News

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  

Read more

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.

Read more

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  

Read more

Jun 09 2017

CALL TO ACTION – Complete UK Caste Consultation Questionnaire

by Meena Varma in News

Help us outlaw caste-based discrimination in the UK – complete the public Consultation on Caste in Great Britain and Equality Law before 18 July 2017! Several organisations and renowned academics have come together and created a website www.casteintheuk.org providing guidance on the questionnaire and the caste Consultation document, both of which contain complex legal terms and words. We do not want this to be a barrier to anyone wanting to respond to the survey. Caste-based discrimination does exist here in the UK, acknowledged by both Parliament and the Government. It should be outlawed as any other form of discrimination. The government needs to hear from the UK residents – of South Asian origins and others – as to how individuals and groups should be protected against discrimination on caste grounds. Our Guidelines provide a list of useful suggestions and tips to filling in the survey questions. We encourage all UK residents to take part in the Consultation and make sure that you strongly agree to add caste to the Equality Act 2010 in Question 16. Frequently Asked Questions provide further information on questions you may have in relation to the Consultation. How can you make this public Consultation successful? WE urge all UK residents to take part in the Consultation. GO TO casteintheuk.org that has most helpful tips to fill in the public Consultation survey. URGE everyone you know living in the UK to take part in the Consultation. USE your Twitter handle and Facebook page to disseminate more widely ENCOURAGE your media contacts to read our website to know more about the campaign If you are a journalist or broadcaster –  report about it in your media outlet. Contact us anytime at info@casteintheuk.org if you need more information.   Preferred hashtag: #casteintheuk at Twitter @Casteintheuk Facebook facebook.com/CasteintheUK/ Contact email: info@casteintheuk.org Web: www.casteintheuk.org

Read more

May 16 2017

3rd Universal Periodic Review of the UK

by Danni Kleinaityte in News

On 4 May 2017 the United Kingdom was reviewed under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Every 5 years the United Nations (UN) member states’ human rights records are reviewed during the UPR, a state-driven process, where other states make recommendations to a state under review. The Minister of Justice of the UK and Ireland, Oliver Heald, presented the state report emphasising that the UK voted for Brexit and is planning to leave the EU but will not to turn away from any other of its partners. He reiterated that there are no plans to withdraw from the European Court, the proposed Bill of Rights will continue to protect human rights in the future and there are no plans to narrow the protection of human rights in the country. He stated that the UK’s priorities for the 3rd cycle UPR recommendations will be on eradicating modern slavery and violence against women. Prior to the review DSN-UK and International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN) made a joint submission to the UPR, outlining the need to outlaw caste-based discrimination in the UK and the government’s failure to implement the legislation as agreed by Parliament. DSN-UK and IDSN also distributed DSN-UK recommendations to a number of Geneva based permanent missions, its network members and placed them in the public domain. IDSN facilitated DSN-UK’s participation in the UK UPR Pre-session, organised by UPR Info in Geneva in April 2017, aiming to assist NGOs with lobbying efforts before the review. DSN-UK Director, Meena Varma, attended the UPR Info training, the UK UPR Pre-session and lobbied Geneva based permanent missions encouraging them to recommend to the UK to outlaw caste-based discrimination. Meena met with representatives of Canada, Denmark, Switzerland, USA, Germany and Czech Republic permanent missions. However, to our disappointment not one state mentioned the situation of Dalits or caste-based discrimination in the UK during the review. The majority of the recommendations were directed at the proposed Bill of Rights, remaining with the European Court, indefinite detention of asylum seekers, human trafficking, violence against children, violence against women, child poverty, gender equality, migrants’ rights, ethnic minorities, travellers and Roma community, abortion policies in the Northern Ireland and a rise of hate crime post Brexit vote in June last year. Nonetheless, the Netherlands recommended to the UK to “Ensure the accessibility of appropriate legal aid to safeguard access to justice for all, particularly for the most marginalized groups in society”. DSN-UK believes it should include an adoption of a secondary legislation outlawing caste-based discrimination and providing access to justice for victims of caste discrimination. Additionally, India was under review on the same day. It received 13 targeted recommendations addressing the situation of Dalits, scheduled castes and tribes, and caste based discrimination practices in the country. Video recording of the UK review available here, and of India here.  

