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Status of Dalit Woman

Sujatha Surepally
(Impressions from the first National Dalit and Adivasi Women’s Congress held on February 15-16, 2013, at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai)
We live in nature! We die in Nature! It’s our life, if you occupy our land where should we go and how do we live? Whose land is this?
The hall is echoing with the furious voice of Dayamani Barla, veteran Adivasi activist from Jharkhand. She is trying to unite people against mining in Jharkhand, around 108 mining companies are waiting to destroy Adivasi life in the name of mining, first they come for coal, next they say power houses, it continues, we are pushed out and out further. How do we live without our land? Spectacular speech for an hour, pin drop silence all around, everyone is identifying with her pain and agony. At the end of it, what is she is trying to convey?
Humko Jeene Do! Let us live our own life! If this is called development, we care a damn about it!
Blanket statement.
The two day Dalit and Adivasi women’s conference at Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai (15-16th Feb, 2013) started with the Adivasi struggle for survival, where they have to confront the  state and its policies. From then on we had the articulation of a range of issues from different women. Razia Patel, who represents a minority among a minority in her religion, with her co-religionists afraid of speaking of, listening to, or seeing the truth. It’s very astonishing but true that even among Muslims caste exists and some are discriminated against.
Samata Mane is still not able to understand issues involved with her identity: nomadic tribe or denotified tribe; most of the time she doesn’t belong to any, searching for an identity which the state forces them to identify with, reconcile with. She posed a question to all of us: where are we in this society?
Which identity will you give us, SC, ST, or Criminal Tribe? We don’t have ration cards or voter cards, where do we belong in this country?
Manisha Tokle, Dalit woman activist from Maharashtra, blasts the Govt., saying:
why do you allot money in the name of SC and STs when you overlook whether it is properly used? The tenders go to the non-Dalits and we are always the receivers, who should we ask this question?
Sunita Munda, an Adivasi from JNU, asked educated people to come back and save their community, they are neglected by the state and the people from their own community.
Why do they need NGOs to come and work for them?
This question she raises while working with an NGO.
The conference is a saga of self-reflections, disappointed times and struggles, a long list of inhuman treatments meted out by the other communities and the state. The conference also remembered the ideological questions, the state’s casteist behavior through its agents; ultimately all of it is imposed on these women. 95% of scavenging women suffer at the hands of their own Dalit community; men and society always treat them inhumanely.
In the name of Joginis, Matangis and Devadasis, Dalit women’s bodies are sold and tortured. Such painful narratives to listen to and loads of thoughts boggling the mind! What we can do? Many of these women are warriors on the ground, but they never get recognition, their stories and resistance never reported in the media. In fact, they are to be rightly seen as role models for our times.
There may be many more, but who will trace them and bring them out to the world and show that in spite of all the odds, difficult times, threats from all angles, ill-treatment by so called society and the intellectuals, they are fighting, fighting with the system? That’s the beauty of these communities, that’s the culture of these brave souls and that’s their identity, if one can understand from the heart and mind, all questions raised by them are weapons aimed at the non-Dalits and non-Adivasis. Phule, Ambedkar, Savithribai are the revolutionary icons today and forever for them.
For the first time, a Dalit-Adivasi women’s congress is organized in India, and all the speakers are from Dalit, Adivasi communities. Getting them on one platform is a herculean task for anyone. Salute to all those who conceived this noble idea. What shall be the impact and the results are not important now; the process is important and the initiation is the big step; this first step is the most important step. Lots of pain has been taken by the young activists, Anoop and Gurinder from Insight Foundation, who were the faces known to many; but there was an entire team of girls (Pradnya Bhim Sindhu, Aqui Thami, Rashmi Verbena Birwa, Manju Priya and others) and boys who were working for more than two months, round the clock, to gather speakers, papers, manage the organizational issues and logistics with minimum resources. 
Our ‘Dalit diva’ Thenmozhi Soundarajan, Kuffir (Round Table India), Ratnesh Kumar (Neel Kranti) etc were busy documenting the voices and the entire process with dedication and commitment. This would be the first such big conference held in India; this should be the time for reflection for the dominant castes, state and intellectuals who divide these sections in the name of cultural identities.
This conference tried to weave the depressed sections together, the underlying factors being discrimination and inequality. For many teachers, activists and students, this dais provided a platform to speak without any hesitation, editions and additions about their personal/professional experiences confronting caste, class and gender discrimination. Why even after 65 years plus we have to suffer like this? Some people ask innocently: is there caste in India? If anyone thinks caste discrimination and ill treatment of Adivasis are myths, they should definitely listen to these real life experiences.
It’s clearly evident everywhere; in literature, in educational institutions, media, policy, implementation, legislation and bureaucracy, perhaps even in the air and deep down in the layers of earth under India, that there is caste, there is discrimination against Adivasis, and women are the worst hit. A man asked a question from the floor: what do Dalit and Adivasi women expect? How do we understand this question? It again reminds me of: oh! Is there still caste in India today? To answer this question, where do we begin? Shall we say, we are discriminated against, from womb to tomb?
Why are our bodies targeted? Why only we bloody clean other humans’ shit? Why Khairlanjis happen to only us in open public places, while the whole village enjoys seeing it? What’s the answer you have for Haryana gang rapes on only Dalit women? Why in the forests, Northeastern states and borders, para military and security troops play with our bodies, destroy our lives? Why our women panchayat leaders get stripped and paraded naked even after being in the political system? Will it happen to any dominant caste woman and man in this country, openly, in public? Why Laximpetas’ happen in this shining India, this modern, global, Ram Raj? Why are the Gujarat massacres plotted to kill our brothers and sisters by our own people? We can give thousands of examples but still people are ignorant about CASTE and its DIRTY picture.
Dalit and Adivasi women are struggling for their identity, struggling for nature – are they struggling only for themselves, putting their own lives and families at risk? Are they not leading movements to make a better society? If they are fighting for the land, it’s not just for them but it’s for the universe. They are the professors of biodiversity, they are the saviors of nature, they want to keep it safe for future generations, they are not asking for a share in the wealth of the rich. Even today, I repeat, even today they are asking for minimum basic needs to survive. 65 years of independence failed to provide health, education and basic social security for them in this country.
Is this not a concern of all parties and ideologies which want to rule? Why do they want to rule and for whom? On whose votes do they come to power? Their number is not enough for 10% of vote share in electoral politics. Many countries have special courts for indigenous tribes; they have adopted self-rule and separate judicial systems. No one can enter into their zones, and they give respect to their indigenous peoples. Why does India not follow them when we have large numbers of Adivasis? The working class is the backbone of any society, 70% of working class is toiling in this country, only some are benefited (by the state’s policies) and their number is very low.
At the end, a few teachers expressed their concern that many Dalit and Adivasi students are not able to sustain their studies and there is high drop-out rate due to lack of soft skills, technical know-how etc. What does this convey to us? Why are they lacking these skills which are not necessary to survive in an (educational) institution or if needed, institutions must put extra efforts to teach them, isn’t it? When these communities are lacking basic minimum education, food to survive how can we think of inculcating these skills? How many rural govt schools or colleges have basic minimum infrastructure?
How much of insecurity surrounds the question of sending girl children to faraway places: can these sections afford to give them private education which is in the hands of dominant castes? When the society is not humane enough to treat them as human beings, how do they learn these skills and where will they work? Our children are suffering in professional courses like law, engineering and medical courses, they are in the hands of casteist professors and managements. How do the rest of the students feel? Will they feel comfortable? Whoever survived till now, speaking a little bit against injustice, writing about it: it’s due to their hard work, in spite of being in toughest environments, from all angles.
The conference opened a Pandora ‘s box – now the so called labour producing educational institutions must think about the questions raised by every speaker. They should review all the research programmes and assess where they are headed. They must do introspection themselves for not producing an intellectual class which will critically think and reduce the gaps in society. There will not be any research without critical thinking; higher education, research institutions are not govt policy evaluating centers, their inputs must guide the state and society at large.
Yes, we need such conferences in every university to sensitize them, give confidence to Dalit, Adivasi students; it’s our responsibility to express our views to correct the system which is totally corrupt. This is the only alternative now. We are born to struggle, struggle till the end!
13 / 15
Sujatha Surepally teaches at Satavahana University, Karimnagar, and blogs at www.surepally.wordpress.com
[Pictures courtesy: Nilesh Kumar]

