The Government Equalities Office have finally published the results of the six-month public consultation on Caste in Great Britain and Equality Law, determining whether ‘caste’ should be included in the Equality Act 2010.
The consultation, launched in March 2017 and finished in September 2017, has at last been announced, one day before the beginning of Parliament’s Summer Recess, leaving little opportunity for pro-legislators to respond in a timely manner. Consisting of 13 questions, the crux of the matter was to find out whether caste discrimination should be included in Statue Law or remain under Case Law.
Penny Mordaunt, the Secretary for Women and Equalities, stated in parliament yesterday that “The Government’s primary concern is to ensure that legal protection against caste discrimination is sufficient, appropriate and proportionate.” Consequently, any future instances of caste discrimination will have to rely on case law. Her full response can be found at https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2018-07-23/debates/18072314000022/GovernmentResponseToCasteConsultation.
After over 16,000 responses – well above the average – tragically, the government have concluded that ‘caste’ is already covered under ‘ethnic origins’ and that including the term in legislation is both unnecessary and divisive. In all, 8,513 respondents favoured relying on case law, 2,885 were in favour of legislation and 3,588 rejected both options; 1,113 respondents didn’t know or were not sure which option would be most appropriate. While pro-legislation campaigners have emphasised that this is not an issue of religious persecution, the Hindu and Sikh lobbies have seen it as just that. And despite the government’s reassurance that the analysis would be qualitative rather than quantitative, it appears that certain voices have been louder than others.
The consultation analysis seems to doubt whether caste discrimination exists in Great Britain, but this in itself creates a ‘Catch-22’: how are victims meant to report this type of discrimination if the crime is not recognised? The role of the government should be prophylactic, and clearly condemn caste discrimination in all its form via legislation, rather than waiting to see if any victims are brave enough to endure a court system that at present has only one piece of case law to reference.
Meena Varma, Director of DSN-UK, has expressed her extreme disappointment over the result: “It seems that the government has decided that the issue is not significant enough to ensure legal protection. The victims of this form of discrimination will continue to suffer, as the government refuses to acknowledge that the problem exists. Emerging case law cannot provide enough protection for those subjected to caste discrimination. It usually takes years and a mountain of cases before case law stands any chance being upheld in court. The tragedy in all of this is that it will continue to be a hidden problem as those seeking help will believe that there is scant legal recourse for them in Great Britain.”
For full details of the Government Consultation Response and Analysis, go to https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/caste-in-great-britain-and-equality-law-a-public-consulation?utm_source=e30b3ac6-d064-48d7-82b4-1f60a37d19cf&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=govuk-notifications&utm_content=immediate