As anti-caste discrimination campaigners demonstrated outside the British Parliament, the House of Lords decided to back an amendment to a bill that would make caste discrimination illegal in the UK.

Efforts to outlaw caste discrimination in the United Kingdom continued yesterday despite last week’s decision by the government to use education rather than legislation to address this form of discrimination.

Hundreds of campaigners from various groups, including the Dalit Solidarity Network UK (DSN-UK), gathered in London’s Parliament Square to show their disapproval of the government’s decision not to implement legislation that would offer hundreds of thousands of Dalits in the UK legal protection against caste discrimination.

Inside Parliament, meanwhile, the House of Lords went against the government’s position and voted for a legal ban on caste discrimination. Following a debate on the issue, a sizeable majority of peers decided to amend a bill that would activate a clause in the Equality Act to outlaw this form of discrimination.

“I have absolutely no doubt that it would be utterly wrong for us to say to the world that we had the opportunity to protect people from this disgraceful discrimination and we decided not to do it because we had to have another investigation,” Lord Deben, a former conservative cabinet minister said during the debate in a reference to what critics describe as the government’s much too hesitant attitude towards activating the clause and outlawing caste discrimination in the UK.

Last week, the government decided to choose the educational and not the legislative route to abolishing caste discrimination. The Minister for Women and Equalities, Helen Grant, stated that a community-based educational programme would be “an appropriate and targeted way of dealing with incidents relating to caste”.

DSN-UK Director Meena Varma said that she was deeply disappointed with the government’s decision and “wholeheartedly” disagrees with the assertion that an educational programme will make a difference: “Our government has continued to fail to provide the necessary legal redress and protection for victims of caste discrimination in the UK,” she said.

In the House of Lords, many peers from the two government parties voted for the amendment. It is, however, uncertain whether the vote will lead to a ban on caste discrimination, as the government has yet to accept the amendment.

Outlaw caste discrimination in UK, peers tell government (BBC)

Caste discrimination should be outlawed, say Lords (Guardian)

House of Lords votes to outlaw caste discrimination in UK (Indian Express)

Ministerial written statement on caste

Dalit groups win the day

Dalit Solidarity Network UK

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