Month Long Hunger Strike Continues to Encourage California Governor to Sign Caste-Based Discrimination Measure

By The Vanguard Staff

SACRAMENTO, CA – As of Wednesday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom had not signed SB 403, the bill to ban caste-based discrimination in the state—and a group of Californians has now surpassed 30 days on a hunger strike that began a month ago to encourage the governor to sign the measure.

 “Dear @GavinNewsom today is my day 28th of Hunger strike. I am very weak. One of our memeber(sic) might faint anytime. But we committed. We want our people to be free of discrimination. Please help make California first state to pass this law,” wrote Dr. Nirmal Singh in a tweet Monday.

The Sacramento Bee notes the legislation “has the support of many Californians of South Asian origin, (but) others have argued that it creates a problem where none currently exists. Some contend that the bill unfairly targets Hindu Americans.”

California would be the first state to enact legislation banning caste-based discrimination. Senate Bill (SB) No. 403 adds caste to the list of characteristics protected by the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), the Unruh Civil Rights Act, and the California Education Code.

The governor has until Oct. 14, 2023, to sign SB 403 into law. If enacted, it will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2024.  

SB 403 defines “caste” as “an individual’s perceived position in a system of social stratification on the basis of inherited status” (and) explains caste “may be characterized by factors that may include, but are not limited to, inability or restricted ability to alter inherited status; socially enforced restrictions on marriage, private and public segregation, and discrimination; and social exclusion on the basis of perceived status,” according to the measure’s bill analysis.

According to the bill’s supporters, “Caste discrimination has not gained wide recognition in the United States. In February 2023, Seattle became the first and so far only jurisdiction to ban discrimination based on caste. If Governor Newsom signs SB 403 into law, California will be the second jurisdiction and only state to ban caste discrimination.” 

According to SB 403’s legislative history, “caste discrimination occurs across several industries in various forms, including harassment, bias, wage theft, and even human trafficking. The legislative history singles out caste discrimination as being an issue in the tech industry and notes that some tech companies already include caste as a protected class in their policies.”

Additionally, the legislative history explains “caste is inextricably intertwined with existing legal protections in state and federal civil rights laws because discrimination based on one’s caste is effectively discrimination based on the intersection of other protected characteristics, including ancestry, race, color, and national origin.”

Supporters note, “SB 403 expands the FEHA’s already-existing definition of  ‘ancestry’ to specifically include one’s ‘caste’ (and) amends the Unruh Civil Rights Act and the Education Code to include the same definitions of ancestry and caste.”

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  1. Keith Olsen

    I had to look up what caste-based discrimination was as I’ve never heard of it.  Is that actually a problem in California?  It sounds like it creates a problem where none currently exists.

    Is California getting to the point where virtually everyone is part of a protected class by law?  Maybe that’s where we should go regardless of your race, sex, gender or religion.

  2. pooja gurl

    If you don’t have any knowledge that doesn’t mean the caste discrimination doesn’t exist.

    I myself have faced it real time may it be in university campus, work, or within my friend circle.

    Fresno city recently added caste in ordinance.

    Seattle being the first one.

    A woman was burnt with hot oil in california just because of being oppressed caste. This is how violent caste discrimination is.

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