 Dalit Network Netherlands 2012 



The Dalit Network Netherlands continued its political lobbying efforts in 2012 – with some very positive results. DNN contributed to a range of questions by MEPs, the European Parliament’s resolution on caste discrimination in India, and questions in the Dutch Parliament on the issue. The commitment by the new Dutch Foreign Minister to take up the Dalit issue in the EU can be considered a particular achievement.The network also highlighted the lives of thousands of Dalit girls in the Tamil Nadu textile industry who are working under bonded labour conditions under the so-called Sumangali or Camp Coolie system. This issue has been a cornerstone of DNN advocacy efforts. DNN raised awareness of Dalit issues through regular updates in Dutch and English on its website, the distribution of news articles to around 6.500 recipients, providing input for a 45-minute television programme on Dalits (featuring IDSN/DNN partner Navsarjan) during prime time and exposure among the members of the Dutch Council of Churches. The Dutch language version of the film We are not untouchable and the booklet Untouchable? were used in much of this work. 

The new Dutch government that was formed in November appears to pay more attention to caste discrimination than the previous one that had actually downgraded the Dalit issue. Although the new human rights policy is not expected until the spring of 2013, the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, Frans Timmermans, made clear – during the annual budget session – that he considers the issue very important. 

"The topic of discrimination based on work and descent has – as far as I am concerned – to be put higher on the agenda of the European Union. The European Parliament has recently adopted a very relevant resolution about the position of Dalits and I think that we can also better shape European policy on that basis," he said. This was a positive signal compared to the policy of the previous government. Despite a motion on the Dalit issue being adopted by Parliament and the promise of the Minister of Foreign Affairs to implement it, very little was done between 2010 and 2012. The positive policy shift can obviously be attributed to the change of government, but would probably not have occurred without DNN intervention. 

