(SACRAMENTO, CA – 8/29/2023) – The California chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-CA) today welcomed the successful passage of SB 403 through the California State Assembly Floor, one of the final steps the bill will encounter before passing the California State Legislature.
SB 403, also known as the “Caste Bill,” was authored by Senator Aisha Wahab, sponsored by Equality Labs, and supported by CAIR-CA. The bill would make California the first state to protect individuals from any form of discrimination or harassment based on their caste or caste-affected background. The legislation by Senator Wahab passed through the Assembly in a 50-3 vote yesterday and has been one of the most prominent bills of the 2023 legislative session.
Caste is a centuries-old class system, predominantly found in South Asia, determined by birth. The concept has been in the U.S. since at least the mid-1960s when more immigrants arrived from South Asia. Discrimination based on caste has led to economic and social inequity, harassment, violence, and even death. Caste has become a tool for workplace discrimination, as lower caste employees report difficulty finding employment, less pay, fewer promotions, and tougher assignments from higher caste management. In social settings, caste can limit relationships and marriages and lead to isolation. Recent reported incidents include Dalits (the term used for those of the lowest class in South Asia’s caste system) being refused housing or being evicted from rented homes once their caste was discovered.
In a statement, CAIR-CA Policy & Government Affairs Manager Nazeehah Khan said:
“Just as we have worked to combat various forms of prejudice, fighting against caste discrimination is equally important. The passage of SB 403 through these final Assembly stages is a monumental step towards building a society where all Californians are treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their caste or social origins.
“We applaud Equality Labs and the cosponsors on pioneering anti-caste bias legislation in America, and we thank Senator Wahab for her leadership and for standing by one of our most vulnerable populations.”
SB 403 will now return to the Senate where Senators will vote on amendments made to the bill in the Assembly. If successful, the bill will then move to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk, whose signature will declare the bill law.
CAIR-CA is a chapter of CAIR, America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.
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CONTACT: CAIR-SD Executive Director Tazheen Nizam, firstname.lastname@example.org, (760) 201-7626