The House of Lords has voted in favour of adding a new clause to anti-discrimination laws which will outlaw discrimination on the basis of caste.
The Government had opposed the new law, saying that education programmes would be sufficient to end the practice, reports the BBC.
The caste system is a feature of Indian communities and is particularly prevalent in Sikh and Hindu communities. According to the caste traditions families form part of a social tier, within which family members socialise and form relationships.
It is estimated that around 480,000 Hindus of the ‘Dalit’ class living in the UK are subjected to the caste system in one wa y or another. Many gathered outside the House of Lords today to protest against the Government’s opposal of the amendment.
The Government is against the introduction of any specific caste-based anti-discrimination laws, preferring instead to rely on education programmes to promote harmony within Hindu communities.
However, Lady Thornton, the Labour Equalities spokesperson, said that the caste system represented a significant challenge to equality.
“Studies confirm the caste system exists in the UK, with over 850,000 people affected – and the associated lack of caste mobility is inconsistent with moves to encourage a more cohesive society,” she said.
Opponents of the Government’s ‘no legislation’ stance, have instead opted to support an amendment introduced by the former Bishop of Oxford Lord Harries. The amendment will include caste-based discrimination alongside discrimination on the basis of skin colour, gender or sexual orientation.
In the House of Lords yesterday the amendment was passed by 225 votes to 153, the amendment received cross-party support, including a notable Conservative rebellion including the former Lord Chancellor Lord Mackay of Clashfern.
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