About the Book
The right to equality regardless of gender and caste
is a fundamental right in India. However, the Indian government has
acknowledged that institutional forces arraigned against the right are powerful
and shape people’s mindsets to accept pervasi gender
and caste inequality. This is no more apparent then when one visits Dalit women living in their caste-segregated localities.
Vulnerably positioned at the bottom of India’s gender, caste and class
hierarchies, Dalit women experience the outcome of
severely imbalanced social, economic and political power equations in terms of
endemic caste-class-gender discrimination and violence.
The study presents an analytical overview of the
complexities of systemic violence that Dalit women
face through an analysis of 500 Dalit women’s
narratives across four states. Excerpts of these narratives are utilized to
illustrate the wider trends and patterns of different manifestations of
violence against Dalit women. The study calls for the
implementation of comprehensive preventive and punishment measures to eradicate
caste-c1assgender discrimination and violence against Dalit
women in both public and private lite, in conjunction
with measures to fulfil their human rights.
S.J. is the
Programme Director of the Research Advocacy and Human Rights Education
Department in the Institute of Development.
Education, Action and Studies (IDEAS).
Jayshree P. Mangubhai
has been working as Research and human Rights Associate in the Institute of Development. Education, Action and Studies (IDEAS).
A Note from the Authors
This book presents an analytical overview of the complexities of systemic
violence that Dalit women face in India today through
qualitative and quantitative data analysis of 500 Dalit
women’s narratives of violence across four states: Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Tamil
Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh.
Excerpts of these women’s narratives are utilized to illustrate the wider
trends and patterns of different forms and manifestations of violence against Dalit women within both the general community and the
family, from state and non-state actors of different genders, castes, and
socio-economic groupings, occurring between 1999 and 2004. Examination of the
divergent world-views of the victim-survivors and perpetrators reveal the
causal factors for conflict and violence, as well as the various rights being
denied to Dalit women in the course of violence.
Alongside analysis of Dalit women’s vulnerability to
violence, their assertions, courage, and resilience to survive violence and
struggle for justice are considered. Finally, an examination of the responses
of state and non-state actors o this violence exposes
the culture of impunity that currently prevails in the context of violence
against Dalit women. The women’s voices are
authors, and yet as far as possible care has been taken to allow the women to
engage with the reader as freely and naturally as possible in order to
communicate a genuine and natural understanding of their reality.
This book contains a condensed version of Volume
I: Study Report, which was published along with
(Detailed), and Volume III: Case Narratives by the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), National Federation of Dalit Women (NFDW) and Institute of Development Education,
Action and Studies (IDEAS) in November 2006.
Why focus on violence against Dalit
women in particular, some people might ask? Is violence not ubiquitous among
all women, irrespective of caste? Is not the violence faced by Dalit women exactly the same as that faced by any other
woman in India today? Violence against women in India in general is structured
by relationships of power embedded in systemic caste, class, and gender
discrimination. What is specific to Dalit women,
however, is their socio-economic positioning at the bottom of the caste, class,
and gender hierarchies, resulting in social exclusion. Intersecting
caste-class-gender systemic factors entail greater vulnerability to coercive
violence utilized to maintain caste norms or caste-based gender norms vis-a-vis Dalit
women, as well as to retaliatory violence in response to Dalit
women’s assertions of their rights by defying caste and ‘untouchability’
norms or asserting their rights to cultural, economic, and political resources.
Besides, dominant discourses of Dalit women’s sexual
availability, their criminal nature, and their inherent inequality with other
women and men serve to legitimize and exacerbate violence against them. It is
for these reasons that this advocacy-research study focuses solely on Dalit women, in order to highlight their specific reality
of violence, which functions to constrain their agency and voice, and to
subjugate both them and, through them, their communities.
While much of the perpetrators’ language of verbal
abuse included in this book falls well beyond that which is generally deemed
acceptable in civil discourse, the objectionable language has been included
after serious deliberations with Dalit women and men
activists from across India. The study team’s dilemma over whether to include
this hateful, degrading language or not in print, even while it is integral to
the Dalit women’s narratives of experienced violence,
recognized the objections that might be raised by sections of the Dalit community in particular, and by civil society at
This dilemma was, however, resolved after a
consultation held on 1 June 2006 in New Delhi with the following persons: Vimal Thorat, convenor, NCDHR
Campaign on Violence against Dalit Women; Urmila Bahan, secretary, NCDHR
Women’s Desk; Manjula Pradeep, director, Navsarjan Trust; Sudha Varghese,
director, Nari Gunjan:
Jyotsna Macwan, co-convenor, NCDHR; Jhansi Geddam,
co-convenor, NCDHR; Manas Jena, eo-convenor, NCDHR;
Annie Namala, consultant, Dalit
Women’s Study; Paul Divakar, convenor, NCDHR; and
Vincent Manoharan, general secretary, NCDHR. In a separate meeting, Ruth Manorama, convenor, NFDW, also endorsed the decision
arrived at in the consultation. At the New Delhi consultation it was
unanimously agreed that the verbal abuse be presented in full, un-edited, in
order to accurately convey the force and character of verbal violence
experienced by Dalit women. It was also agreed that
this form of violence, hitherto shrouded from public view, must be exposed, and
the silence surrounding this subject deliberately broken.
Throughout the book, the names of the
victims-survivors, family members, perpetrators, villages, towns, and state and
non-state actors approached for remedies, have all been changed in order to
protect each woman’s identity and ensure her personal security following the
sharing of her experiences of violence. Only the names of the states and
districts remain unchanged.
As a further note, while the authors have occasionally
been obliged to utilize such terms such as ‘low’ or ‘lower’ caste, ‘higher’ or
‘upper’ caste, ‘polluted’, ‘untouchable’, ideology of women’s ‘honour’, etc.,
in order to distance ourselves from the ideology that underpins these terms,
the terms have been placed within quotes when they first appear in each
chapter. Thereafter they appear in the chapter without inverted commas.
This study is aimed at national and international
advocacy work on Dalit women’s rights in general, and
specifically: to highlight the manifold violations of their rights through
violence that permeates their lives under the caste-based patriarchal social
system in India; and to hold the Indian state accountable for the dearth of
data on Dalit women as well as to expose its failure
to check systemic violence against them. Bringing this information to the fore,
we believe, will provide Dalit, women’s, and human
rights movements and organizations across India and abroad with concrete
documentary evidence to strengthen their lobbying and campaign work: that is,
pressurizing and influencing responsible state agencies and civil society into
from the Authors
of Dalit Women
Forms and Frequency of Violence: An Overview
Kidnapping, Abduction and Forced
Foeticide and Infanticide, Child Abuse and Domestic Violence
Factors for Violence
Dalit Women’s-Courage and Resilience
Effects of Violence on Dalit
Responses to Violence against Dalit Women
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