The issue of Caste is incredibly complex and one that is difficult to define due to conflicting opinions as to its origin and its links to religion.
In the most general sense, Caste systems typically divide people into a social hierarchy which is fixed from birth. Many of those assigned to a Caste have faced discrimination and have called for Government action, in particular with regard to amending the Equality Act which does not at present expressly prohibit discrimination on this basis.
As a result of growing concern regarding Caste discrimination, last year the Government commenced a public consultation to determine the most appropriate way to ensure legal protection against unlawful Caste discrimination.
To the dismay of many campaign groups, in its much awaited response paper, the Government concluded that it would not update the Equality Act to include ‘Caste’ as a protected characteristic.
Instead, the Government has stated that due to the “extremely low number of cases” and the “controversial nature” of caste, “the best way to provide the necessary protection against unlawful discrimination because of caste is by relying on emerging case-law as developed by courts and tribunals.”
The Government has therefore placed the burden of protecting individuals against Caste discrimination on the Courts, who are likely to rely on the existing protected characteristic of “race” as demonstrated in the case of Chandhok v Tirkey.
What happens next will be determined by emerging case law.