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California Could Become the First State to Ban Caste Discrimination

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Men and women in business attire stand in a courtroom in Sacramento, California. One man holds up his cell phone One woman in a gray suit with pink button-up shirt, holds a blue folder with papers inside as she looks past the camera.
California state Sen. Aisha Wahab (foreground) listens to speakers during a news conference where she proposed Senate Bill 403, which adds caste as a protected category to the state's anti-discrimination laws, in Sacramento, on Wednesday, March 22, 2023. California may become the first state in the nation to outlaw caste-based bias, a safeguard that people of South Asian descent say is necessary to protect them from discrimination in housing, education and the tech sector, where they hold key roles. (José Luis Villegas/AP)

Caste is a hierarchical system, based on birth, that affects South Asians on the subcontinent and around the world.

Many hesitate to discuss it out in the open. But over the years, people from marginalized caste backgrounds have been speaking up — including in Silicon Valley, home to thousands of workers of South Asian descent, where allegations of caste discrimination have hung over some of the area’s largest tech companies.

Now, a bill has been introduced to ban caste discrimination in California. And it has sparked heated arguments within South Asian communities.

Episode transcript

Guest: Sonia Paul, freelance journalist

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The audio used in this episode with Professor Anupama Rao originally aired in The Agenda With Steve Paikin. 

 

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