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California Assembly Passes Anti-Caste Discrimination Bill: Know All About This Historic Move

The California State Assembly, on Monday, 28 August, passed the SB 403 bill that outlaws caste-based discrimination in the state. This comes after the state senate passed the legislation earlier this year.

If cleared by the Governor, California will become the first state in the United States to add caste as a protected category in its anti-discrimination laws.

The legislation will be a major victory for members of oppressed castes residing in the US, as California is the largest state in the country in terms of population and size of the economy.

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Its aim

The bill passed by the California Assembly seeks to combat caste discrimination and strengthen protections for marginalised communities across the state. It was first introduced by State Senator Aisha Wahab and supported by several caste equity civil rights activists and organisations nationwide.

“Thank you to all the Assembly members who voted in support of SB 403 today. We are protecting people from a long-standing form of discrimination with SB 403,” Ms Wahab said in a tweet.

If passed, California will set a precedent by becoming the first state in the US to address caste discrimination through such legislation. The bill has gained traction with support from groups advocating for equality and fairness.

California bill
AP

For and against it

However, the Coalition of Hindus of North America (CoHNA) described it as a black day in California history.

The Hindu American Foundation’s Executive Director, Suhag Shukla, said, “Today is a sad day. California has reawakened its racist past in passing legislation that demonises and targets South Asians and Hindus. Fifty California legislators chose to side with anti-Hindu hate groups rather than showing moral courage and upholding the Constitution. When a state legislator pushes a law with the intent of targeting an ethnic community, it’s not only racist, it’s unconstitutional. We will explore every option to protect the rights of Hindu Californians. To the 27 legislators who abstained and the three who voted no, thank you for standing on the side of equality and justice.”

Ambedkar Association of North America (AANA) praised the decision and wrote, “Landmark. Historic. Unprecedented. We are proud to share that California state assembly passed anti-caste discrimination bill #SB403 with overwhelming majority. This is what Educate, Agitate and Organize looks like.”

California not new to caste discussions 

California has encountered caste-related discussions previously. The state currently prohibits discrimination based on factors such as national origin, race, religion, and sexual orientation. The case against Cisco in 2020 raised awareness about caste discrimination, resulting in tech companies introducing educational workshops on the topic.

Apple, headquartered in Cupertino, explicitly adapted its employee conduct policy to prohibit caste discrimination in 2020. Furthermore, both the California Democratic Party and the State University system incorporated anti-caste provisions.

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