NEW DELHI, KOMPAS.com – “We are victims violence because of us poor, from low caste and girls, until we were humiliated by everyone, “a Dalit woman told researcher Jayshree Mangubhai a few years ago.
“Nobody wants to help or speak out about us. We face a lot sexual violence because we don’t have any strength, “said the woman as quoted from BBC Indonesia on Sunday (11/10/2020).
Last week, it was reported that a 19-year-old Dalit woman was allegedly gang-raped by a group of men from a higher caste in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Women the young man eventually passed away.
The news again highlights the rampant sexual violence faced by India’s 80 million Dalit women, who, like their male counterparts, languish at the bottom. hierarchy caste the hardest in India.
These women, who make up 16 percent of India’s total female population, face “multiple burdens” ranging from gender bias, caste discrimination and the deprivation of economic rights.
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“Dalit women are among the most oppressed groups in the world,” said Dr Suraj Yengde, author Caste Matters.
“They are victims of oppressive cultures, structures and institutions, externally and internally. This is manifested in the violence that Dalit women continue to experience.”
The tail of rape and murder recently against a woman in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, who was allegedly committed by an upper caste man, received the usual response when a Dalit woman was sexually assaulted.
Police are slow to process complaints, investigators respond slowly, officials doubt rape has occurred, there are innuendos that have nothing to do with caste, and the authorities appear to side with upper-caste abusers.
In fact, some media, from newsrooms dominated by journalists from the upper caste, have questioned why sexual violence should be linked to caste.
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In other words, the state and part of society in India conspires to downplay or remove the link between sexual violence and caste hierarchy.
After the alleged rape incident in Hathras last week, the Uttar Pradesh government, led by upper-caste BJP politicians, rushed to cremate the victim in the middle of the night.
They also outright banned the media and opposition politicians from visiting the village where the victim’s family lived, which led to the suspicion that something was being covered up.
In an unprecedented move, the government hired a private public relations agency to push its narrative that this was not an incident of rape.
Dalit women across rural India have been victims of sexual violence during this time. In these areas, most of the land, resources and social power remain in the upper and middle castes.
Even though, there was a 1989 law passed to prevent atrocities against the community, the violence against Dalit women never stopped. They are continuously being followed, tortured, raped and killed without any fair punishment.
Also read: Dalit caste girl raped and tortured until paralyzed, suspects from higher castes
Ten Dalit women were raped every day in India last year, according to official government figures. The northern state of Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of cases of violence against women and girls.
Three states, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan, report more than half of the cases of atrocities against Dalit women.
In a 2014 study of 500 Dalit women in 4 states regarding the violence they faced, 54 percent admitted to experiencing physical assault, 46 percent experienced sexual violence, 43 percent faced domestic violence, 23 percent were raped, and 62 percent experienced violence verbal.
Dalit women bear the brunt of violence from all castes, including their own.
The Center for Dalit Rights group studied 100 incidents of sexual violence against Dalit women and girls in 16 districts in India. The research was conducted between 2004 and 2013.
They found that 46 percent of the victims were under 18 years old, and 85 percent were less than 30 years old.
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The perpetrators of violence came from 36 different castes, including the Dalits themselves.
One reason why Dalits, especially women, are bearing the brunt of violence is because they are starting to talk about what they have experienced.
The turning point in the history of violence against Dalit women in India occurred in 2006.
At that time, there were 4 family members from caste Dalit, a woman, with her 17 year old daughter and 2 sons were brutally murdered by men from upper caste because of land conflicts.
The incident that took place in the remote village of Khairlanji in Maharashtra state began when the two Dalit women headed to the police station to file a complaint over a land dispute with upper-caste members in their village.
“This gruesome incident stirs the conscience of the Dalits and highlights their social suffering and discrimination,” said historian Uma Chakravarti.
Also read: Pregnant due to raping, 16 year old girl in India is killed by her father and sister
The upper caste was rocked by the Dalit counterattack. In the Hathras case last week, reports showed the victim’s family had a two-decade dispute with an upper-caste family.
Across the country, social transformation is sending Dalit girls to school and encouraging Dalit women and feminist groups to make their voices heard.
“Unlike before, the Dalit’s solid female leadership articulated its own grievances and led the struggle without other interference,” said Dr Yengde.
The Dalit Woman fought back and her counterattack seemed more brutal than ever.
“Previously the violence was invisible and underreported,” said Manjula Pradeep, a prominent Dalit rights activist.
“Now we are seen. Now we are stronger and more assertive. Most of the violence now is to remind us of our boundaries,” he said.