Read more

Mar 13 2017

DSN-UK at the ‘Global Parliamentarians’ Conference on discrimination based on work and descent including caste’

by Danni Kleinaityte in News

On 25 and 26 February 2017, a ‘Global Parliamentarians’ Conference on discrimination based on work and descent including caste’ took place in Nepal, Kathmandu, organised by Asian Parliamentarian’s Forum on Dalit Concerns and Asia Dalit Rights Forum. The conference was attended by over 80 participants, including politicians, Dalit activists and diplomats. A highly ambitious programme covered two major themes – the situation today and strategies for tomorrow; and the specific status of Dalit women. Two research reports were released during the conference (1) ‘Dalit women in South Asia: access to education and economic rights – focus on land, higher education, employable skills for livelihoods’; and (2) ‘Report on Regional People’s Tribunal and atrocities against Dalits’. Over 30 speakers highlighted a number of issues that Dalits and other work and descent based communities face around the globe, including in Brazil, as outlined in Asia Dalit Rights Forum’s publication Towards a Unifying Global Identity: a framework on discrimination based on work and descent, including caste. DSN-UK was represented by Director, Meena Varma, who chaired one of the impressive panels, titled ‘Addressing discrimination based on work and decent including caste at global level: strategies and achievements of the past and opportunities and tasks for the future’. The panel consisted of Katia Chirizzi, Acting Deputy of Regional Office for South Asia at OHCHR, Henri Tiphagne, Chairperson of Working Group on Human Rights, and Jerald Joseph, Commissioner at Malaysia Human Rights Commission. Katia Chirizzi highlighted some of the key achievements in recognising caste-based discrimination as a human rights violation at the UN level. She noted CERD General Recommendation 29 on descent-based discrimination and analogous systems of inherited status; specialised reports by a number of Special Rapporteurs, covering caste-based discrimination; and an increase of UPR recommendations related to caste-based discrimination, most recently to Nepal. Katia also outlined that a Guidance Tool on descent-based discrimination: key challenges and strategic approaches to combat caste-based and analogous forms of discrimination will be launched at the end of March. The launch which will be attended by many UN country team officials will take place in Kathmandu, in the same hotel – potentially even in the same room. The Guidance Tool aims to address work and descent based discrimination, including caste, and provide an important role in addressing it. She ended her presentation by suggesting there was a common thread in the presentations on the day, that adoption of legislations and policies ensuring equality is only a starting point. For change to happen, raising awareness and building the capacity to implement those legislations are essential. Henri Tiphagne spoke very passionately as a global human rights activist, not as Indian, as he pointed out, because he is not proud of his country’s actions. He stated that Nepal requires applause for recognition of caste-based discrimination, its constitution and for its work with the OHCHR. Henri highlighted that Work and Descent resolution passed more than 20 years ago was the result of the hard work and commitment of and prepared by the community itself. He stated that the UN Principles and Guidelines for the Effective Elimination of Discrimination Based on Work and Descent are at the core of his and other Dalit activists’ work. And yet the Principles remain in draft form and until the UN Human Rights Council formally adopts them, he believes, neither a declaration nor a convention are going to come into existence. Henri also outlined some of the challenges, including his organisation losing the right to get foreign funding and IDSN struggling to get ECOSOC accreditation. He urged the UN to formally adopt the Principles and Guidelines, organise a global conference of international organisations, continue adding pressure on states and called for a UN Decade for people facing discrimination on work and descent. Jerald Joseph affirmed that we should strive for a global conference on caste – similar to the world conference on racism. Caste-based discrimination was recognised at Durban conference on racism due to activists coming together united. However, this has not happened since. He spoke about the situation in Malaysia, noting that the NHRIs have no complaints on caste-based discrimination, yet everyone knows the issue exists. He suggested that this silence needed to be broken and hoped that documentation and speaking out about caste-based discrimination in Malaysia would break the silence. Jerald recommended for NHRIs from different countries to link up, encouraged everyone to submit complaints to NHRIs on caste-based discrimination to bring consciousness of the issue, and lastly, hold governments accountable to Durban plan of action, which they agreed to. Meena thanked the speakers and outlined some of the key recommendations, which were embedded, among other, in the Kathmandu declaration of solidarity, adopted at the end of two days conference. The conference successfully brought together Parliamentarians, Human Rights experts, Dalit leaders and those in solidarity from across the globe, including India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, India, Nepal, Germany, Finland, Norway, UK, and other countries. The end of the conference declaration of solidarity voices the need to address work and descent based discrimination in development and socio-economic programmes, and ensure welfare and inclusion of those communities in laws and policies around the globe.

