The Equality Act 2010: caste discrimination - Commons Library Standard Note

Published 31 December 2014 | Standard notes SN06862

Authors: Douglas Pyper

Topic: Equality, Ethnic groups, Racial discrimination

The concept of “caste” is complex, although is generally understood to refer to hereditary, endogamous (marrying within the group) communities differentiated according to different functions of life, such as occupation. The concept is associated with South Asia, particularly India and its diaspora.

Caste discrimination is not expressly prohibited under UK equality legislation, although section 9 of the Equality Act 2010, as amended, requires the Government to introduce secondary legislation to make caste an aspect of race, thereby making caste discrimination a form of race discrimination. The Government has provisionally indicated that this legislation will be introduced to Parliament during summer 2015.

A recent Employment Appeal Tribunal judgment established that caste discrimination is capable of being unlawful under current law, provided the circumstances of the case fall within the existing prohibition of race discrimination.

This note provides an overview of the concept of caste, explains the relevant law and sets out the background to the order-making power in the Equality Act 2010.

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