Seattle outlaws caste discrimination in a contentious decision opposed by some Hindus

Calls to outlaw discrimination primarily based on caste, a division of individuals primarily based on beginning or descent, have grown louder amongst South Asian diaspora communities in the US. However the motion is getting pushback from some Hindu Individuals who argue that such laws maligns a selected group.

Proponents of the ordinance that was authorised by a 6-1 vote Tuesday say caste discrimination crosses nationwide and non secular boundaries and that with out such legal guidelines, these dealing with caste discrimination within the U.S. can have no protections.

The ordinance is a contentious challenge, particularly among the many nation’s South Asian diaspora. Supporters argue it’s wanted as a result of caste just isn’t lined below present civil rights protections. Teams opposing the measure say it is going to malign a group that’s already the goal of prejudice.

Council Member Kshama Sawant, a socialist and the one Indian American on the Metropolis Council, mentioned the ordinance, which she proposed, doesn’t single out one group, nevertheless it accounts for a way caste discrimination crosses nationwide and non secular boundaries.

Activists on totally different sides of the difficulty started arriving in Seattle effectively forward of Tuesday’s metropolis council assembly. As early as final week, greater than 100 folks had put in requests to talk on the assembly. Early Tuesday, a number of activists braved chilly temperatures and wind gusts to line up outdoors Metropolis Corridor so they’d get an opportunity to talk to the council earlier than the vote. However the council restricted public remark on the assembly.

The origins of the caste system in India might be traced again 3,000 years as a social hierarchy primarily based on one’s occupation and beginning. It’s a system that has developed over the centuries below Muslim and British rule. The struggling of those that are on the backside of the caste pyramid — generally known as Dalits — has continued. Caste discrimination has been prohibited in India since 1948, a yr after the nation’s independence from British rule.

Dalit activists from Seattle and past rallied at Seattle Metropolis Corridor in assist of the ordinance, mentioned Thenmozhi Soundararajan, founder and govt director of California-based Equality Labs.

The U.S. is the second hottest vacation spot for Indians dwelling overseas, in keeping with the Migration Coverage Institute, which estimates the U.S. diaspora grew from about 206,000 in 1980 to about 2.7 million in 2021. The group South Asian Individuals Main Collectively experiences that almost 5.4 million South Asians stay within the U.S. — up from the three.5 million counted within the 2010 census. Most hint their roots to Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Over the previous three years, a number of schools and college techniques have moved to ban caste discrimination.

In December 2019, Brandeis College close to Boston grew to become the primary U.S. faculty to incorporate caste in its nondiscrimination coverage. The California State College System, Colby School, Brown College and the College of California, Davis have all adopted related measures. Harvard College instituted caste protections for scholar employees in 2021 as a part of its contract with its graduate scholar union.

The Seattle measure had the assist of Dalit activist-led organizations like Equality Labs and others. The teams say caste discrimination is prevalent in diaspora communities manifesting itself within the type of social alienation and discrimination in housing, schooling and the tech sector the place South Asians maintain key roles.

Opposition to the ordinance got here from teams such because the Hindu American Basis and the Coalition of Hindus of North America who say it unnecessarily singles-out a group already susceptible to discrimination within the U.S.

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