The Assembly Judiciary Committee in California has passed Senate Bill 403 (SB403), a bill aimed at banning caste discrimination in the state.
About SB403: The bill aims to add caste as a protected category to the state Unruh Civil Rights Act and fair housing and employment laws.
After Wednesday’s hearing, the bill will move forward to the Appropriations Committee. If it is passed, the bill will head to the Assembly floor for a final vote. If approved, California will become the first state to ban caste-based discrimination in the U.S.
Supporters of the bill: Supporters of the bill believe that caste discrimination has led to bias, wage theft and harassment in the workplace.
“This is extremely important because caste is an issue that doesn’t just affect people from Asia, but also affects Somalians, Nigerians and Japanese,” Tarina Mand from the Racial Justice Task Force, told ABC 10. “It’s a global issue that needs to be addressed in this country.”
Opposers of the bill: While some South Asians view the bill positively, others are concerned about its potential consequences, including making them targets for discrimination.
“It stereotypes and profiles one community based on something we can’t control, which is our birth,” said Pushpita Prasad, a board member of the Coalition of Hindus in North America. “So, we really ask our legislators to reject it, and to really stop platforming hate against a minority community.”
India’s caste discrimination: India’s caste system, which was outlawed in 1949, has continued to impact and influence society. The caste system divides Hindus into four main categories: Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and the Shudras.
This has created rigid hierarchical groups based on their karma (work) and dharma (duty), placing individuals into a system of social stratification where they are expected to follow the traditions and lifestyles of their social group.
California’s population: California is reportedly made up of 15% Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders with nearly 1 million South Asians, including Indian, Pakistani, Nepalese, Sri Lanken, Bangladeshi and Bhutanese.
Indian Americans are the third-largest Asian ethnic group in California and one of the state’s fastest-growing groups.