A REUTER’s News Item, 31 August 2023, entitled “California’s anti-caste discrimination bill passes state Assembly”
The bill was introduced and authored by state Senator Aisha Wahab, an Afghan American Democrat, in March. An earlier version of it passed the state Senate before undergoing revisions.
The bill was passed on Monday by the state Assembly with a near unanimous vote. The revised version will now move back for a vote to the state Senate, where it is expected to pass, before heading to the desk of California Governor Gavin Newsom to be signed into law.
Activists opposing caste discrimination say it is no different from other forms of discrimination like racism and hence should be outlawed.
The movement to fight the caste system in North America has picked up energy in recent months. Earlier this year, Seattle became the first U.S. city to outlaw caste discrimination after a city council vote and Toronto’s school board became the first in Canada to recognize that caste discrimination existed in the city’s schools.
The caste system is among the world’s oldest forms of rigid social stratification. It dates back thousands of years and allows many privileges to upper castes but represses lower castes. The Dalit community is on the lowest rung of the Hindu caste system; members have been treated as “untouchables.”
India outlawed caste discrimination over 70 years ago, yet several studies in recent years show that bias persists. One study found people from lower castes were underrepresented in higher-paying jobs.
Dalits still face widespread abuse across India, where their attempts at upward social mobility have at times been violently put down.
Debate over the caste system in India and abroad is contentious and intertwined with religion. Some people say discrimination is now rare, especially outside India. Indian government policies reserving seats for lower-caste students at top Indian universities have helped many land tech jobs in the West in recent years.
An iconic moment in the assault on caste discrimination in the Indian subcontinent–Gandhi ‘on the march