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Mahmoud Bennett

Social Media Reporter/Producer

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Seattle becomes first US city to ban caste discrimination

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Mahmoud Bennett

Social Media Reporter/Producer

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Seattle has become the first city in the United States to ban caste discrimination and add it to the city’s anti-discrimination laws after a vote by the city council. The measure that passed by a 6-1 vote was proposed by Kshama Sawant, a City Council member originally from India who believed that current anti-discrimination laws were not enough.

Sawant stated that “caste discrimination remains a largely hidden and unreported issue.”

However, not everyone was on board with the measure. In an open letter, the Washington D.C.-based Hindu American Foundation said that while the ordinance’s goals were praiseworthy, it “unfairly singles out and targets an entire community on the basis of their national origin and ancestry for disparate treatment”. Suhag Shukla, executive director of the Hindu American Foundation, added “caste is already covered under the current set of anti-discrimination laws, which provide protections for race, ethnicity and religion.”

Sawant said the ordinance does not single out one community, but accounts for how caste discrimination crosses national and religious boundaries, as reported by The Associated Press.

The caste system is widely believed to have originated over 3,000 years ago in ancient Hindu society but has evolved over the centuries among various groups. At its core, it is the belief in social hierarchy based on one’s birth and divides people into four main categories by perceived purity and status. Upper and lower castes typically lived in segregated colonies and were restricted from marrying outside of their caste. The system also dictated the professions that a person could work in.

Although India formally abolished the system in 1950, nearly all Indians still identify with a caste, according to Pew Research. While the majority of Indians do not perceive widespread caste discrimination today, a 2016 UN report says at least 250 million people within various diaspora communities outside of India still face discrimination based on caste and similar systems.

According to the Migration Policy Institute think tank, the U.S. is the second most popular destination for Indians living abroad.

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MAHMOUD BENNETT:

SEATTLE WASHINGTON HAS BECOME THE FIRST CITY IN THE US TO OUTLAW THE CASTE SYSTEM AND ADD IT TO THE CITY’S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION LAWS

THE MEASURE WAS PROPOSED BY KSHAMA SAWANT – A SEATTLE CITY COUNCIL MEMBER ORIGINALLY FROM INDIA – SHE BELIEVED THAT CURRENT ANTI-DISCRIMINATION LAWS WERE NOT ENOUGH SAYING QUOTE “caste DISCRIMINATION REMAINS A LARGELY HIDDEN AND UNREPORTED ISSUE.” THE MEASURE PASSED BY A 6-1 VOTE

HOWEVER, NOT EVERYONE WAS ON BOARD: SOME HINDU AMERICAN GROUPS ARGUE THE CASTE SYSTEM IS *ALREADY* COVERED UNDER CURRENT US ANTI-DISCRIMINATION LAWS, AND THAT THE BAN UNFAIRLY SINGLES OUT ETHNIC MINORITIES

THE CASTE SYSTEM IS WIDELY BELIEVED TO HAVE ORIGINATED IN ANCIENT HINDU SOCIETY SOME 3000 YEARS AGO BUT HAS EVOLVED OVER THE CENTURIES — AT ITS CORE, IT’S THE BELIEF IN SOCIAL HIERARCHY BASED ON ONE’S BIRTH AND DIVIDES PEOPLE INTO FOUR MAIN CATEGORIES BY PERCEIVED PURITY AND STATUS

UPPER AND LOWER CASTES TYPICALLY LIVED IN SEGREGATED COLONIES, AND WERE RESTRICTED FROM MARRYING OUTSIDE OF THEIR CASTE. THE SYSTEM ALSO DICTATED THE PROFESSIONS THAT A PERSON COULD WORK IN.

ALTHOUGH INDIA FORMALLY ABOLISHED THE SYSTEM IN 1950, NEARLY ALL INDIANS STILL IDENTIFY WITH A CASTE ACCORDING TO PEW RESEARCH.

AND WHILE THE MAJORITY OF INDIANS DO NOT PERCEIVE WIDESPREAD CASTE DISCRIMINATION TODAY, A 2016 UN REPORT SAYS AT LEAST 250 MILLION PEOPLE WITHIN VARIOUS DIASPORA COMMUNITIES OUTSIDE OF INDIA STILL FACE DISCRIMINATION BASED ON CASTE AND SIMILAR SYSTEMS

THAT’S ALL FOR THIS QUICK BREAKDOWN – I’M MAHMOUD BENNETT WITH STRAIGHT ARROW NEWS UNBIASED STRAIGHT FACTS