Caste discrimination is an issue of basic human rights and must be tackled more effectively by the EU, in all policy areas – including trade. This was the clear message from London Green MEP, Jean Lambert and MEPs from across the political spectrum today.
All EU institutions and national governments will now consider adding caste to religion, gender, race, ethnicity and sexuality as grounds on which all discrimination is strictly forbidden.
MEPs expressed concern that caste-based discrimination was prevalent in the EU and beyond – especially in the nations of South Asia, and that it led to unacceptable levels of poverty and social exclusion, especially among Dalits – members of the ‘lowest’ caste, previously known in many nations as ‘untouchables’.
Ms Lambert said: “No-one should have to change their faith to be accepted in society.
“No-one should be refused water in a disaster because of their caste – and everyone should be able to benefit from eduction and use their talents, whatever their caste.
“There have been some changes in the law on this recently which should help – the Nepalese have recently introduced legislation which has been warmly welcomed, for example.
“The UK’s Equalities Act now includes caste-discrimination – but we are seeing deliberate moves to prevent implementation by at least one Minister in the Home Office: Helen Grant.”
Ms Lambert added: “Having legislation is a start but it needs to be effectively implemented by police, judiciary and society as a whole.”
According to the UK’s Dalit Solidarity Network, of which Jean is a trustee, some 260 million people suffer from caste discrimination: the majority in South Asia, but also in a number of African nations, Japan, Yemen and in diaspora communities of South Asian origin – including that in London.
The resolution, which passed with an overwhelming majority, calls on the EU to ban all forms of caste-based discrimination, to raise the issue as a human rights concern when dealing with other countries, and to call on the United Nations to instigate a global ban on the practise.
Jean Lambert is one of two UK Green representatives in the European Parliament. Jean was first elected Green Party Member of the European Parliament in the 1999 European elections and was re-elected in 2004 and 2009.