Fresno becomes second US city after Seattle to ban caste discrimination

Fresno becomes second US city after Seattle to ban caste discrimination

Fresno in California is now the second US city to ban caste discrimination as authorities marked caste and indigeneity under two new protected categories into its municipal code.

The caste system – one of the oldest forms of social stratification that denies basic dignity and human rights to lower castes – is increasingly coming under scrutiny in the US by activists who oppose the discriminatory system and its practice across the country and have called it another form of racism.

Fresno city council vice president Annalisa Perea said she is proud of the Californian city for “raising the bar on civil rights protection”.

“While we acknowledge that discrimination won’t end overnight, our City took bold action by passing this anti-discrimination policy to strengthen civil rights protections against caste discrimination,” she said in a press release.

Other local leaders cheered the categorisation which will protect people subjected to caste discrimination.

“It is an honour and a dream to have brought freedom for so many peoples in Fresno with this historic win,” Amar Daroch, president of local Sikh temple Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha, said in a news release.

“There are so many of us who are survivors of global caste systems,” the Fresno resident said.

Earlier this year, Seattle became the first US city to outlaw caste discrimination.

In late August, the state assembly in California cleared a bill in the US state aiming to ban caste discrimination. After near-unanimous voting, it was also passed by the state Senate in early September.

The bill now awaits a signature from governor Gavin Newsom.

Once signed into law, the bill will deem California the first US state to ban caste discrimination.

In Canada, a city council vote and Toronto’s school board have recognised that caste discrimination existed in the city’s schools.

The caste system dates back thousands of years and critics and activists say that to this day, it continues to offer many privileges to upper castes and represses lower castes.

Mostly practised in India, the Dalit community is on the lowest rung of the Hindu caste system, with its members treated as “untouchables” and having been subjected to several forms of violence.

While India outlawed caste discrimination decades ago, several studies in recent years showed bias persists. One study found people from lower castes were underrepresented in higher-paying jobs.

Dalits still face widespread abuse across India, where their attempts at upward social mobility have at times been violently put down.

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