Friday, April 9, 2010

UK: Equality Bill Passes through Parliament

Homosexuals and transsexuals delighted

High caste Indians protesting; UK "Dalits" rejoicing

Employers extremely anxious

Religious liberty advocates concerned

Lawyers anticipate boom in business

Equality Bill Passes through Parliament

On Tuesday 6 April 2010, the House of Lords' amendments to the controversial Equality Bill passed through the UK parliament. Thus the Equality Bill has now completed its progression through the parliament and now only awaits Royal Assent to become law.

As the UK Parliament website Equality Bill 2008-09 to 2009-10 states: "The Bill will harmonise and in some cases extend existing discrimination law covering the 'protected characteristics' of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. . ."

(This website has a chart illustrating the progress of the Bill, as well as links to the Act and other relevant documents.)

Below are a few selected articles, with a few selected quotes, representing a few selected responses to the Equality Bill.

Homosexuals and transsexuals delighted

Equality Bill passes through parliament
By Jessica Green, Pink News, 7 April 2010 By

Quoting Pink News: "A flagship feature of the bill is equality duty on all public bodies, which will require institutions such as schools, councils and the NHS to actively promote equality.

"Employers will be permitted to use positive action to select candidates from under-represented groups when two people applying for a job have the same qualifications.

"The bill will also prohibit private members’ clubs from discriminating against members or guests based on their sexual orientation or gender reassignment. . ."

However, the Gay Rights lobby groups are disappointed that the government yielded to "the House of Lords over an amendment clarifying who churches can refuse employment to.

"Provisions in the bill would have clarified the law requiring churches only to discriminate in terms of sexual orientation when hiring those who will teach doctrine or lead worship.

"But after the Pope publicly criticised the bill, equality minister Harriet Harman backed down. She is thought to have made the climbdown to avoid a continuing dispute with church leaders.

"The new laws will begin to take effect in the autumn [October 2010]. The public sector equality duty will be introduced in April 2011. . ."

High caste Indians protesting; UK "Dalits" rejoicing

UK bill links caste to race, India red-faced
By Manoj Mitta, Times of India, 31 March 2010,

Quoting Times of India: "In the first such legislative move anywhere in the world, and much to the embarrassment of India's official position, the British House of Lords has passed a law that treats caste as 'an aspect of race'. . .

"Though the bill originally contained no reference to caste, the Gordon Brown government agreed to its inclusion even as it commissioned a research on the nature of the problem that is believed to have come into Britain through the Indian diaspora. A parliamentary committee, while recommending last year that caste be considered as a subset of race, cited specific instances of caste discrimination in Britain."

India clashes with Britain over Equality Bill racism law
Dean Nelson, in New Delhi, for Telegraph UK, 31 Mar 2010

Quoting the Telegraph: "The bill, which has been passed in the House of Lords, has been welcomed by campaigners for India's 'dalits' or 'untouchables', a caste which suffers extreme violence and persecution, but has been rejected by their [Indian] government. . .

"Ministers in London have become increasingly concerned about discrimination and persecution against lower caste Indians in Britain following a report last year which claimed thousands had been ill-treated because of their caste. . ."

As Nelson notes, the Indian government has long fiercely resisted any suggestion that caste discrimination be linked with racism. "'India's position on this issue has been clear and consistent. Caste and race discrimination are two separate issues and there is no case to equate the two. We are opposed to attempts at international fora to equate the issues,' said an official source."

In an article in Himalsouthasian magazine (April 2010 issue) entitled, Dominating the diaspora , Priyamvada Gopal, an academic and writer based in Cambridge, UK, says: "The vehement arguments of some high-profile Hindu groups notwithstanding, the UK’s new Equality Bill will include some reference to caste."

As Gopal notes: "immigrant communities often carry with them the most vicious dispositions and hierarchies of the societies they travel away from geographically. Indeed, such communities often entrench such biases further as they settle into other (at times hostile) cultures, and as they carve out new political niches for themselves.

