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Seattle bans caste discrimination, first U.S. city to do so



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

The movement has won a “historic, first-in-the-nation ban on caste discrimination,” tweeted Kshama Sawant, the socialist council member who introduced the legislation. “Now we need to build a movement to spread this victory around the country.”

The caste system is a hierarchal social structure that determines a person’s standing in society at birth. It has roots in Hinduism, but later proliferated to members of other faiths in South Asia. Practicing “untouchability” — or discrimination — against members of the lowest caste in the South Asian order, known as Dalits or “untouchables,” was outlawed in India decades ago. But it remains entrenched in society and similar practices have followed the South Asian diaspora community to the United States and elsewhere.

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

There are more than 150,000 people from South Asia living in Washington state, with many based in the Greater Seattle area, the city council said.

South Asians have faced discrimination on the basis of caste in workplaces and education institutes, some U.S.-based activists say.

“It is a national problem,” said Thenmozhi Soundararajan, director of Equality Labs, a Dalit civil rights groups in California. She said her organization has surveyed hundreds of workers who said they have experienced “caste slurs in workplaces, bullying and harassment, sexual harassment, demotion to retaliation and even firing.”

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The Seattle measure was opposed by the Hindu American Foundation, which said that it was against caste-based discrimination but argued that the measure would single out their community.


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James Thomas
James Thomas
Hello, I am James Thomas blogger and content creator who specializes in personal finance and investing at Business Advise. I have been writing for over 5 years and have built a large following of readers who value practical advice and actionable tips. I'm committed to helping people take control of their financial futures and achieve their goals.

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