Seattle becomes first US city to ban caste discrimination
A resolution was moved by Kshama Sawant, the city’s only Indian-American councillor.
Seattle on Tuesday became the first city in the United States to ban caste discrimination after its local council voted to add caste to the city’s non-discrimination laws, the Associated Press reported.
The council took the vote on a resolution moved by Kshama Sawant, Seattle’s only Indian-American city councillor.
Sawant, while introducing the resolution in January, had said that South Asian Americans face caste discrimination in employment, education and housing in the country.
“We’ve heard hundreds of gut-wrenching stories over the last few weeks showing us that caste discrimination is very real in Seattle,” Sawant told AP.
However, the Hindu American Foundation and the Coalition of Hindus of North America criticised her resolution, arguing that it unnecessarily singles out a community already vulnerable to discrimination in the country.
Sawant denied this and said the resolution accounts for how caste discrimination crosses national and religious boundaries.
The Ambedkar International Center said that the passing of the resolution was a historic moment, which will have far-reaching implications for the oppressed castes in the United States.
“We thank councilmember Kshama Sawant for sponsoring the ordinance and her advocacy on behalf of the oppressed castes and organisations representing them,” said Ambedkar International Centre President Ram Kumar.
The Hindu American Foundation said that the resolution violates the United States Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process.
“Seattle has taken a dangerous misstep here, institutionalising bias against all residents of Indian and South Asian origin, all in the name of preventing bias,” the foundation’s managing director Samir Kalra said.
He added: “When Seattle should be protecting the civil rights of all its residents, it is actually violating them by running roughshod over the most basic and fundamental rights in US law, all people being treated equally.”