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California lawmaker introduces bill to make caste discrimination illegal

San Francisco, March 23 (IANS) An Afghan-American lawmaker in California has introduced a bill to make caste discrimination illegal and if passed, it will become the first ever US state to outlaw discrimination based on caste.

The bill was authored and introduced on Wednesday by Democrat Senator Aisha Wahab, who proposed to add caste as a protected category in California’s anti-discrimination laws alongside gender, race and disability, reports the BBC.

This development comes a month after Seattle became the first US city to ban caste-based discrimination after a vote by the local council.

Speaking to the BBC, Wahab said: “I’ve had friends tell me that their parents immigrated to this country because they belong to different castes and (their) families weren’t accepting of that.”

Supporters of the bill have said that caste discrimination needs a legislative solution.

Indian-origin Maya Kamble, who uses a pseudonym for her advocacy work, is a manager at a big US firm and says she decided not to reveal that she was a Dalit to her current colleagues, reports the BBC.

At a former workplace, she says, a manager who once trusted her with challenging assignments changed his attitude once he found out her caste. When the next big project came up, she says that he told her to stay away from it as she was “ill-fated”.

“That was a big shocker for me and my colleagues,” she says, adding that she would have filed a complaint if there was a caste discrimination law.

“The (HR representative) didn’t know anything about caste. How do I tell them that this is rooted in untouchability?” the BBC quoted Kamble as saying, adding that she had similar experiences when she came to the US as a student decades earlier.

Several educational, corporate, and political institutions in California have already formulated anti-caste discrimination policies.

Last year, California State University (Cal State), the largest public university system in the US, approved a policy change which added caste as a protected category.

Also in 2022, Apple announced that it had updated its employee policy two years earlier to prohibit caste discrimination.

In 2021, the California Democratic Party added caste as a protected category to its code of conduct.

The workers’ union at Alphabet, Google’s parent company, has issued a statement supporting Wahab’s bill.

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