In a historic decision, the California Democratic Party added caste as a protected category to its Code of Conduct, making it the largest state political party in the country to recognise caste discrimination in the US, Equality Labs, a Dalit Civil Rights organisation said in a media release.
According to the Equality Labs media release, Amar Singh Shergill, California Democratic Party Executive Board Member, Progressive Caucus Chair announced, “With the addition of caste protections to our Party Code of Conduct, the Democratic party recognizes that California must lead in the historical battle for caste equity and ensure we acknowledge the need for explicit legal protections for caste-oppressed Americans. We understand that protection from caste discrimination may be accessed under pre-existing categories of ancestry, religion, and race, yet many caste-oppressed people do not report discrimination because this explicit legal protection is not yet widely recognized. Like previous struggles to add protections for gender identity and sexual orientation, we believe adding caste protects all Americans. We are ensuring the most vulnerable know we value their rights. We hope our addition will inspire other institutions to bring remedy to the issue of caste discrimination in the US and urge all other state Democratic Parties to follow.”
Thenmozhi Soundararajan, Equality Labs’ Executive Director said, “This is a powerful validation of the caste equity civil rights movement. Caste is so deeply alive in the diaspora and it impacts so many parts of the South Asian American experience. Our report showed the prevalence of caste discrimination with 1 out of 4 dalits experiencing physical assault, 2 out of 3 experiencing workplace discrimination, and 1 out of 3 experiencing discrimination in education. Our data and personal stories of caste oppressed people point to the urgency and need for caste equity.
California has been ground zero for this civil rights movement as we have seen the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing launch its historic case against the Cisco corporation. This was followed by 22 campuses in the California State University System demanding caste be added as a protected class. Justice cannot wait any longer for caste oppressed Americans.
The Democratic party is leading the conversation by recognizing that caste oppressed Americans deserve protection and that the time for its addition in all American institutions is long overdue. We look forward to continuing to work with even more elected officials around the state and the country.”
Govind Acharya of Amnesty International USA welcomed the decision. In a statement, he said, “The addition of caste based protections is crucial as the United States ratified international human rights treaties that require us to be committed to protections of all marginalized people. It is important to extend the existing protections for caste oppressed communities and make them explicit. Protections for caste oppressed communities are a vital global human rights issue and it is time that California once again leads the nation in making human rights history.”