News

Oct 30 2015

House of Lords Parliamentary Question on Nepal 27/10/2015

by Meena Varma in News

We were delighted that DSN-UK patron John Montagu, Earl of Sandwich tabled the following question for answer by the Government. And Lord Harries specifically raises the issue of exclusion of Dalits and Minorities – politically, economically and socially Asked by The Earl of Sandwich To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the government of Nepal following its adoption of a new constitution on 20 September. The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): My Lords, the chargé met the Prime Minister on 15 October and relayed our key messages: that the adoption of a new constitution is a milestone; that we hope dialogue continues to reach an agreed position that meets the concerns of all Nepali citizens; and the importance of resolving border blockages to enable the distribution of humanitarian assistance. My right honourable friend Hugo Swire wrote to former Prime Minister Pandey on 24 September and my right honourable friend Desmond Swayne made a statement on 13 October. The Earl of Sandwich (CB): I thank the Minister for her reply. I know that she will join me in congratulating the Nepalese Government after many years of civil war, an earthquake this year and virtual political stagnation in this bicentenary year. However, is she not concerned about the effects of the fuel blockade on the Indian border and New Delhi’s possible interference? Does she agree that the UK needs to help Nepal to reassert her independence and to restore the confidence that business and tourism now demand? Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, it has been the policy of this Government and preceding Governments to encourage a peaceful resolution of power and to support the development of a new constitution. With regard to the blockade to which the noble Earl refers, our acting ambassador in Nepal, along with EU and other like-minded countries’ heads of mission, has regular dialogue with the Indian ambassador to Nepal. Our British high commissioner to India, James Bevan, called on Indian Foreign Secretary Jaishankar on 7 October and raised with him the question of Nepal. We agreed that we would continue to engage with India and seek to work with it to help resolve the crisis of the blockade. Baroness Northover (LD): My Lords, I start by thanking Oxford University for translating the Nepalese constitution for me. Is the noble Baroness as pleased as I am to see gender rights and—for the first time in the region, as I understand it—LGBT rights enshrined in the constitution? Will the UK Government congratulate the Nepalese Government on this major step forward in human rights? Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I entirely agree and endorse what the noble Baroness has said. Of course, our remaining concern must be to ensure that the constitution is put into effect. Because of the recent elections, that is still a matter to be resolved. Lord Hamilton of Epsom (Con): Will the Government be the first in discouraging the Nepalese Government from imposing massive tariffs on aid flows into their country? Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, it is true that the Nepali Government rely very heavily on the charges on goods going into their country. My noble friend is right to point out that Nepal relies heavily on aid from others, including from the UK, and I am sure it respects the importance of that. For example, on 25 June at the international donors’ conference in Kathmandu, the DfID director for Asia, Beverley Warmington, announced a commitment of £70 million in total from the UK. It is important that the Nepali Government work closely with us in delivering that. Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead (Lab): My Lords, is the Minister aware of the concerns that were recently expressed by the United Nations about the potential effects, as winter sets in, of the current fuel and food shortages in Nepal, and the likelihood of a very serious humanitarian crisis? Does she share the widely held view that the Nepalese Government are slow to approve aid distribution and are leaving the earthquake victims to fend for themselves? Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I have seen reports such as those that the noble Baroness has carefully described. The World Food Programme has an agreement with the Minister for Supplies to fly in fuel from Calcutta—that is a recent development—but there would still be challenges in storing and distributing the fuel once it had arrived. The noble Baroness points very properly to the importance of the Nepali Government ensuring that there is fair distribution. Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB): My Lords, the Minister may be aware that the Dalits, who were expecting much greater representation under the new constitution, are bitterly disappointed by it. They represent some 13% of the population and have suffered centuries of discrimination and marginalisation. Will Her Majesty’s Government, in their relationships with the Nepalese Government, encourage them to take positive steps—economic, political and social—to ensure that the Dalits and other minorities are fully included in the development plans for the country? Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, the noble and right reverend Lord raises a very important point. As I alluded to briefly in my first Answer, our view is that the constitution must be right for all the people of Nepal, not only the Dalits but the various groups along the Terai area of the border with India. I am aware that there are serious matters in that regard which still need resolution. Baroness Morgan of Ely (Lab): My Lords, we are very pleased that the new constitution has improved the position of women in Nepalese society, but can the Minister say whether it is true that under the new constitution it will be difficult for a single mother to pass on her citizenship to her child? Have the Government conveyed any opinion on this matter to the Nepalese Government? Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I am glad that the noble Baroness has raised that issue because we are concerned that the provision on citizenship by descent remains gender-discriminatory in its present form, and I hope that there will be further discussions about that. We are also concerned that the wording on religious conversions could be used to prosecute free expression by religious groups. So a good start has been made but there is much still to do. The Earl of Sandwich: There are unresolved human rights violations left over from the civil war. Will the Government support the idea of a truth and reconciliation commission? Baroness Anelay of St Johns: Indeed, there are such concerns, and the UK has always supported the peace process in Nepal. We fully support the idea of a truth and reconciliation commission provided that it is independent and competent and that it abides by international law. We welcome the Supreme Court ruling earlier this year on the amnesty provisions of the Truth and Reconciliation Act, and we encourage the Government in Nepal to comply with this ruling.