"Often seen within a liberal multicultural and human-rights framework as homogeneously victimised by racism and anti-immigrant sentiments, Southasian communities in Britain often escape nuanced critical scrutiny. . . In the current climate of a national preoccupation with Islam in the context of the US-led 'war on terror', British Hindu and Sikh communities have become even less accountable for some of the more unsavoury features of their collective existence. . .

"Two important factors have contributed to this willed looking-away on the part of the British government. The first is the vehement lobbying by groups such as the Hindu Council UK and the Hindu Forum of Britain – both of which share historical links to chauvinist groups such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and the memberships of which are heavily dominated by upper-caste Hindus. The second is the insistence of the Indian government in high-profile forums such as the UN Racism Conference, where activists have tried to raise the issue, that caste discrimination cannot be equated with racial discrimination. Therefore, despite the claims by some, it is not clear that caste discrimination in Britain will be redressed without challenge under existing race-discrimination legislation."

(Note: For millennia, the high caste white Aryans have basically enslaved the indigenous "black" tribal peoples of India -- Dalits/untouchables -- by means of the Hindu caste system which is, quite simply, institutionalised racism.)

Employers extremely anxious

Equality Bill: what employers need to know
Sandra Wallace, HR (Human Resources) Magazine, 9 April 2010

This article is in Question & Answer format.
Quoting from HR Magazine: "It [the Equality Bill] will affect all recruiters and employers because, while having been designed to make the law simpler, it will now make it much easier for individuals to bring complaints of discrimination if they feel their employer has treated them unfairly. Some of the changes to the law will mean employers will have to significantly change some of their established processes - such as they way they recruit staff - if they want to avoid complaints."

Concerning "positive action" HR magazine writes: "Positive action is probably more commonly known as 'positive discrimination'. Under the new rules employers are allowed to discriminate in favour of a minority candidate who is as qualified as another candidate for a role, if that group is under-represented in the workforce.

"This is likely to be a particularly tricky area of the new law. However, employers are not legally obliged to take such action, but merely have the opportunity to do so if they wish. Therefore, employers should treat this provision with care and take legal advice before making a decision, as those who get it wrong could face legal action from unsuccessful candidates who feel they have been discriminated against."

See also: Equality Bill: Top 10 issues employers must prepare for
Louisa Peacock, 7 April 2010

Religious liberty advocates concerned

Harman’s Equality Bill passes in Parliament
Christian Institute, 9 April 2010

Quoting the Christian Institute: "The Equality Bill was passed in Parliament on Tuesday, with the Government forced to accept defeat over church employment freedom.

"However, other measures in the Bill – championed by Equality Minister Harriet Harman – may interfere with the religious liberty of Christians.

The Tories and the Lib Dems welcomed the Bill. Labour vowed that the Bill will be 'driven and pressed through society' if they win the General Election. . .

"The Bill also imposes a legal duty on public bodies, like schools and the police, to promote homosexual and transsexual rights.

"While the Bill also introduces a 'religious equality' duty, such measures have in the past resulted in Christianity being sidelined from public life in a misguided attempt to avoid offending other faiths."

Parliament passes Equality Bill
Christian Concern for our Nation, 9th April 2010

Quoting ccfon: "As part of the ‘Wash-Up’ to clear legislation before the end of this Parliament, the Government accepted all the Lords’ amendments. These include protection against discrimination for pregnant schoolgirls and young mothers; removal of the ban on civil partnerships taking place in religious premises; and retention of the rights of a church to refuse to employ people in leadership roles who practice sexual ethics incompatible with its beliefs.

"A Lords’ amendment aimed at rescuing faith-based adoption agencies from being closed down by homosexual equality laws was not included. . ."

(The Christian Institute and Christian Concern for our Nation have excellent resources on their websites to enable understanding and tracking of religious liberty in the UK.)

Lawyers anticipate boom in business

Employment tribunal claims to jump after parliament passes Equality Bill
Thursday, 8th April 2010

"EMPLOYERS in the UK are bracing themselves for a jump in employment tribunal claims after parliament yesterday passed the Equality Bill. . .

"Employment tribunals are expected to hear up to 370,000 new claims within the next three years, costing employers £2.6bn.

"The number marks a 46 per cent hike on previous years. . ."