In a significant development, the UK government has announced that they are undertaking a “full public consultation on the issue of Caste and the Equality Act 2010”. This Act is considered as a landmark anti-discrimination legislation. An official communication on September 2 noted that “a key aim of the consultation will be to obtain the views of the public on whether additional informations are needed to ensure victims of caste discrimination have appropriate legal protection and effective remedies under the 2010 Equality Act”.
In September last year, a woman from Jharkhand was awarded £184,000 in UK’s first caste discrimination case after being recruited from India to work in Britain by an Indian family. It was revealed during court hearing that she was paid as little as 11 pence an hour and was forced to work 18 hour days, seven days a week under inhuman conditions by her employers. The case stirred the hornet’s nest as prior to this it coming to light, there was no evidence of caste-based discrimination taking place in the UK.
“Before taking any decisions, the Government will carefully consider the responses to the consultation, which will run for 12 weeks from its commencement date”, the communication added. Interestingly, the UK parliament had debated the implementation failures of this Act this July. Lord Harries, who initiated the debate in the House of Lords had pointed out how caste is central to the UK citizens who originally hail from different religions of Indian sub continent. Several progressive groups in UK were advocating for an effective implementation of this Act. But pressure groups related to uppercaste Hindus in UK are reportedly against the Act.
This development in UK can have reverberations in India. Anti-caste activists have pointed out that after constituent assembly debate, Indian parliament has never debated caste as such. It is said that all debates were merely focused on issues related to caste like atrocities or discrimination.
It is also pertinent to note that Indian government had successfully sabotaged attempts by civil society and other social movements to raise the issue of caste in World Conference against Racism in Durban in 2001.