UNITED STATES: Seattle became the first US city to ban caste discrimination on Tuesday after the city council voted to include caste in the city’s anti-discrimination laws.
The action addresses a topic important to the local South Asian diaspora, particularly the Indian and Hindu communities. The caste system in India is one of the most ancient examples of rigid social segregation. Kshama Sawant, an Indian American member of the Seattle City Council, said that “the fight against caste discrimination is deeply connected to the fight against all forms of oppression.”
The caste system, which has existed for thousands of years, gives upper castes various benefits while suppressing lower castes. The Dalit community has been treated as “untouchables” and is at the bottom of the Hindu caste system in India.
“Caste discrimination doesn’t only take place in other countries. It is faced by South Asian Americans and other immigrant workers in their workplaces, including in the tech sector, in Seattle and in cities around the country,” Sawant stated when her office unveiled the plan to outlaw caste-based discrimination in Seattle.
Even though caste discrimination was illegal in India over 70 years ago, bias still exists, as shown by a number of recent studies, including one that discovered that lower-caste individuals were underrepresented in higher-paying positions.
Even though untouchability is no longer legal in India, Dalits are still mistreated there, and their attempts to move up in society are sometimes violently stopped.
The caste system hierarchy is a contentious topic of discussion in India and abroad, with the issue intertwined with religion. Some people contend that discrimination is now rare. Due to Indian government initiatives that reserve seats for them at top Indian colleges, many students from lower castes have landed IT jobs in the West in recent years.
Activists opposing caste discrimination say it is not different from any other type of discrimination, like racism, and therefore should be banned. The discrimination laws of the United States outlaw ancestry discrimination but do not explicitly outlaw casteism.
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