The divisive debate over California's anti-caste bill

2023-06-09 03:13:47  • 5 mins

A bill introduced to make caste discrimination illegal in California is set to come up for discussion in the state assembly this week. Savita Patel, a California-based independent journalist, speaks to those supporting and opposing the bill becoming a law.

Sukhjinder Kaur*, a nurse at a hospital in California, works long and tiring hours serving patients. But whenever it's break time, things become oppressive.

She is a Dalit (a community that is placed at the bottom of India's deeply discriminatory caste hierarchy) and says she often faces casteist insults from her South Asian colleagues.

Dalit rights activists say scores of caste-oppressed Californians face housing, educational, professional, and social discrimination.

In March, Senator Aisha Wahab, a lawmaker from the Democratic Party, authored and introduced the SB-403 bill - legislation that seeks to add caste as a protected category in the state's anti-discrimination laws alongside gender, race, religion and disability.

The bill was passed by the state's senate in May with a 34-1 vote. If it goes through in the state assembly, California will become the first US state to ban caste discrimination.

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