bring into effect the provisions in the Equality Act 2010 regarding socio-economic inequalities and intersectional discrimination; and concerns regarding the legal status of caste-based discrimination.’ The Special Rapporteur will present her full report on the country visit to the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2019. Ms Achiume will continue to accept submissions on the situation in the UK until November 2018. In the meantime, we continue to wait to hear back from the government on the outcome of the Caste in Great Britain and equality law: a public consultation.

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May 21 2018

‘Dalit theology on caste Discrimination’ event in London

by Danni Kleinaityte in News

On 25 April 2018, DSN-UK in collaboration with Amos Trust, Churches Dalit Support Network and with the support of the Methodist Church held an event in London on “Dalit theology on caste Discrimination”. Among the special guests was DSN-UK patron Revd Dr Vincent Manoharan from Tamil Nadu in India. As a keynote speaker Vincent spoke passionately about discrimination faced by Dalits in India. He outlined that Dalits face social, economic and political discrimination and violence. “A study undertaken in 2004 in the state of Andhra Pradesh, which status still continues, revealed that more than 140 forms of untouchability practices exist against Dalits, right from the remote village to metropolitan cities.” Vincent highlighted that Dalits face various forms of atrocities, including: “killing, stripping naked/molesting/raping of Dalit women/pushing them as jognis-the temple prostitutes, forcing Dalits to eat / drink inedible or obnoxious substance like human excreta, maiming of limbs, destructions of homes and threatened to vote or not to vote to a particular candidate during elections”. Dalits also continue to face deprivation as majority of them are poor, struggling to access basic goods and services such as land, education, employment, food, health, drinking water etc. Moreover, despite the reservations, policies and programmes directed at improving the situation of Dalits, their voices remain unheard and underrepresented in India’s politics. Vincent also observed that caste-based discrimination against Christian Dalits exists with the Church in India. He noted that Dalits face discrimination within the hierarchy of the Church as well as in the Church based institutions. He ended his presentation by looking at the ways to end caste-based discrimination within the Church through practical theology. Other two speakers were Dr Elizabeth Joy from the Churches Dalit support Network and Rev Dr Jacob Devadason. The event in London was followed by two other events, in Birmingham and Manchester, where Vincent spoke on the same topic. We are very thankful to the Amost Trust for their assistance in organising the events and Methodist Church for their support, without which these events would not have happened.

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Mar 29 2018

Caste in Britain by Annapurna Waughray

by Danni Kleinaityte in News

As we continue to wait for the outcome of the public consultation on Caste in Great Britain and Equality Law, which closed on 18 September 2017, Economic & Political Weekly published an excellent article Caste in Britain: public consultation on caste and equality law by Annapurna Waughray. The author provides insightful commentary on why the UK government has not adopted a legislation outlawing caste-based discrimination in the UK yet and concludes that ‘Legislating against caste discrimination in the UK is not only contentious, it has become highly politicised’.   The author notes that ‘The next step in the legal regulation of caste discrimination in the UK is the government’s response to the public consultation. Its importance for the development of UK equality law and for legal treatment of caste discrimination in the diaspora cannot be underestimated’.

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Feb 19 2018

DSN-UK director shortlisted for a ‘Secularist of the year 2018’ award

by Danni Kleinaityte in News

We are delighted to share that DSN-UK Director, Meena Varma, has been shortlisted for a ‘Secularist of the year 2018 award’. The award ‘recognises a campaigner or group for an outstanding contribution to the secularist movement’. The NSS’s council of management selected the shortlist from nominations which were submitted by its members and supporters. The winner of the prize will be announced at the Secularist of the Year luncheon on Saturday 24 March. Meena has been nominated for her work as Director of Dalit Solidarity Network UK in challenging ‘caste’ discrimination – through research, academic work and public advocacy. Meena said: “I am so honoured to be even nominated for Secularist of the Year 2018. The campaign to end caste discrimination is a global one and we stand side by side in solidarity with so many including the National Secular Society. Caste discrimination is a human rights issue and can only be addressed when it is seen through a lens separate to religion and when the rich and powerful are not the only ones to have the ear of governments.” Over the last 10 years Meena led DSN-UK. The nomination reaffirms her strong expertise in caste-based discrimination issues in the UK and South Asia.

