Seattle bans caste discrimination, first US city to do so


The Seattle City Council on Tuesday voted to ban race-based discrimination, the first such move by a U.S. city. The measure adds caste as a protected category to the city’s anti-discrimination laws, which include prohibitions on discrimination based on disability, religion and gender orientation.

Socialist council member Kshama Sawant, who introduced the law, tweeted that the movement had “won a historic, first-in-the-nation ban on caste discrimination”. “Now we need to build a movement to spread this success across the country.”

Caste system is a hierarchical social system which determines a person’s position in society by birth. It has its roots in Hinduism, but later spread to members of other religions in South Asia. The practice of “untouchability” or discrimination – against the lowest caste in the South Asian ranks – known as Dalits or “untouchables” – was banned in India decades ago. Community to America and elsewhere.

India’s engineers have thrived in Silicon Valley. So is its caste system.

Washington state is home to more than 150,000 South Asians, many from the Greater Seattle area, according to the city council.

Some US-based activists say South Asians face caste-based discrimination in workplaces and educational institutions.

“This is a national problem,” said Thenmozhi Soundararajan, director of Equality Labs, a Dalit civil rights group in California. He said his organization had surveyed hundreds of workers who said they had experienced “caste slurs, bullying and harassment, sexual harassment, retaliation and firing at workplaces”.

The Hindu American Foundation opposed the Seattle move, saying it was against caste-based discrimination, but argued that the move would isolate their community.

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