Enacting legal protection against Caste-discrimination: Why the delay?
Dr Meena Dhanda (University of Wolverhampton)

part of: Critical Philosophy of Race: Here and Now
June 5, 2014, 9:00am - 9:30am
Institute of Philosophy, Institute of Philosophy, School of Advanced Study, University of London

Room G22/26, Senate House
Malet Street
London WC1E 7HU
United Kingdom

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  • Institute of Philosophy
  • Institute of Commonwealth Studies
  • Aristotelian Society
  • Mind Association
  • Analysis Trust
  • UCL Department of Philosophy
  • UCL Joint Faculty Institute of Graduate Studies
  • UCL Race Equality Steering Group


Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman
University College London

Topic areas


Enacting legal protection against Caste-discrimination: Why the delay? (Dhanda)

This paper will focus on the reasons for the hurdles in the enactment of legislation to protect victims of caste-discrimination in Britain. The parallels between the denial of race-consciousness by White folks, noted by Linda Alcoff in Visible Identities, and the denial of caste-consciousness, by so called 'upper-castes' spokespersons of British residents, will be drawn. What lies at the heart of the denial of caste-prejudice, despite the evidence provided by victims? 

Further, given that the affected minority communities are internally divided on whether or not there should be specific mention of caste and how it should be defined in the legal statutes, several questions arise. Whose voice should prevail? Can electoral considerations be accepted as legitimate concerns of elected representatives (who otherwise champion the cause of the victims but risk losing the votes of anti-legislation factions) to slow-down the process? The quandary in which the ministers find themselves in, having to respond in a 'multi-culturally' sensitive way to powerful lobbies within Britain's South Asian minority communities, will be spelt out. 

Britain's colonial past haunts the discussion, for Britain is controversially blamed by the anti-legislation factions for having created the evil of caste hierarchy in the first place through its census activities in the colonial period. Therefore, there are charges of orientalism, and, ironically, of racism, made against those seeking to make caste an aspect of race in legal protection for the victims of caste-discrimination. Thus, the capacity of Britain's Equality Act 2010 to protect the victims of caste-discrimination (including indirect discrimination, harassment and victimization) is under test. Moreover, Britain's current obsession to build productive business relations with India is a factor in slowing the speed with which its ministers negotiate an agreement between opposed minority groups on how Caste might be incorporated as an aspect of race. There are quandaries to unravel which raise concerns about the depth of British commitment to equal protection of all its citizens, minorities within minorities, who may not have powerful business lobbies rooting for them. 

How then must the victims seek redress?  If unable to outmanoeuvre opponents within South Asian communities resisting the enactment of caste as an aspect of race in the Equality Act 2010, victims of caste-discrimination may doubly become victims of politically motivated denials made by some people. These detractors may not themselves be perpetrators of caste-discrimination, but they fail to see the world from the point of view of the victims. A philosophical account of what kind of failure this might be will be briefly sketched.


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