Imagine if, after obtaining a care package from social services, you discover that an ailing parent isn’t being bathed because the carer feels her superior social origins preclude her from doing so. Or colleagues suddenly stop eating at a table with you and then undermine you professionally because they have discovered that you come from housemaid stock. Or, as one couple alleged to an employment tribunal in the first case of its kind, you are harassed and then end up losing your job for marrying above or below your presumed station.
Should you be protected by law from a form of discrimination that combines the most insidious and humiliating elements of class snobbery and racism? Yes, was the answer given by the Lords last month when they amended the enterprise and regulatory reform bill to treat caste as a protected characteristic by making it an aspect of racial equality. Caste discrimination can affect over half a million Britons, mainly Asians and largely, though not exclusively, Hindus and Sikhs.