May 11, 2023

The California chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-CA) welcomed the unanimous passage of SB 403 through the California State Senate Judiciary Committee.    

The landmark bill, authored by Senator Aisha Wahab, sponsored by Equality Labs, and supported by CAIR-CA, has sparked a global conversation on caste discrimination. The Bill adds caste as a protected category under California’s anti-discrimination laws, making it the first state in the nation to offer protection against caste bias. The legislation partly defines caste as “an individual’s perceived position in a system of social stratification on the basis of inherited status” and addresses caste systems found strongly in South Asia and across other regions, including South America, Asia, and Africa. 

In a 2018 Caste in the United States Report developed by Equality Labs, two in three Dalits (the term used for those of the lowest class in South Asia’s caste system) reported being mistreated at work, one in three Dalit students reported being discriminated against during their education, and 25% of Dalits surveyed reported facing verbal or physical assault based on their caste. 

In a statement, CAIR-CA Policy & Government Affairs Manager Nazeehah Khan said:     

“While California has been a leader in combatting discrimination, the historical discrimination faced by immigrants and their descendants have often been overlooked. Today, their historical trauma has come alive and become current in the form of workplace and education discrimination. As a state, we must act when communities who have historically been targeted uproot their lives in the pursuit of equality and seek refuge in California —and that’s exactly what this bill does. 

“We applaud Equality Labs and the cosponsors on pioneering anti-caste bias legislation in America and thank Senator Wahab for her bravery in standing by one of our most vulnerable populations despite the controversy surrounding this crucial bill.”  

The bill will now move to the Senate Appropriations Committee, where it will be assessed for any costs to the California State Budget. 

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.  

Please contact in the event of Questions: Tazheen Nizam, CAIR San Deigo, Executive Director