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Oct 28 2015

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn attends DSN-UK AGM

by Meena Varma in News

DSN-UK successfully held its AGM on Wednesday. 14 October 2015. Our thanks to all those who came, especially the Parliamentarians who took time out of their busy day to support the cause. #EndCasteDiscrimination Read the report of the meeting here. DSN-UK Review of the year 2014-15 is available here.

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Sep 23 2015

Tirkey v Chandok case rules in favour of the victim

by Meena Varma in News

The much anticipated ruling on the Tirkey v Chandok case came out last week. And was found in favour of the victim, who suffered terrible abuse at the hands of her employers – proving that caste discrimination does exist and that Ms Tirkey was a victim of domestic servitude and slavery http://atleu.org.uk/our-recent-cases/ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-34330986 http://www.theguardian.com/law/2015/sep/22/woman-awarded-184000-in-uks-first-caste-discrimination-case http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/11882926/Low-caste-woman-awarded-183000-compensation-in-discrimination-case.html   It was indeed an excellent outcome for the victim,  but despite the fact that the judgement appears to allow for caste discrimination under race and ethnic origin,  this case does not set a precedent and  future cases may not be covered by existing legislation   Caste-based discrimination legislation still desperately needs to be brought into force for clarity. Worse still for our campaign is that HMG may well use this ET outcome as an excuse to repeal the law.   We have already been advised by one of Lords in the All Party Group who is a QC that The decision is of no value as a precedent and the government should not be allowed to use it as an excuse for defying the will of parliament.   So great news and a great win for Ms Tirkey, BUT …….

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Sep 18 2015

DSN-UK Honorary Chair, Jeremy Corbyn MP wins stunning victory

by Meena Varma in News

With an overwhelming and unassailable majority in the very first round, Jeremy Corbyn MP and long-time supporter and defender of Dalit Rights is the new Labour Leader of the UK Parliament and Leader of the Opposition. This is a victory of honesty, principle and hope. Here at DSN-UK we are delighted that at last we have a champion of the just causes at the top table. The Labour Party position on discrimination is clear. We will be seeking their unconditional support for Dalit rights across the globe and to finally push this Conservative Government in to obeying the will of Parliament and implementing the caste discrimination legislation of the Equality Act 2010.  Jeremy Corbyn MP, Labour Leader and next PM

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Sep 02 2015

UK Dalit organisations write to PM Modi about his silence and inaction over the role of senior BJP leaders in the Dalit massacres in Bihar

by Meena Varma in News

In the run up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the UK, several of the UK’s foremost Dalit organisations have written to Narendra Modi, expressing their dismay about the recent revelations by investigative news portal Cobrapost. Their letter notes that senior BJP politicians were involved in the massacres of some 144 Dalit men, women and children in Bihar and that Mr Modi has so far neither spoken out against  the self-confessed killers and their accomplices nor taken any action against them. Spokespersons from the organisations urge Mr Modi to act because his ‘ lack of action on this issue gives the shocking  message that Dalit and oppressed caste lives do not matter in India’ . They urge him to act urgently to ensure that the self-confessed killers are brought to justice and that all the politicians, including senior BJP politicians, are dismissed from their posts, arrested and charged. Read the full letter here

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Aug 19 2015

Read my blog for the Lanchester Review

by Meena Varma in News

Is the UK Government planing to repeal the duty to implement the much needed caste clause in the Equality Act 2010 – as agreed by both Houses of Parliament in April 2013? It has been a long wait. http://lanchesterreview.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/re-legalising-caste-based.html My Blog post for Lanchester Review MV

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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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