Press Trust of India
LONDON, ENGLAND, October 4, 2004: Britain has announced a ban on religious discrimination particularly against Hindus and Muslims in securing goods, facilities, services and premises. An official spokesman said on Monday the new measures would ensure that providers of goods, facilities, services or premises, would not be able to refuse someone because of their religion or belief. For example, a shopkeeper would be unable to refuse to serve someone on the grounds of his or her religion or belief.
The new provision would ban direct discrimination under which a person, on grounds of religion or belief, is treated less favorably than another, as well as indirect discrimination where a criterion or practice has the effect of putting people of a particular religious belief at a disadvantage which cannot be justified, the spokesman said. However, faith-based schools have been allowed to continue to discriminate in favor of that faith in selection policy and charities would be allowed to discriminate in favor of that faith in providing services on the grounds of religion or belief. At present, the Race Relations Act and case law protects some religious groups like Sikhs and Jews from discrimination in getting goods and services on the grounds of race. But multi-ethnic religions including Hindus and Muslims have so far remained unprotected.
Both in the government's "Strength in Diversity" consultation exercise on a community cohesion and race equality strategy, and in the consultation on the recent White Paper "Fairness for All" (on the proposals for the creation of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights), there were calls for the extension of protection against religious discrimination. However, providers would not normally be regarded as being discriminatory if they refused requests to provide a wider range of goods or services in order to meet a customer's religious needs. The Hindu Forum of Britain, the largest Hindu umbrella body in the UK, has welcomed the government's commitment to end religious discrimination taking place owing to a loophole in the current legislation. "This is very good news. The Hindu Forum of Britain had drawn the attention of the Government to the anomaly existing in current legislation and the Prime Minister has taken measures to end the religious discrimination against Hindus," Ramesh Kallidai, Secretary General of HFB said in a statement on Monday.