California governor vetoes anti-caste discrimination bill

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Governor Newsom vetoed the anti-caste law SB 403 on Saturday, amid an increase of anti-caste laws and ordinances across the US. In a letter sent to the California Legislature, he explained his decision to veto the bill. He wrote:

In California we believe that everyone deserves to treated with dignity, regardless of who they are, what they look like, who they love or where they reside. California prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and race. It also prohibits discrimination against people based on their national origin, religion, ancestry and gender identity. Because discrimination based on caste is already prohibited under these existing categories, this bill is unnecessary.State Senator Aisha Wahab, the bill’s sponsor, has yet to comment on the veto. Wahab, the bill’s sponsor, issued a statement shortly after it passed the California State Assembly. She wrote, “

We protect people from a form of discrimination that has been around for a very long time with SB 403.”

Anti-caste discrimination laws have been on the rise across the United States this year, with Seattle, Washington becoming the first city to pass an ordinance banning caste discrimination in February, quickly followed by Fresno, California in September.

The caste system is a culturally enforced hierarchy, traditionally associated with India, where social class passes through ancestry. In India, the caste system is based on Brahmins (or Brahmin-like people), Kshatriyas (or Kshatriya-like people), Vaishyas (or Vaishyas), Shudras (or Shudras) and Dalits at the bottom. The system was outlawed in India when the Constitution of 1950 was ratified. A 2018 report by Azim Premji University revealed that caste discrimination is still present in the workplace. Hindus of upper caste are more likely to be employed and have stable jobs. The report also examined a study in which the same resumes with traditional Hindu upper-caste, Hindu Dalit or Muslim names were sent to employers. The report also analyzed a study where the same resumes were sent out with either traditional Hindu upper-caste names, Hindu Dalit names or Muslim names.