News

Apr 20 2015

UK General Election 2015: Liberal Democrat’s manifesto

by Meena Varma in News

Includes a pledge to outlaw caste discrimination. The only UK political party to do so http://www.libdems.org.uk/liberal-democrats-launch-bame-manifesto

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Apr 20 2015

UK General Election 2015: Labour party position on caste

by Meena Varma in News

Caste ·      Labour is clear that Caste is not a distinction based on religion. We agree with the EHRC’s view that it is a form of social differentiation distinct from class, race or religion and we believe it is important that any statutory definition reflects this view. ·      We also recognise that discrimination of this nature is something that no religion in the UK sanctions. ·      In 2013 Labour voted for Cross-bench amendments in the House of Lords clarifying the law in relation to caste discrimination. This was a provision that was voted for by MPs and Peers of all Parties and no Parties. ·      We did so because we believe individuals have the right to protection against discrimination on the basis of their caste or perceived caste, in the same way that they do on the basis of race or gender. ·      This Government failed to do a proper consultation on the issue, as was promised by the previous Labour Government, and we are concerned that they are failing to properly consult now on the implementation of this provision.

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Apr 07 2015

Cast out CASTE: Make your voice heard; make your vote count at the General Election 7 May 2015

by Meena Varma in News

With the General Election in the United Kingdom just around the corner we have our chance to grill all the hopeful to our Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPCs) on their stance on caste discrimination and gauge their support (or not) for the necessary legislation to finally outlaw it from our streets, our schools and our places of work. I will be tweeting regularly during the next few weeks addressing some parties directly for their lack of commitment to addressing caste discrimination here in the UK – so please do RT as appropriate Follow me on Twitter @DSNUK Current Background in brief As suspected, we reached an impasse with the previous government, whereby their well-timed delays and procrastinations resulted in NO progress towards the implementation of the caste discrimination legislation – exceeding their own timetable by many many months and effectively ruled out any possibility of justice for victims and potential victims of caste discrimination. In responses to several Parliamentary Questions about the ongoing delays to implementation of the caste discrimination legislation during the last session, Government stated that it awaited the outcome of the ruling by the Appeal Judge on a Caste legislation related Employment Tribunal – Tirkey v. Chandok. In this case, the Claimant was a woman whose caste was described as Adivasi (or Scheduled Tribe). The Claimant claimed that her employers had treated her badly and in a demeaning manner, in part, because of her caste. The employer sought to strike out the part of her claim related to discrimination by reason of her caste on the basis that caste is not a protected characteristic under the Equality Act. In the first instance, the Employment Tribunal rejected this strike out application. The EAT upheld this decision and dismissed the appeal, allowing the caste discrimination claim to proceed to a full hearing in the Employment Tribunal. On one hand it is argued that the ruling means that ‘caste’ can be subsumed under race and ethnic origins; on the other the ruling was clear that each case must be decided of the individual circumstances – determined by whether the Claimant’s descent can fall within the definition of “ethnic or national origin”. What the judgement and the case did is reinforce that caste discrimination is an issue coming before the courts. There is a clear need for implementation of legislation to clarify and simplify the current position. What has become increasingly clear is that the decision to stall the implementation of the legislation came from the very top of Government. Those vested interests which were able to influence the then Tory Minister for Equalities also seem to have had the ear of the PM. Even Peter Hitchens on last week’s Question Time stated that the Tory party is  only held together by other people’s money. The UK general election on 7 May 2015 gives us an opportunity to ask some important questions of our prospective parliamentary candidates from all parties. Call them out on their own and their party’s position! Suggested Questions to Pose to your Prospective Parliamentary Candidates What is your party’s position on the issue of caste discrimination legislation – and the implementation of Section 9 of the Equality Act 2010? If you successfully become an MP will you support the introduction of secondary legislation to effectively outlawing caste? If you do not support caste discrimination legislation, please explain why not? If in government from May 2015, will your party implement the necessary clause to provide specific protection for victims and potential victims of caste discrimination? If yes, then by what date do you anticipate that the clause will have been brought into force? If not, why not?  

