DALIT WOMEN IN INDIA: A STRUGGLE AGAINST DISCRIMINATION AND INJUSTICE

”Let them not rape us every day and murder us. Make the police give us our rights. I will fight for all those who are abused and dead and I hope if my turn comes someone will be there to fight for me.” Manisha, Dalit woman, human rights defender


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In India various kinds of discrimination are prevalent. Be it the on which god you worship, or which language you speak, or the kind of skin colour you have. But there are two which are most predominant: Gender and caste.

The country, which gave birth to leaders like Indira Gandhi, astronauts like Kalpana Chawla, sportsperson like Mary Kom, still believes in keeping their women at home and not give them formal education and also indulge themselves in slut-shaming, domestic violence, and even in heinous acts as rape.

The country, which brags about its advancement in science, also practices the medieval concept of untouchability. The country which is the world's largest democracy is also guilty of widespread discrimination on the basis of caste.


Damned, be the person who is born as a Dalit (the so-called lower caste), damned even more if that person is a woman. Being at the intersection of two of the most unjustified discrimination process, these women suffer from constant rejection, social pressure, and even threat to their life.



“The combination of caste and gender makes millions of Dalit women extremely vulnerable to discrimination and violence, including rape”

Human Rights Watch

VIOLENCE :


Dalit women are usually trapped in a largely patriarchal society. As a result, they become easy targets for sexual violence and other crimes, because the perpetrators almost always get away with it.

Dalit women are victims of a variety of violence: extreme filthy verbal abuse and sexual epithets

naked parading,

dismemberment,

being forced to drink urine and eat faeces,

branding, pulling out of teeth, tongue, and nails,

violence such as sexual assaults, rape, and murder after being accused of practicing witchcraft

Sexual assault and rape of Dalit women and girls occur from higher caste as well from their own communities. For Dalit men, the suppression and rape of women could be a way to compensate for their own lack of power in society. However these forms of violence had also been used as tools by landlords and the police to establish political dominance For Dalit men, the suppression and rape of women could be a way to compensate for their own lack of power in society. and crush dissent and labor movements within Dalit communities. In the year 1997, Laxmanpur-Bathe, a small village in Bihar, women were raped and mutilated by members of the Ranvir Sena; in Bihar and Tamil Nadu, women have been beaten, arrested without charges, and sometimes tortured during violent search and raid operations on Dalit villages in recent years. Dalit women have also been arrested and raped in custody as a means of punishing their male relatives who are hiding from the police.



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DENIED ACCESS TO EDUCATION, HEALTH, AND OTHER SERVICES :


Caste and gender discrimination regarding education health care, water, sanitation and other basic services are also major obstacles for Dalit women severely impacting on their welfare and opportunities. Only 11..8 %of Dalit girls go on to secondary education. Event there they face abuse and humiliation from their non-Dalit peers and teachers. 60% of the Dalit girls get married before the age of 16. This discrimination has been documented repeatedly by UN agencies and major international human rights and development NGOs.


SLAVERY AND PROSTITUTION:


Dalit women often work as modern slaves and key targets of trafficking. They are used to make up for the lack of manpower in brick kilns, garment industries, and agriculture. Some of them are even engaged in performing dehumanising work such as manual scavenging and cleaning human waste by hand. Dalit women are often born into temple slavery otherwise known as "DEVDASI" and are victims of prostitution and trafficking.



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DENIED SUPPORT FROM LAW :


Article 15(1) of India s constitution provides that the “State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them,” . Article 15(3) provides that the state is free to make “any special provision for women and children.” Apart from this, India is a part of most major human rights treaties, and also a Party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Despite all these crimes against Dalit women are occurring every year. Most of these cases are not registered. The lack of law enforcement leaves many Dalit women unable to approach the legal system to seek help. They are often also unaware of the laws and their ignorance is exploited by their victimiser, by the police, and by the judiciary system. Even when cases are registered, the lack of appropriate investigation, or the judge’s own caste and gender biases, can lead to an acquittal. Studies show that the conviction rate for rapes against Dalit women is under 2% compared to a conviction rate of 25% in rape cases against all women in India since there is widespread impunity, especially in cases where the perpetrator is a member of a dominant caste.


TAKING A STAND:


Dalit women have united to fight against the crimes done to them. Since the late 1920s, they had been a part of anti-untouchability movements, anti-caste movements, and land rights movements. The National Federation of Dalit Women (NFDW) was created by the Dalit women for Dalit women. Since its inception, NFDW has taken up the responsibility of bringing positive change in the lives of Dalit women. They have been the voice of Dalit women demanding legal action against caste-based atrocities, undertaken several initiatives for their political and economic empowerment. Feminist Dalit Organisation(FEDO) was established in 1994 with similar objectives. Through these organisations Dalit women have been able to reach various international communities for help. Several NGOs and UN human rights bodies have come up to support them.

REFERENCE:

http://www.rightlivelihoodaward.org/fileadmin/Files/PDF/Literature_Recipients/Manorama/Background_Manorama.pdf

https://idsn.org/key-issues/dalit-women/

https://www.hrw.org/reports/1999/india/India994-11.htm

https://www.dw.com/en/why-indias-dalit-women-are-vulnerable-to-sexual-violence/a-55423556

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