Helen Grant: It would be a mistake to rush legislation on caste discrimination

Discrimination in any form is completely abhorrent, but I am also clear that bureaucracy and prescription are not routes to equality

Share
Related Topics

When politicians are interviewed there is often a lot of talk around their motivations, particularly why they went into politics in the first place. For me it was to make a difference and to make society a more just and fairer place and confront the kind of prejudice I faced growing up.

I grew up in the far northern city of Carlisle. And for a while I was the only person with a darker skin. It was the 60s and it has to be said that there was a fair amount of prejudice around, and I did suffer discrimination. In spite of that I have happy memories of my childhood, there was a real pride within my family and within the community where I lived, and that shaped me as I grew up.

My mother helped set up the first women's refuge in the area where we lived. I would regularly go along while she listened to personal harrowing experiences and worked hard to give every one of the women that asked for help the support they needed. My Mum's work and passion for those that faced difficult circumstances in their lives naturally inspired me to want to make a difference through my work.

I went on to study law at the University of Hull, before moving into family law which led to me setting up by own practice. But the law is an industry where there has been and still remains an imbalance of diversity. That is also often said of politics. I am proud to be one of only 26 MPs from an ethnic minority but equally passionate that this should not remain the case. Politics should be wholly reflective of the communities that it represents.

So it is against this background that I was honoured to have taken on a Ministerial role not only with the Ministry of Justice but also as part of the team looking after the important Women and Equalities portfolio. I am working to tackle barriers to equality - be it by increasing diversity in the Judiciary, or improving the representation of women in business. Discrimination in any form is completely abhorrent.  It can have devastating consequences for individuals and communities and has no place in modern society.

But I am also clear that bureaucracy and prescription are not routes to equality. Real change doesn't come from dictating what people should or shouldn't do. It is prejudice itself that is the barrier, the real enemy here is failing to get the best out of people by perpetuating stereotypes. 

There has been much debate over the issue of caste discrimination in recent months, and I am not just committed to its eradication, but to ensuring that caste itself does not lead to permanent subsets of British society. It would be a mistake to rush the process; we need to take the time to get it right and listen to all interested stakeholders. I am confident that by working together with all those concerned on both sides of the argument, we can create the change that is needed. This is an extremely sensitive and complex issue, and a comprehensive consultation needs to take place before any new legislation.

But of course there is other legislation that we have enacted, after proper consideration, debate and consultation that promotes the cause of equality and rallies against discrimination. I am also proud to have been a member of a Government that achieved an historic milestone by introducing same-sex marriage. It was a privilege to debate an issue that will make a real difference to the lives of the people I represent, and which removes one of the last obstacles to full equality for the LGB&T community. It is tangible change like this that I am working towards as a Minister, but there remains much discrimination to be tackled. We must tackle it head-on.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Female Support Workers / Carers - From £8.00 per hour

£8 - £12 per hour: Recruitment Genius: To assist a young family with the care ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Executive is required...

Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

£55000 - £70000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world lead...

Argyll Scott International: Commercial Finance Manager

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: My client, a world leading services pr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Police officers attempt to stop illegal migrants from jumping onto trucks headed for Britain in the northeastern French port of Calais on October 29, 2014  

Tighter security in Calais won’t solve the problem

Nigel Morris
 

Football needs its Martin Luther moment, and soon

Boyd Tonkin
US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines