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California Senate passes bill banning caste discrimination

California would be the first US state to have anti cast discrimination legislation in the state's statutes, if passed by Assembly and subsequently signed by Governor.

California Senate discussing the Aisha Wahab’s Discrimination on the Basis of Caste bill. Image - Twitter/ Dilip Mandal 

In a significant development,the Senate in the state of California passed Senator Aisha Wahab’s SB 403, Discrimination on the Basis of Caste bill with majority vote of 34 to 1 on May 11, 2023. As per the legislative procedure, this bill now will be introduced before the state’s Assembly for consideration.

If passed by the Assembly the bill will be signed by Governor assent into law, making California the first US state to have anti caste discrimination legislation in the state's statutes.

SB403 mandates that discrimination on the basis of caste is prohibited under the Unruh Civil Rights Act, an existing law that provides that all people in the state of California the right to full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments.

Since the caste debate erupted, there were voices from various institutions and individuals in favour and against the bill and same has been noted down in the Senate proceedings. The Senate in its analysis noted, “Caste may not be as visible as race to the California legislature, but it is a longstanding system of exclusion both in our homelands and within intergovernmental bodies like the UN, the EU, and many others…”

Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who was instrumental in passing the anti-caste discrimination law in the city welcomed the passage of SB 403 by the CA Senate. “Following our historic victory in Seattle in February, the California Senate has voted in favor of banning caste discrimination. The bill now goes to the Assembly. Anti-caste activists, working people, union members, and my socialist Council office built a fighting movement to win in Seattle, creating national and even international momentum. Solidarity to all fighting oppression under capitalism!”, she said.