London: India's leading matrimonial site Shaadi.com has come under fire in the UK for allegedly reinforcing caste-based discrimination with an option for Scheduled Castes to be left out of algorithms.
The website, which is UK's largest marriage site catering to the Indian community, has been accused of allowing discrimination against the Scheduled Caste community, and raised questions about whether its algorithms are consistent with the country's equality law.
According to a report in The Sunday Times, a profile set up for a higher caste person was not offered lower caste potential matches unless they adjusted their preferences to include all other castes.
While Shaadi.com has denied caste-based bias because its community setting is not discriminatory, a barrister has warned that there might be a potential breach of the UK's Equality Act.
Restricting matches by caste could be contravening the Equality Act. By forcing users to state their caste, the sites are either discriminating themselves, or knowingly aiding discrimination by users, Chris Milsom, a barrister who led the first successful charge of caste discrimination in the UK in 2015, told the newspaper.
Caste discrimination is outlawed in India. In the UK, the Equality Act 2010 prevents discrimination on the grounds of race and other protected characteristics, with caste considered an aspect of race.
Santosh Dass, chair of the Anti-Caste Discrimination Alliance, which has been lobbying for a standalone anti-caste law in the UK, said, Using algorithms to segregate and favour certain users on the grounds of caste is outrageous you would never do the same with race. I am shocked.
However, Shaadi.com said that its community question works as an important proxy to determine lifestyle fitment but that it did not remove any community from user preferences.
There is no bias built in the system that reduces the visibility of a particular community. We are not in violation of any act as the platform does not discriminate [on the] basis [of] community or race and provides equal opportunity to everyone regardless of their race and community, a spokesperson of the matrimonial site told the newspaper.