Christians hail law on 'racist' caste system
Published Date: April 8, 2010
Christian and dalit groups say that a new British law, which equates
caste discrimination with racism and thus punishable, would help fight
caste prejudices worldwide.
"We need to welcome it," says Father Cosmon Arokiaraj, secretary of
the Indian Catholic bishops' office for people belonging to poor
castes and tribes. He said the British move would help outlaw caste
The Equality Act 2010, which the House of Lords passed on March 24,
aims to place discrimination based on disability, sex, race and other
grounds under one piece of legislation.
The act that treats caste discrimination as an aspect of racism will
become a law in the United Kingdom when the House of Commons passes
Father Arokiaraj said the law will help "internationalize" the issue
of caste discrimination suffered by millions of socially and
economically underprivileged Indians for generations.
Indian society is divided into four major castes and all those born
outside these are regarded as outcastes and "untouchables." These
groups are together called dalit (oppressed). Although outlawed,
Indian villages continue to discriminate against dalit people.
In 2002, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
(CERD) called all member states of the International Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), including
India and the UK, to enact laws aiming to end descent-based
'Punish those who practice discrimination'
India maintains that caste is not a form of racial discrimination and
has been successful in keeping caste out of the resolution adopted at
the 2001 Durban conference on racism.
All India Catholic Union secretary John Dayal said caste
discrimination should be considered "as bad as" racism and "people who
practice it should be punished."
He said his organization is "quite happy with the British move. We
have been camping for this in the UN Committee on the Elimination of
Racial Discrimination," he said.
Dayal said that the Indian government is resisting the move because of
"the hold of the upper caste" in the government. He said they know
"how seriously they would be affected by international condemnation of
Dalit leaders say although caste discrimination is predominately a
South Asian social phenomenon, millions suffer its adverse effects
because there are more dalit people than those with caste.
Udit Raj, who heads a confederation of dalit and tribal organizations,
said he also "supports" the new British law. "It has been our long
standing demand," he said.
Source: Christians hail law on 'racist' caste system (UCAN)
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