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Feb 12 2018

“Caste Aside” documentary

by Danni Kleinaityte in News

A thought provoking documentary – ‘Caste Aside’ is due to be screened once again in London at SOAS University, on 27 February 2018. The documentary has been wonderfully made by highly talented producer, Priyanka Mogul and director, Damiano Patrucci. It features both pro and anti-legislation arguments on caste discrimination in the UK. ‘Caste Aside’ features DSN-UK Director Meena Varma, Dalit rights activists, Hindu community leaders, academics and lawyers, as well as those who feel they have been discriminated against on the basis of their caste here in Britain. As we continue waiting to hear from the government on the outcome of the Caste in Great Britain and Equality Law: a public consultation, the screening and the panel discussions after the screenings offer a platform to hear both sides- their arguments, worries and experiences. From the last discussion hosted by Warwick in London and Warwick Policy Lab it became apparent that whilst pro-legislation activists are concerned about the protection of Dalit rights against caste-based discrimination and access to justice, the anti-legislation side remain concerned about such legislation’s impact on their communities and perceived attack on the Hindu religion. The arguments about the Vedas at the event and its potential inclusion of caste discrimination did divert the discussions to Hinduism. However, it has to be highlighted that as religious freedom is protected by the Human Rights Act the proposed legislation will not interfere with religious freedom and does not target any particular religion. Those advocating against caste-based discrimination, including DSN-UK, agree that the most effective way to outlaw caste-based discrimination is to add caste to the Equality Act 2010. They believe that there is no guarantee that case law will develop to recognise caste as already covered by the existing laws. This uncertainty makes bringing a claim expensive, stressful and uncertain, and such burdens would likely be reduced if caste is simply inserted into the Equality Act 2010. Those interested in the caste legislation in the UK are encouraged to visit http://casteintheuk.org/caste-law-great-britain-faqs/ and https://www.casteaside.com/ (the resources section).

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Jan 16 2018

DSN-UK patron receives OBE for his work to eradicate slavery

by Danni Kleinaityte in News

Long-time supporter of the struggle for Dalit rights and campaigner against slavery, Dr Aidan McQuade, has been awarded an honorary British OBE order for services to the elimination of modern slavery. Aidan has devoted his life to the struggle to eradicate slavery and has been one of the most vocal and forward-thinking proponents of measures to address slavery across the globe. Dr Aidan McQuade is a patron of the Dalit Solidarity Network – UK (DSN-UK) and through his many years as Director of Anti-Slavery International, has also been very involved in the work of the International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN). Dr McQuade has been an invaluable contributor to the campaign against caste-discrimination, as a source of expertise, advice and an active driver of advocacy. “We are thrilled to learn that Aidan is being awarded an OBE for what is truly a major life’s work to move towards a world free of slavery,” said DSN-UK Director, Meena Varma. “His unwavering commitment to tackling the discrimination that underpins slavery, is invaluable to the struggle to end it.” The direct link between caste discrimination and slavery Dr Aidan McQuade has persistently and continuously raised the clear linkages between slavery and caste discrimination – referring to it in many articles and presentations as ‘caste apartheid’ – in relevant global fora and in the global media. He has made valuable contributions to addressing caste-based slavery and labour abuses over more than a decade. He has always made a point of the need to address the structural inequalities that underpin slavery and has fought tirelessly, not only for the elimination of slavery, but also against the discrimination and inequality that continue to facilitate its existence. The caste-related issues that Dr McQuade has addressed over the years include Dalit children working in child labour, labour rights legislation in caste-affected countries, manual scavengers, caste-based prostitutions and pervasive caste-based slavery practiced across many industries including in garment factories, brick kilns, domestic service, agriculture and many other industries. Putting slavery on the global agenda In 2015 the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were drafted and Dr McQuade contributed to the campaign to ensure that direct attention was given to modern slavery in these goals. The campaign resulted in a specific target of goal 8 calling for immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour to be taken and, and by 2025 to end child labour in all its forms. Dr McQuade has on many occasions spoken at the UN level and through global statements on the need to address caste-based slavery and caste-based discrimination, and has continuously called for greater regulation of international business to reduce slavery in global supply chains. He was also instrumental in advocating for a new international protocol on forced labour that is considered a milestone in the fight against slavery, as well as the passing the Modern Slavery Act in the UK. Dr. McQuade recently stepped down from his role as Director of Anti-Slavery International, but will continue to be a patron of DSN-UK. He is already a much sought-after expert consultant on the issues. And most recently, he has completed his first novel – An Undiscovered Country.   We wish Aidan all the luck in the world for his future life challenges and opportunities and thank him for the support and commitment he has shown over the past decade to ending the global ‘caste apartheid’.    

