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10. Why the Hindu Caste System Presents a New Challenge for Human Rights

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Chapter Summary

This chapter shows that the history of the caste struggle in India presents a particular problematic for human rights law which is of broader significance to the movement towards the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination. It describes caste as a religious structure that engages history, politics and constitutional law, and the current legal standing of caste-based discrimination in India must be factored into the international response. The chapter describes the Hindu caste system, emphasising its religious origin, and distinguishing caste from the concept of 'race'. It explains why caste, although not analogous to race, is to be considered a form of racial discrimination. The chapter also looks at the reform of the existing constitutional protections against caste-based discrimination in India. It finally proposes an enhanced system of protection against caste-based discrimination that draws on the contemporary Dalit movement.

Keywords: caste-based discrimination; contemporary Dalit movement; Hindu caste system; human rights law; legal protection



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