Business News/ News / World/  Meet Kshama Sawant - The Indian-American councilwoman behind Seattle's caste law

Seattle passed a law banning caste-based discrimination on Tuesday - becoming the first city in the United States to have such a rule in place. The legislation was introduced by Indian-American council member Kshama Sawant in January this year. 

"It's official: our movement has won a historic, first-in-the-nation ban on caste discrimination in Seattle!" Mumbai-born Sawant tweeted after the city council vote.

The city council of Seattle, in the northwest state of Washington, voted 6-1 in favor of the ban, which applies to employment, housing, public transport and retail establishments.

Also read: Seattle becomes first US city to ban caste discrimination

According to details uploaded onto the Seattle City Council website, Sawant was born and brought up in India - working as a computer engineer for some time before she travelled to the US to study economics. 

She is not a career politician, having worked extensively as a teacher and activist. Sawant had moved to the city after earning her doctorate and taught at the Seattle Central Community College, Seattle University, and the University of Washington Tacoma. 

She belongs to the Socialist Alternative political party - a group that describes itself as a ‘Marxist organisation’ and is the first socialist leader to be elected to power in any major US city in decades. She came to power after defeating a 16-year incumbent Democrat, running upon campaign promises such as “fighting for a $15/hr minimum wage, rent control and taxing the super-rich to fund mass transit and education".

Sawant had joined the party in 2006, and has since “helped organise demonstrations for marriage equality, participated in the movement to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was a visible presence in the Occupy Movement". As a member of the teachers' union she has also fought against budget cuts and tuition hikes.

“She only accepts the average workers' wage and donates the rest of her six-figure salary to building social justice movements," her official bio adds.

(With inputs from agencies)

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Updated: 22 Feb 2023, 10:20 PM IST
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