California’s caste bias bill clears Senate panel | World News - Hindustan Times
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California’s caste bias bill clears Senate panel

ByDhrubo Jyoti
Apr 27, 2023 12:07 AM IST

A bill seeking to explicitly ban caste-based discrimination in California cleared its first legislative hurdle on Wednesday after the state’s senate judiciary committee unanimously decided to move the draft law to the senate.

New Delhi: A bill seeking to explicitly ban caste-based discrimination in California cleared its first legislative hurdle on Wednesday after the state’s senate judiciary committee unanimously decided to move the draft law to the senate.

State Senator Aisha Wahab listens to speakers during a news conference where she proposed SB 403, a bill that adds caste as a protected category in the state's anti-discrimination laws, on March 22, 2023, in Sacramento, California. (AP)
State Senator Aisha Wahab listens to speakers during a news conference where she proposed SB 403, a bill that adds caste as a protected category in the state's anti-discrimination laws, on March 22, 2023, in Sacramento, California. (AP)

This marks the first time a US state legislature considers a bill on caste, the latest in a string of moves that has spotlighted the dynamics of caste in America. The bill, SB 403, was introduced last month by state Senator Aisha Wahab who said caste discrimination was a social justice and civil rights issue.

“Caste is an invisible shackle placed on people at birth. Those of us not raised in that system can’t possibly understand what it does to one’s psyche, the inter-generational trauma it causes,” Wahab said.

The development came months after Seattle became the first American city to explicitly ban caste-based bias in employment, housing, public transport and retail establishments, among others. If SB 403 passed, California could become the first state in the US to follow suit.

“I am thrilled to say California is well on its way to becoming the first U.S. state to recognise our status as human beings and redefine caste equity protections,” said Thenmozhi Soundarajan, founder and executive director of Equality Labs, an anti-caste advocacy group.

But the development also sparked opposition from some Hindu groups, who said the bill will fuel hate against Hindus. “We fear the bill will encourage religious profiling and stereotyping of a minority. We believe it advances baseless hateful narratives against these communities by legalising a presumption of guilt and turns a long-standing bedrock principle of American justice on its head,” said a joint statement of organisations led by Coalition of Hindus of North America.

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