European Parliament passes resolution on Dalits – overwhelming majority

10th October 2013

The European Parliament has voted with a huge majority to pass a resolution to combat caste based discrimination around the world.

The resolution was supported by UK and Ireland MEPS but action in the UK to change discrimination laws to include Caste has been repeatedly delayed.

Caste discrimination affects an estimated 260million people around the world and the resolution calls for, amongst other things, a “caste-based discrimination clause in all trade and association agreements.”

Prior to the vote a number of MEPs spoke on caste discrimination including Paul Murphy, Martina Anderson and Jean Lambert, who is a patron of the Dalit Solidarity Network (DSN). Some of their comments can be found below.

Caste discrimination is the discrimination of a group of individuals because of the group they were born into. The form and level of discrimination varies but can include being forced into bonded labour and carrying out incredibly hazardous jobs such as cleaning human waste.

The majority of caste discrimination occurs in South Asia but here in the UK there has been a number of reports documenting instances of caste discrimination in the UK, including a government commissioned one by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research . Despite these, the government has resisted and continues to delay implementation of legislation.

Jean Lambert said today, “The UK has recently brought caste discrimination into its anti-discrimination legislation but we are seeing deliberate moves by a particular home office minister to prevent the implementation of this change.”

No one should have to change their faith to be accepted in society, no one should be refused water in a disaster because of their caste and everyone should be able to benefit from education and use their talents, particularly in a week where we celebrate international day of the girl. We’ve seen recent legislation in Nepal which has challenged discrimination we have seen EU projects there which have made a n enormous difference but, as people have said unless this is taken up and comes part of a real cultural shift all we are doing is supporting some people, which is extremely valuable.  It shows what it is we are trying to do but we need to have these rights entrenched not just in the constitution but in implementation in the law.

Jean Lambert

I am pleased to see this issue being addressed and I condemn the human rights violations committed against the estimated 260million people worldwide suffering from caste based discrimination. Known as untouchables or as Dalits they are often forcibly assigned the most dirty and hazardous jobs  and many are subjected to forced and bonded labour and they are kept in sever poverty.  Without doubt, when relevant, there should be a caste based discrimination clause in EU international trading agreements and association agreements. The commission should also take steps to combat this discrimination within Europe’s borders as no community anywhere should be exempt from equality legislation and from human rights protection.

Martina Anderson

In Britain the disgraceful attempts of the government to block or delay the extension of equality legislation to include caste based discrimination should be condemned. While it is illegal in most countries it doesn’t stop human rights violations, exclusion, torture, rape, slavery and murder being a daily reality for many, but the growing number of brave oppressed caste activists raising their voices shows a way forward, linked with the struggles of other workers and poor, an alternative society based on equality and solidarity can be built and this barbaric feudal remnant can be confined to the dustbin of history.

Paul Murphy

Press Release prepared by Sam Batt

Information on Caste Discrimination

Speeches under Caste-Based Discrimination (debate)