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Equality Act 2010

Section 9: Race

47.This section defines the protected characteristic of race. For the purposes of the Act, “race” includes colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins.

48.The section explains that people who have or share characteristics of colour, nationality or ethnic or national origins can be described as belonging to a particular racial group. A racial group can be made up of two or more different racial groups.

49.The section also enables a Minister of the Crown to amend the Act by order so as to add “caste” to the current definition of “race”. When exercising this power, the Minister may amend the Act, for example by including exceptions for caste, or making particular provisions of the Act apply in relation to caste in some but not other circumstances. The term “caste” denotes a hereditary, endogamous (marrying within the group) community associated with a traditional occupation and ranked accordingly on a perceived scale of ritual purity. It is generally (but not exclusively) associated with South Asia, particularly India, and its diaspora. It can encompass the four classes (varnas) of Hindu tradition (the Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra communities); the thousands of regional Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Muslim or other religious groups known as jatis; and groups amongst South Asian Muslims called biradaris. Some jatis regarded as below the varna hierarchy (once termed “untouchable”) are known as Dalit.


50.This section replaces similar provisions in the Race Relations Act 1976. However, the power to add caste to the definition of race is a new provision.

  • Colour includes being black or white.

  • Nationality includes being a British, Australian or Swiss citizen.

  • Ethnic or national origins include being from a Roma background or of Chinese heritage.

  • A racial group could be “black Britons” which would encompass those people who are both black and who are British citizens.

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