Caste in Great Britain – Consultation closed
9th November 2017
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  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.