Capturing caste in law: The legal regulation of caste and caste-based discrimination

Waughray, Annapurna Deborah
Capturing caste in law: The legal regulation of caste and caste-based discrimination. Doctor of Engineering thesis, University of Liverpool.

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As a system of hereditary social stratification, caste is associated primarily with South Asia, particularly India, but it also exists in South Asian diaspora communities including in the United Kingdom. Discrimination based on caste affects around 167 million Dalits – formerly ‘Untouchables’ – in India alone. In the United Kingdom it is estimated that there are at least 200,000 people of Dalit origin, possibly many more. Government-commissioned research suggests strongly that discrimination and harassment based on caste also exist in this country. This thesis discusses the legal regulation of caste discrimination in India, in international human rights law and in the United Kingdom. In order to contribute to an understanding of how caste can be conceptualised legally and how caste discrimination can be regulated legally, the thesis examines how the concept of caste and the phenomenon of discrimination and inequality on grounds of caste have been defined, constructed and addressed by law. It traces the evolution of the religious, social and legal rationales for caste discrimination, and conversely the evolution of legal remedies for its elimination. Caste is a complex social phenomenon; this thesis explains and addresses the legal challenges of capturing caste in national and international law and examines the advantages and limitations of existing legal analyses and frameworks for tackling discrimination based on caste. In India, caste discrimination and inequality persist, despite constitutional and legislative measures for their elimination; this thesis examines why this is the case, identifies the lessons learned from India’s experience and suggests ways in which India could extend and improve its legal and policy responses to caste discrimination. International human rights law engagement with caste discrimination dates from the mid-1990s. The thesis explains and analyses the prohibition of caste discrimination in international human rights law and the reasons for and implications of the refusal by India, the world’s largest caste-affected country, to accept the conceptualisation of caste discrimination as a form of internationally-prohibited racial discrimination. Other international law approaches to caste discrimination (for example minority rights) are also considered and assessed. A particular focus of the research is the legal regulation of caste discrimination in the United Kingdom. Hence, the thesis undertakes a detailed analysis of the capacity of domestic discrimination law to capture caste. The Equality Act 2010 provides for the introduction, by ministerial order, of a statutory prohibition of caste discrimination by adding caste to the definition of the protected characteristic of race, but reservations have been raised about the appropriateness of legislating for caste discrimination, and as at 1 April 2013 no such order had been made. This thesis challenges the reservations to caste discrimination legislation. It explains why existing discrimination law is inadequate to capture caste, and it argues in favour of an express statutory prohibition of caste discrimination in national law, in accordance with the UK’s international human rights law obligations, as an essential – although not the sole – element of a strategy to tackle such discrimination. In doing so, the thesis also reveals the role and contribution of domestic grassroots activism in securing legal change.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Engineering)
Additional Information: Date: 2013-04 (completed)
Subjects: ?? K1 ??
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Law and Social Justice
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 12 Feb 2014 11:15
Last Modified: 16 Dec 2022 04:39
DOI: 10.17638/00012553