Seattle becomes the first city in the US
To ban caste discrimination
Los Angeles, Feb 22, 2023
NRIpress.club/Ramesh/ A.Gary Singh
The Seattle City Council approved an ordinance on Tuesday that amends the city’s municipal code to include caste as a protected class, alongside categories such as race, religion and gender identity. The law prohibits caste discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations and other arenas, and allows caste-oppressed people in the city to lodge complaints of discrimination.
Seattle is explicitly banning discrimination on the basis of caste, making it the first city in the US to take such a step.
Councilwoman Kshama Sawant, who wrote the legislation, said the fight against caste bias "is deeply connected to the fight against all forms of oppression". Advocates of the ban say that it is needed to prevent caste bias from becoming more prevalent in the US.
The caste system in India dates back over 3,000 years and divides Hindu society into rigid hierarchical groups.
The ordinance passed by Seattle on Tuesday follows similar bans on caste bias that have been introduced on the campuses of US universities in recent years.
Supporters say the move will help advance awareness
The Seattle City Council approved the ordinance 6-1. Scores of people across race, religion and caste backgrounds registered to speak during the public comment period on Tuesday, with an overwhelming majority supporting the legislation. Supporters included dominant and oppressed caste workers, union members, progressive political organizers, Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims, among others.
“This was a win centuries in the making and it was really the fruition of many years of organizing in Seattle across racial and gender and worker lines,” said Thenmozhi Soundararajan, executive director of the Dalit advocacy organization Equality Labs. “It’s also proof that the South Asian community wants to heal from caste.”