Read more

Feb 13 2017

“UK Caste consultation and Christian responsibility” debate at the Houses of Parliament

by Danni Kleinaityte in News

On 1st of February Christian Network Against Caste Discrimination and Voice of Dalit International, UK organised a debate on the upcoming UK Caste consultation at the Houses of Parliament, which was hosted by Lord David Alton. The event attempted to add to discussions on the need for anti-caste based discrimination legislation in the UK. DSN-UK Director, Meena Varma, attended the event and contributed to the discussions. We would like to invite you to read an overview of the event on Lord David Alton’s blog, dated 1st February under the title “Dalits- meeting Feb 1st 2017 Room 3 House of Lords, 5:30pm – remarks by Lord Alton of Liverpool” (please scroll down for the article).

Read more

Jan 24 2017

BBC Asian Network debate on caste legislation in the UK

by Danni Kleinaityte in News

On 18 January 2017 BBC Asian Network’s host of the Big Debate, Nomia Iqbal, led a live debate on the caste legislation in the UK. Satpal Muman, Chair of CasteWatch UK and Satish Sharma, from the National Council of Hindu Temples, were in the studio and DSN-UK Director, Meena Varma called in. On 2 September 2016 the UK government announced it would conduct a public consultation on “the issue of caste and the Equality Act 2010”. Although no timetable or conditions of the consultation were announced yet, opposing groups started discussing caste-based discrimination in the UK and the potential impact, the proposed legislation outlawing caste discrimination, might have on the affected communities. The BBC Asian Network debate started with an audio documentary prepared by Vishva Samani, which included two cases of caste-based discrimination in the UK, as well as views that caste did not play any role in the lives of people in the UK. It was followed by a live discussion in the studio, on a phone and through social media. To the arguments that caste legislation would divide communities and fuel caste-based discrimination in the UK Satpal Muman answered: “We are not talking about those to whom caste is not important we are talking about those to whom caste is important. Look at the case of racial discrimination. Does the law against racial discrimination fuel more racism – I don’t think so. It allows victims of racism find remedy and protection”. In response to Satish Sharma’s assertion that the legislation was an attack on Hinduism; DSN-UK Director, Meena Varma, said: ‘the campaign to see the caste discrimination law introduced does not target any religion. It is not anti-Hindu – it is a campaign for human rights and equality’. It seems that whilst the government is yet to announce the consultation’s timetable communities are eager to engage in discussions on the caste legislation. The full programme is available here. The documentary followed by the live discussion starts at 2:00 hours into the recording.

Read more

Nov 29 2016

DSN-UK at the 9th session of the Forum on Minority Issues

by Danni Kleinaityte in News

On 24 and 25 November 2016, DSN-UK Director Meena Varma, currently also Acting Executive for International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN), was in Geneva, at the Forum on Minority Issues (the Forum), which provides space for a constructive dialogue for a range of stakeholders, but most importantly placing civil society representatives at the centre of the discussions. This year the Forum’s theme analysed the situation of minorities in humanitarian crises. The issue that was highlighted by IDSN in its report published in 2013 “Equality in Aid: addressing caste discrimination in humanitarian response”. At the beginning of the session the UN Special Rapporteur (SR) on Minority Issues, Rita Izsák-Ndiaye, presented her findings stating that minorities are disproportionately affected during disasters and conflicts, and in the aftermath of a natural or manmade crisis. She outlined some examples where minorities have been disproportionately affected by crisis situations, including in Sri Lanka, Nigeria, USA, Yemen and South Asia. She noted that ‘an analysis of emergency responses to natural disasters in South Asia, including in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal, has demonstrated that Dalits, for example, have suffered from acute discrimination throughout all the phases of disaster response, from rescue to rehabilitation’. The Forum’s participants were invited to make statements adding to the draft recommendations, prepared in advance, to improve the situation of minorities in humanitarian crisis worldwide. Three statements by civil society representatives explicitly focused on caste-based discrimination of Dalit communities, who are disproportionately affected by humanitarian crises. Bhakta Bishwakarma, representing IDSN and Nepal National Dalit Social Welfare Organization outlined that ‘disaster policies and programs have not been inclusive and sensitive enough towards the most marginalised – Dalit, women, children, people with disabilities, senior citizens etc’ and ‘the survivors of devastating earthquake in Nepal are eagerly waiting for just and sustainable recovery for one and half year’. Pirbhu Lal Satyani, member of National Lobbying Delegation on minorities and a coordinator at Pakistan Dalit Solidarity Network stated that ‘hundreds of thousands of Dalits were affected by the floods in Pakistan in 2010, and many of them were denied access to relief camps’, had to ‘live and sleep in the open air’, and lacked access to basic goods such as food, water and blankets. Deepak Nikarthil from the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, also representing Asia Dalit Rights Forum and IDSN, made an oral statement outlining that ‘South Asia region is one of the most disaster prone regions in the world, and Dalits are one of the most vulnerable groups to disaster in India and South Asia’. He recommended to ‘explicitly recognise the discrimination based on work, descent and caste based discrimination as an exclusionary variable in Disaster management as well as disaster risk reduction’. The final recommendations of the Forum, covering all stages of humanitarian crisis, will be presented by the SR to the Human Rights Council in March 2017.