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Apr 01 2015

13-15 March 2015 LibDem Spring Conference states their commitment to end caste discrimination

by Meena Varma in News

DSN Director Meena Varma  spoke at the LibDem conference in Liverpool on 14 March 2015 at a side event organised by the Humanist Secular Lib Dems. Joining her on the panel were Dr Julian Huppert MP and Jo Swinson MP. The meeting was chaired by Gordon Lishman. Our thanks to the Humanist & Secularist Liberal Democrats for making the event happen and for their ongoing support. The Party’s Equalities Motion, and the policy paper that it endorsed at the Autumn Conference, both included a commitment to tackle caste discrimination. The motion was carried without any relevant amendments, so the following quotes now represent party policy. The most relevant sections of the policy paper and the motion are below: Policy Paper 120: Expanding Opportunity, Unlocking Potential (Equalities Policy Paper) Executive Summary: Recognising Diversity in Communities “Liberal Democrats welcome differences in faith or culture, to promote diversity in communities, so we will: * “Accelerate moves to give caste recognition in law on  level footing with other protected characteristics (3.3.3) (p.9) Inclusive Environment 3.3 Recognising Diversity in Communities 3.3.3    Caste In line with international law Liberal Democrats reject any notion that the circumstances of someone’s birth should determine their future role in society.  The Enterprise and regulatory Reform Act 2013 requires the Government to include caste as an aspect of race within the Equality Act 2010.  While we await the Government’s consultation on this matter we think caste needs recognition in law on a level footing with other protected characteristics and Liberal Democrats would accelerate the implementation of caste discrimination provisions. (p.68)  F27 Policy Motion: Expanding Opportunity, Unlocking Potential (Equalities Policy Paper) Conference notes that: Liberal Democrats are rightly proud of a commitment to equality that goes back decades, and the vision for a fair, free and open society is enshrined in our constitution. In government Liberal Democrats have championed equality, working for a fairer society. Conference believes that: There is still much more to be done to reduce inequalities, poverty and disadvantage for those with protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 – Liberal Democrats want to expand opportunity and unlock potential by promoting equality in education and employment, in health and wellbeing and in an inclusive society. Liberal Democrats want Britain to take the lead in tackling inequalities abroad. At the heart of our approach is the promotion of human rights to empower individuals to reach their full potential and have more control over their own life, to live in a way that is right for them and free from discrimination. Conference therefore endorses policy paper 120, Expanding Opportunity, Unlocking Potential, and particularly welcomes its proposals to: Build an inclusive society that celebrates diversity through: a) Accelerating the recognition of caste as an aspect of race under the Equality Act. (Agenda, pages 53-55) Links: Equalities Policy Paper, Autumn Conference 2014 : http://www.libdems.org.uk/policy_paper_120_expanding_opportunity_unlocking_potential Agenda, Autumn Conference 2014: http://www.libdems.org.uk/autumn_conference_2014_provisional_agenda

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Dec 11 2014

Responses so far from the 63 letters sent to HMG and Shadow Cabinet

by Meena Varma in News

As you can see these  have been meagre so far. A thoughtful response but sadly still a holding one from Jo Swinson MP and no direct response from the Prime Minister or the Deputy PM and nothing from the Official Opposition at all.  

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Oct 29 2014

Letter and Leaflet sent to Government and Official Opposition

by Meena Varma in News

20 October 2014 Despite EHRC reports condemning caste discrimination and saying it ‘cannot be tolerated and should be included in the protections against discrimination and harassment provided in the Equality Act 2010′ legislation in the UK making caste discrimination illegal is still pending until Spring 2015. Therefore a letter along with DSN-UK leaflets were sent to all members of Her Majesty’s Government and Her Majesty’s Official Opposition in an attempt to speed up the process.The letter points out the estimated 400,000 Dalits living in the UK and the disastrous impact this has on Dalit rights such as education and employment. The letter goes on to say the suspension of legislation until Spring 2015 resulting in Dalits’ rights continuing to be violated. To date, we have had no response from either Her Majesty’s Government or Her Majesty’s Official Opposition. Below are copies of the letters sent out to all members of Her Majesty’s Government and Her Majesty’s Official Opposition and the leaflet accompanying them 2014 DSN UK letter to HMG 2014 DSN UK letter to Shadow Cabinet

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Oct 29 2014

Review of DSN-UK’s Annual General Meeting

by Meena Varma in News

9th September 2014 DSN-UK’s Annual General Meeting took place on the 9th September. The meeting began with an introduction from Tom Palakudiyil the Vice Chair and was then followed by the business section in which finance, election of trustees and review of the year were covered. This was then followed by four highly engaging talks, the first talk being led by Bishop Yuhanon Meletius and covered faith in India. A talk on caste and labour rights in Indian supply chains came next given by Rana Alok Singh, India representative for Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) in India. Dr Aidan McQuade, Director of the oldest international human rights organisation in the world Anti-Slavery International then spoke about slavery and caste. The speeches ended with the personal story of DSN-UK’s own Ramesh Gautam and his triumph over all the odds. Below are DSN-UK’s Review of the Year and the Annual Report and Account s

