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Government reneges on duty to eradicate caste discrimination

The UK Government has announced that it will not take any legislative action to eradicate discrimination on the basis of caste, despite Parliament laying a duty upon it in 2013 to make specific legal protection against caste discrimination in domestic legislation. Humanists UK, which responded to a consultation in 2017 calling for caste to be added to the Equality Act as an aspect of race, is hugely disappointed that the Government is unwilling to tackle this issue.

In the Government Equalities Office’s response to the consultation, it stated that because ‘legislating for caste is an exceptionally controversial issue… reliance on case-law and the scope for individuals to bring claims of caste discrimination under “ethnic origins” rather than “caste” itself, is likely to create less friction.’ However, there is currently no legally binding case law which prohibits discrimination on the basis of caste, and any case law that does emerge is likely to be limited in scope – ignoring variants in caste systems between different religious and ethnic groups and nuances such as sub-castes and social mobility within a caste.

Going forward the Government stated that it will seek to overturn its duty to include caste in the Equality Act by identifying ‘the most suitable legislative vehicle that can be used to repeal it at an early opportunity.’

Humanists UK’s Campaigns Officer Rachel Taggart-Ryan commented, ‘The evidence from government-commissioned studies and campaign groups suggests that caste discrimination not only exists in the UK, but could adversely affect between 50,000 and 200,000 people. It is very disappointing that the Government has kowtowed to pressure not to address this problem.

‘We support the specific inclusion of caste in the Equality Act because it is the most effective action for the Government to take to eliminate caste discrimination. It has become clear from the few cases that have been brought before employment tribunals that the law as it stands is unclear and without effective legislation will continue to remain so – denying victims of discrimination adequate legal means of redress.’


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Campaigns Officer Rachel Taggart-Ryan on or 0207 324 3065.

Read our full consultation response here:

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

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