Read more

Nov 25 2016

DSN-UK “joining hands to end racial discrimination” with CERD

by Danni Kleinaityte in News

On 23 November 2016, DSN-UK Director, Meena Varma, attended the consultation with civil society under the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). The consultation aimed to reflect on the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination achievements in combating racial discrimination and to seek civil society’s views on how to improve and enhance CERD engagement with civil society for greater impact on the ground. Many NGOs attended having been sent an invitation to attend by the CERD secretariat, which is a normal practice for many of the OHCHR events to make all welcome. DSN-UK, International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN) and Nepal National Dalit Social Welfare Organization (NNDSWO) submitted a joint response to CERD questions: What are the key challenges and issues of racial discrimination in your country/region today and how do you work to address them? What has been your experience, as civil society, of engaging with CERD to date? How can the CERD improve and enhance its engagement with civil society, and its work on racial discrimination for greater impact on the ground? The joint submission outlined the organisations’ experiences in their engagement with CERD, main challenges in their advocacy work and suggestions for improvement. At the start of the meeting a Committee member, Verene Albertha Shepherd, noted a number of challenges that civil society organisations around the globe face in eliminating racial discrimination. It included a denial of racial discrimination, lack of access to public and political participation for discriminated groups, and the lack of data and national laws prohibiting racial discrimination. Among the discriminated groups the member mentioned people of African descent, Dalits, Roma people, immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Civil society organisations were invited to make their statements, which was taken by a number to raise specific issues. Among those was Deepak Nikarthil from the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, also representing IDSN. He was recommended on his statement by a key member of the CERD Committee and emphasised that racial discrimination is often practiced in a form of exclusion and thus should include caste-based discrimination. He expressed his concerns about the lack of global recognition of CERD General Recommendation 29, and whilst a number of countries have embedded protection against caste-based discrimination in its constitutions, law implementation was often weak. Deepak also emphasised that Dalit women face multi-structural discrimination in India. As Meena declined to make a statement in favor of her Dalit colleagues from National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights and NNDSWO, we were delighted that Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance highlighted that despite CERD recommendations to the UK the country still lacks legal protection against caste-based discrimination, and the recently announced public consultation on caste legislation and Equality Act 2010 was worrying as it seeks to establish whether the law was needed at all. One of the panelist of the meeting, Claire Thomas from Minority Rights Group International, among her five specific suggestions to the CERD, recommended to mobilise efforts to ensure that ethnicity is not dropped out of the SDGs’ indicators, which would also include caste-based discrimination. Bakhta Bishwakarma from NNDSWO, also representing IDSN, was given an opportunity to speak about caste-based discrimination in Nepal. He outlined that Nepal had failed to submit a number of state reports covering the period of 2002-2016, which created a gap in the interactions between the civil society of Nepal and CERD. He suggested that CERD should consider new ways of engagement with the civil society organisations, independent of state reports and encourage states to develop and implement national actions plans addressing racial discrimination. The meeting ended by the CERD Chairperson, Anastasia Crickley, thanking all participants for their statements and suggestions, and ensuring that they take into serious consideration the inputs from the consultation to strengthen its partnership with civil society to combat racial discrimination. The UN summary of the event can be found here.

Read more

Page 1 of 912345...Last »