New California bills hope to tackle anti-Asian violence

On Thursday, February 17, California lawmakers introduced two bills aimed at addressing harassment and violence against women and other vulnerable populations in public spaces.

The bills, which are both sponsored by the nonprofit group Stop AAPI Hate, are among the first in the nation to establish discrimination and street harassment as a public health problem rather than a criminal problem.

The bills come at a time when attacks on Asians in the United States, especially women and the elderly, are on the rise.

From March 2020 to July 2021, Stop AAPI Hate documented more than 9,000 incidents nationwide against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Forty percent of those attacks occurred in California, home to the nation’s largest AAPI population.

Two-thirds of these incidents were reported by women, and the majority of them took place in public spaces or businesses.

State Senator Dave Min introduced the first bill, which aims to protect women and other vulnerable groups of transit system users.

Last month, Michelle Alyssa Go, 40, a California native and UCLA graduate, was pushed to her death in front of an oncoming train in New York.

The proposed legislation would require the state’s 10 largest transit districts to examine the types of harassment commuters experience, such as name-calling and bullying, and develop data-driven programs to promote safe driving.

“This bill will help restore confidence in the safety of public transport so that everyone – especially women and minorities – can travel from place to place without fear,” Min said in a statement. communicated.

The second bill, introduced by Assemblymen Mia Bonta and Dr. Akilah Weber and sponsored by California Healthy Nail Salon, would direct the state health department to conduct a public education campaign to raise awareness of the public to street harassment.

The campaigns are meant to run several times a year and be accessible to people with limited English proficiency.

“The reality is that street harassment against women and vulnerable communities is all too common and rarely addressed by current laws,” Weber said.

Stop AAPI Hate is also sponsoring a third bill that has yet to be introduced. It focuses on another space that has seen a significant increase in incidents of anti-Asian bias: big business.

According to the association’s data, almost a third of the incidents recorded since the start of the pandemic have taken place in retail stores, grocery stores or restaurants. Asian customers experienced racialized and often sexist verbal abuse from other customers.

The measure would direct the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing to develop a training resource for businesses and a pilot program that recognizes those who create welcoming environments for all customers.

It would also require large companies to offer in-person service to combat harassment between customers based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity and gender.

Manjusha P. Kulkarni, co-founder of national reporting center Stop AAPI Hate, told NBC News that she hopes the three proposals will eventually form a blueprint for other cities with large Asian populations to emulate.

“We want California to be able to be a pioneer again. This time, to ensure the safety and well-being of Asian Americans in the United States,” Kulkarni said.

Bernard P. Love