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Nov 09 2017

Caste in Great Britain – Consultation closed

by Danni Kleinaityte in News

A public consultation on Caste in Great Britain and equality law ended on 18 September 2017. Announced on 28 March 2017 with an initial deadline of 18 July it was extended due to campaigning by pro-legislation activists, including DSN-UK, due to the general election and resulting parliamentary purdah during this time. The Government Equalities Office had informed us before the deadline was closed, that they had received a significant number of submissions – many more than they would have expected for a consultation of this kind.  We were also informed that the submissions will be analysed on a qualitative basis, taking into account individual responses.  There remains two potential outcomes 1) case law will develop to protect against caste-based discrimination 2) caste will be included in the Equality Act 2010 as a protected characteristic. Those advocating against caste-based discrimination, including DSN-UK, agree that the most effective way to outlaw caste-based discrimination is to add caste to the Equality Act 2010. They believe that there is no guarantee that case law will develop to recognise caste as already covered by the existing laws. This uncertainty makes bringing a claim expensive, stressful and uncertain, and such burdens would likely be reduced if caste is simply inserted into the Equality Act 2010. It has been a long way to get the public consultation. As far back as February 2010, an amendment was included in the Equality Act 2010, which allowed for the introduction of secondary legislation as soon as evidence of caste discrimination had been properly assessed. The then Labour government commissioned National Institute for Economic and Social Research to undertake the study on caste discrimination in the UK. Their report published in December 2010, confirmed the existence of caste-based discrimination in the UK and recommended that in addition to education on this issue, “extending the definition of race to include caste would provide further, explicit protection”. In July 2013 as a result of an amendment in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act to activate the clause to enable legislation to outlaw caste discrimination, the government published a timetable setting out the steps to result in the outlawing of caste legislation in the summer of 2015.  Further research by the Equality and Human Rights Commission was published in spring 2014. Following the Chandhok & Anor v Tirkey [2014] case at the Employment Appeal Tribunal the Government stated it was reviewing its position on the need to introduce legislation since the circumstances of the case fall within the existing prohibition of race discrimination. In July 2016, a debate in the House of Lords asked Her Majesty’s Government to spell out the reasons for non-implementation of the caste discrimination legislation – as agreed by Parliament previously. On behalf of the Government Baroness Williams of Trafford said that: ‘I agree that this is an issue which the new Administration, led by the new Prime Minister, who herself was Minister for Women and Equalities in 2010-12, will need to consider afresh, and I am sure that they will.’ Following the debate Mishcon de Reya acting pro-bono and under instruction from DSN-UK wrote a pre-action letter to the Government under a Judicial Review to challenge the UK Government over its non-implementation of the promised legislation to outlaw caste discrimination in the UK. As a result, the Government promised to announce the agreed public consultation on caste legislation in the Equality Act 2010 by the end of the 2016. Although the consultation eventually was announced on 28 March 2017, caste discrimination is still not expressly prohibited under UK equality legislation and Dalits here in the UK still await justice for their communities and the right to be treated without discrimination in the public sphere.

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Oct 05 2017

Rodney Bickerstaffe – Our tribute to a true legend and wonderful man

by Meena Varma in News

It is with a heavy heart that I write this. The world is a sadder place with the passing of the great Rodney Bickerstaffe. To most people he was a giant of the trade unions movement, without whom there would be no Minimum Wage. Without him, workers’ rights would not have been front and centre in this country. But to us all here at the Dalit Solidarity Network UK, he was – along with his old friends Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP, leader of the Labour Party and Revd David Haslam MBE – a founding member of a unique organisation in the UK that fights for the rights of Dalits across the world. Their plight touched him profoundly and his fierce will to stand up for them against seemingly more powerful forces made them ever stronger and more determined. He was a champion of the most marginalised and always stood up for the rights of what are too often seen as lost causes. I first met him 10 years ago – a relative newcomer in his life compared to all those who had known him for decades but I was allowed to be a part of his glow – to bask in his strengths and passions. It did not take me long to know that here was a special man – kind, funny, witty and with an ability to cut to the chase just when it was needed. He made everyone he met feel special. Every time we spoke, his opening was always “How are you my lovely? Have you changed the world yet? Don’t worry, you will!” He so often gave me the strength to continue to chip away at the brick wall that sometimes seems insurmountable. He recognised fools for what they were, but rarely let them know that – but he could bring you down with a look, a raised eyebrow and a choice barb. He always looked out for me and made me laugh. He fought my corner whenever I asked him. Rodney was a true gentleman and I know it has been said in almost every tribute, but no-one ever had anything but wonderful things to say about him. And in true democratic fashion (being a real man of the people), he had no qualms in turning down both the Knighthood and Lordship. Not many others have so firmly stood by their principles. And echoing David Haslam’s book title, and something that I know Rodney would remind us of: A LUTA CONTINUA….. We have lost someone very special, but he will live in our hearts for a long time. Meena Varma Director, Dalit Solidarity Network UK  