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Oct 28 2014

Caste Discrimination Debate comes to House of Commons

by Meena Varma in News

9th July 2014 The subject of caste discrimination in the UK and lack of protective legislation implemented by the UK Government was put forward in the House of Commons. When asked about why the Government has prolonged the implementation of legislation to protect victims of caste discrimination, Mrs Helen Grant – The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities – responded ‘we (the Government) need to assess the feasibility of any further research into caste discrimination’. According to Mrs Grant, there are some people that ‘do not believe that caste discrimination exists and consider that legislation is, therefore, unnecessary’ and so a feasibility study is needed in order to assess whether caste discrimination is actually here in the UK. Facts were brought forward as both Jeremy Corbyn and Adam Holloway pointed out that caste discrimination does exist in the UK and on an incredibly  large scale. It is estimated there are  around 860,00 Dalits living in the Uk and of  ‘58% of those surveyed believe they face discrimination because of their caste’ and ‘80% believe that the police would not understand caste discrimination if it was reported to them’. There is undeniable evidence that caste discrimination is present in the UK and although Mrs Grant says ‘the Government have always said that there is no place for unlawful discrimination or prejudice in society’ the fact of the matter is unlawful discrimination and prejudice is rife in caste society in the UK. ‘It was the will of Parliament that a duty be imposed to make caste an aspect of race for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010, and we (the Government) are well aware of that duty’ remonstrated Mrs Grant but if 4 years on and no legislation whatsoever has been implemented to make caste discrimination illegal, is the Government’s awareness the only thing Dalits can rely on for protection? Caste Discrimination debate Westminster Hall 9 July 2014

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Jun 26 2014

Women finally come front and centre at the UN Human Rights Council

by Meena Varma in News

THE ROLE OF THE UN IN COMBATING CASTE-BASED VIOLENCE AND DISCRIMINATION On June 17  2014 the side event addressing violence against Dalit women took place at the United Nations in Geneva. It was sponsored by Human Rights Watch, International Movement against all forms of Discrimination and Racism, Minority Rights Group, Franciscan International, and Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development and organised in association with International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN) and co-sponsored by Denmark and Norway. The event addressed caste-based sexual and other forms of violence against women and girls in caste-affected countries and explored with United Nations stakeholders how to take comprehensive and urgent action on this issue. Dalit women human rights defenders spoke of the reality on the ground in South Asia and a preview of a documentary on the Dalit women’s fight for justice in India was screened. OBJECTIVES Providing a better understanding of the intersection between gender-based violence and caste discrimination and highlighting the cross-cutting themes affecting Dalit women and similarly affected communities Sharing good practices, recent developments, and actions taken by various stakeholders to eliminate violence against Dalit women. Exploring ways forward to address caste-based violations including Dalit women, in particular in the context of the UN Human Rights Council. OPENING KEY NOTE SPEAKER Ms. Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Link to the speech of outgoing High Commissioner for Human Rights and a true champion of Dalit women and their fight for equality http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=14736&LangID=E OTHER SPEAKERS Ms. Asha Kowtal, General Secretary of the All India Dalit Human Rights Forum (AIDMAM) Ms. Manjula Pradeep, Asia Dalit Rights Forum, Director of Navsarjan Trust Ms. Durga Sob, President, Feminist Dalit Organisation, Nepal Ms Julie De Rivero, Geneva Advocacy Director, Human Rights Watch Ms. Rita Izsák, Independent Expert on Minority Issues Ms. Saraswathi Menon, Director, Policy Division, UN Women – Closing remarks Moderator: Ms. Jyoti Sanghera, Chief, Human Rights and Economic and Social Issues Section, OHCHR Press Release IDSN-HRW HRC26 IDSN recommendations to the UN on caste-based discrimination and violence against women – June 2014

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May 07 2014

Has anyone asked the Dalit communities how they feel?

by Meena Varma in News

UK Govt response to  Lord’s PQ highlights unreasonable delays to implementation of caste discrimination legislation worried that the next phase proposed ”  could be seen as intrusive and might have an adverse effect on good relations in the relevant communities”. Which communities does he mean? Lord Avebury’s Parliamentary Question to the Minister was answered with a wholly unacceptable further delay of 6 months and more. If this continues this legislation will not see the light of day before 2016. Lord Ahmad response to Lord Avebury 6 May 2014  

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