UN experts spoke out about the links between discrimination and slavery at the webinar “Contemporary Slavery & Racial Discrimination: Civil Society Support to Survivors during the Pandemic” organised by the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, the UN Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, the Geneva Human Rights Platform and the UK Mission in Geneva, on 2 December. Several experts raised concern over caste discrimination and caste-based occupations as well as the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on vulnerable groups.
In a U-turn policy change the UK Government has decided that despite reports commissioned by the Government itself finding evidence of caste-based rights violations in the UK, caste will not be included as a protected characteristic alongside race, religion and ethnicity in the UK Equalities Act.
IDSN Executive Chair and DSN-UK Director, Meena Varma, has been shortlisted for a ‘Secularist of the year 2018 award’ by the The National Secular Society in the UK . The award ‘recognises a campaigner or group for an outstanding contribution to the secularist movement’. The NSS’s council of management selected the shortlist from nominations which were submitted by its members and supporters.
The UK’s Indian Diaspora community are going head to head as the Government’s consultation on caste discrimination legislation is extended. In several media reports groups that are pro and anti the introduction of legislation against caste discrimination in the UK, are arguing about the impact of such a move.
On 28 August 2016, as a part of the regular review process, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) published its concluding observations to the UK. The Committee expressed its concern that ‘several provisions of the Equality Act 2010 have not yet been brought into legal effect, including Section 9(5)(a) on caste-based discrimination’. Once again the UK government is being urged to ‘Invoke Section 9(5)(a) of the Equality Act 2010 without further delay to ensure that caste-based discrimination is explicitly prohibited under law and that victims of this form of discrimination have access to effective remedies, taking into account the Committee’s general recommendation No. 29 (2002) on descent’.
On 23 November 2016, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) held a consultation with civil society organisations “Joining hands to end racial discrimination”. It aimed to reflect on how the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination helped make a difference in combatting racial discrimination and seek views on how to improve and enhance its engagement with civil society.
Following a ‘cast out caste’ campaign by the Dalit Solidarity Network in the United Kingdom, demanding that UK political parties make their position on caste clear, the Liberal Democrats and Labour party are showing clear support for outlawing caste discrimination in the UK.
The UK Government’s action on tackling caste discrimination in India was the topic of a debate on the 26th November in the UK House of Lords. Many Lords spoke out passionately against caste-based discrimination and asked that the UK Government in its relations with India take-up fighting caste-based discrimination.
Global day of action to end caste discrimination The 21st June has been launched by a number of Dalit NGOs as a global day of action to end caste discrimination and marches were carried out in London, Washington DC, San Francisco and India. In London, a letter was presented to Prime Minister David Cameron and in Washington DC protesters picketed outside the Capitol, demanding that Congress pass a binding resolution mandating action by US agencies in caste-affected countries.
Dalit women activists bring the struggle to end violence against Dalit women to Europe 07/06/14 Asha Kowtal, General Secretary of the National Dalit Women’s movement in India (AIDMAM), and Dalit filmmaker Thenmozhi Soundararajan, brought the campaign to end violence against Dalit women to European decision-makers and public gathering in May. The two women spoke at a number of significant events in Europe to report back on the recent Self-respect march for Dalit women in India.