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Oct 04 2017

The UK’s Universal Periodic Review at the United Nations fails to address caste-based discrimination

by Danni Kleinaityte in News

GENEVA: 21 September 2017 – the Human Rights Council adopted the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the United Kingdom. The review took place on 4 May 2017, when the UK received 227 recommendations. Member states raised concerns about the proposed Bill of Rights, remaining with the European Court post Brexit, indefinite detention of asylum seekers, human trafficking, gender equality, migrants’ rights, ethnic minorities, travellers and Roma community, abortion policies in Northern Ireland and a rise of hate crime post the Brexit vote in June last year. In reply to the received recommendations the UK government stated that it supports 98 and notes 131 recommendations. DSN-UK is disappointed that none of the member states specifically raised the issue of caste-based discrimination in the UK; the issue had been raised in the previous UPR cycle by Nicaragua: Put in practice a national strategy to eliminate discrimination against caste, through the immediate adoption of the Equality Law of 2010 that prohibits such discrimination, in conformity with its international human rights obligations, including CERD’s General Recommendation 29 and recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism (Nicaragua). In August 2016, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed a concern that “several provisions of the Equality Act 2010 have not yet been brought into legal effect, including Section 9(5)(a) on caste-based discrimination” and recommended to the UK to: “Invoke Section 9(5)(a) of the Equality Act 2010 without further delay to ensure that caste-based discrimination is explicitly prohibited under law and that victims of this form of discrimination have access to effective remedies, taking into account the Committee’s general recommendation No. 29 (2002) on descent”. At the same time, in July 2016, DSN-UK challenged the UK Government on its non-implementation of the law to outlaw caste-based discrimination in the UK. DSN-UK, leading a consortium of organisations, including Anti Caste Discriminations Alliance, CasteWatch UK and the National Secular Society, instructed well known solicitors Mishcon de Reya to write a pre-action letter to the Minister for Equalities and Women and the Secretary of State for Education, Rt Hon Justine Greening MP. As a result the Government pledged to launch the public consultation on the legislation by the end of the year (2016). It took another follow up letter before finally on 28 March 2017, the Government announced “Caste in Great Britain and equality law: a public consultation”.  An initial deadline of 18 July was extended to 18 September due to the snap general election over the summer. Prior to the UPR DSN-UK and International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN) made a joint submission to the mechanism, outlining the need to outlaw caste-based discrimination in the UK and the government’s failure to implement the legislation as agreed by both Houses of Parliament. DSN-UK and IDSN also distributed DSN-UK recommendations to a number of Geneva-based permanent missions. Yet, the issue has been overshadowed by Brexit-related political debates not only in the UK but also at the third UPR cycle of the UK, in Geneva. Nevertheless, DSN-UK will continue to campaign for a caste discrimination free world and this includes in the UK, and to challenge the government on its lack of action to outlaw caste discrimination in the UK.  Although lacking targeted recommendations, a number of more general UPR recommendations, addressing issues of discrimination and access to justice, are “supported” by the UK government. Georgia, Paraguay, Kazakhstan and Republic of Korea requested the UK to further incorporate the CERD into its domestic laws and adopt comprehensive anti-discrimination measures. DSN-UK believes that the United States of America and the Netherlands’ recommendations below encompass an adoption of secondary legislation outlawing caste discrimination and providing access to justice for victims of caste-based discrimination: 134.87 Review and strengthen current policies and initiatives to combat societal discrimination against members of racial, religious and ethnic minority groups (United States of America); 134.154 Ensure the accessibility of appropriate legal aid to safeguard access to justice for all, particularly for the most marginalized groups in society (Netherlands) The UK committed to provide a follow up to 5 recommendations by May 2018 and a mid-term report on all recommendations by May 2019. The video recording of the adoption session is available here.

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Aug 01 2017

CALL TO ACTION: complete the caste consultation (deadline extended)

by Danni Kleinaityte in News

The Caste in Great Britain and Equality Law consultation deadline has been extended until 18 September 2017. This was as a result of a specific request from DSN-UK and the consortium of organisations and leading academics that have come together to produce guidelines and FAQs – all to be found on our dedicated website www.casteintheuk.org. If you are yet to complete the consultation questionnaire please go to the above website and also for direct access to the consultation click here https://consult.education.gov.uk/government-equalities-office/caste-in-great-britain-and-equality-law-1/. This is a crucial time as we need to send the new Government a powerful message that caste discrimination in the UK must be outlawed – and this must be done by adding caste to the Equality Act as agreed by Parliament in 2013. Some of the key things you need to know: The deadline for the consultation is 18 September 2017. If you are struggling to complete the questionnaire the guidance note will become useful. Where there are some suggested answers, which you should put in your own words, keeping to the max 100 words as required. If you do not have time, please ensure that you at least complete the 4 mandatory questions: Q5 – Strongly Disagree; Q12a – Strongly Agree; Q12b – Strongly Disagree; Q16 – Option 2 to add caste to the Equality Act 2010. We also encourage you to follow and tweet the Twitter handle @Casteintheuk and visit, like and share the dedicated Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/CasteintheUK/. If you have any questions please feel free to get in touch on info@casteintheuk.org. Best wishes and many thanks in advance for completing the questionnaire, sharing it with your networks and helping to outlaw caste discrimination in the UK.   DSN-UK  

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