California’s legislature has achieved a historic milestone by passing a bill that would prohibit caste discrimination, marking the first such instance in the United States.
Lawmakers who supported the measure emphasized its significance in safeguarding individuals of South Asian heritage who contend with unjust treatment.
The fate of this bill now rests in the hands of the governor, who must decide whether to give it legal force. It’s worth noting that Seattle previously became the inaugural U.S. city to enact a ban on caste discrimination in February.
Originating in India over 3,000 years ago, the caste system categorises Hindu society into inflexible hierarchical segments.
On Tuesday, the bill, sponsored by Democratic State Senator Aisha Wahab, was approved by a vote of 31-5. Senator Wahab said that this legislation aims to include caste as a protected category within the state’s anti-discrimination laws, alongside gender, race, religion, and disability.
“We shined a light on a long-hidden form of discrimination thousands of years old, invisible shackles on the wrist of millions of people,” said Ms Wahab, who is the first Muslim and Afghan-American woman elected to the state legislative assembly.
Five Republican state senators opposed the legislation, contending that discrimination was already prohibited by existing state laws.
Office of Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, indicated that he will assess the bill once it arrives at his desk.
Certain Hindu groups contended that the caste system is not a significant concern in North America. The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) wrote on social media: “Only California Democrats voted for #SB403 (every Republican voted against or abstained), but this tweet from right wing influencer @Steve_Sailer shows that #Hinduphobia is often bipartisan & that #SB403 will single out & target Hindu Americans. @GavinNewsom, please #VetoSB403!”
Advocacy group Hindus for Human Rights welcomed the passing of the bill, urging people to send a letter to the state governor to sign the bill into law – “#SB403 is headed to @GavinNewsom‘s desk! Send a letter to the governor at http://tinyurl.com/sb403gov telling him to sign the bill into law! #EndCasteDiscrimination @aacd_usa“
America Against Caste Discrimination posted on their social media “…and, with that, the Senate agrees to the amendments to #SB403 made in the Assembly. One more step to #BanCasteInUSA! All eyes now on @GavinNewsom. We look forward to you enhancing your progressive record by signing this historic bill into law!”