Corporate social responsibility has over the years become an important topic in Dutch public and political debate. The India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN) has played a significant role in raising this issue with both Dutch and international companies and with the Dutch government. ICN has increasingly integrated the caste/Dalit perspective in its own research on economic sectors like the garment, natural stone, leather and seeds industries. Annual Report IDSN 2012One of the issues that were intensively raised through campaigning and advocacy – and attracted a lot of attention in 2012 – is the bonded (child) labour and exploitation of young Dalit and other low-caste girls and women in the South Indian textile and garment industry. The fact that most of the exploited girls/women are Dalits was explicitly analysed and raised in DNN publications – especially the report Maid in India – and in advocacy efforts aimed at industry (almost 40 garment brands), the European Union, the Dutch government, a number of UN Special Rapporteurs and the media. 

Letters were sent to companies to which about half replied, questions were asked in the Dutch and European Parliament, the issue was raised in parliamentary debates and the media (including Indian media). Exploitation of Dalit girls in the textile industry has thus become a major CSR issue and has helped to raise the understanding of the public, the business world and policy makers on the intersection between labour rights exploitation and the vulnerable position of Dalits/Dalit girls in the labour market. 

These efforts have also had an impact on the position of the Dalit girls themselves. The DNN report Maid in India says that "the Sumangali scheme is abandoned at Eastman [one of the major Indian suppliers], that freedom of movement for hostel workers has improved and that wages are relatively high at Eastman." There have also been some improvements in other companies, although the structural problems remain.It is also relevant to mention here that the (independent) jury of the National Dutch Human Rights Award in 2012 selected a Dalit activist from Tamil Nadu, Mr Marimuthu Bharathan. This is an indication of the fact that the Dalit issue is now more recognised and accepted in 

The Netherlands as a major human rights issue. Another expression of this fact is the 45-minute programme on Dalits on prime-time television as part of a number of media reports on India. The activities of DNN depend very much on individual members, especially the India Committee of The Netherlands as co-ordinator of the Network. However, a number of partners continued to support Dalit organisations and/or Dalit related activities in casteaffected countries and the work of ICN on behalf of the Network. ICN continued to represent 

  • बिहार के दनियावां में तेजाब से जलाई गई दो दलित बहनें
Unheard Voices -DALIT WOMEN
An alternative report 
for the 15th – 19th periodic report on India 
submitted by the Government of Republic of India 
for the 70th session of 
Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, 
Geneva, Switzerland 
Jan, 2007 

Tamil Nadu Women’s Forum 
76/37, G-1, 9th Street, "Z" Block, Anna Nagar West, 
Chennai, 600 040, Tamil Nadu, INDIA 
Tel: +91-(0)44-421-70702 or 70703, Fax: +91-(0)44-421-70702 
E-mail: burnad@md3.vsnl.net.in 

Tamil Nadu Women's Forum is a state level initiative for women's rights and gender justice. Tamil Nadu Women's Forum (TNWF) was started in 1991 in order to train women for more leadership, to strengthen women's movement, and to build up strong people's movement. Tamil Nadu Women’s Forum is a member organization of the International Movement against All forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR), which has consultative status with UN ECOSOC 
(Roster). 

Even as we are in the 21st millennium, caste discrimination, an age-old practice that dehumanizes and perpetuates a cruel form of discrimination continues to be practiced. India where the practice is rampant despite the existence of a legislation to stop this, 160 million Dalits of which 49.96% are women continue to suffer discrimination. The discrimination that Dalit women are subjected to is similar to racial discrimination, where the former is discriminated and treated as untouchable due to descent, for being born into a particular community, while, the latter face discrimination due to colour. The caste system declares Dalit women as ‘impure’ and therefore untouchable and hence socially excluded. This is a complete negation and violation of women’s human rights. We urge this august body to pay special attention to this issue and come up with recommendations to eradicate the caste system. 

Dalit women are thrice discriminated, treated as untouchables and as outcastes, due to their caste, face gender discrimination being women and finally economic impoverishment due to unequal wage disparity, with low or underpaid labour. According to the Hindu caste hierarchy, there are four castes namely the Brahmins ( priestly caste), the Kshatriya ( warriors), the Vaishyas ( traders and the Shudras ( menial task workers). Below this four tier caste ladder is another rung, who are called the untouchables( Panchamas). Among the untouchables, the status of women is further eroded and closely linked to the concept of purity. This is what the rigid, fundamentalist Hindu promotes through continuation of caste system, imposing the Brahminical values to maintain the caste system’ 


The creation of a number of Hindu religious books including the Manusmriti, Atharva Vedas, Vishnu smriti, and many others like these and their strict compliance by the Brahmans (upper priestly hindu caste), led to a society in which equality between men and women was far from existent (Agarwal). Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, an architect of the Indian constitution, also makes it very clear in his article titled “The rise and fall of Hindu woman” that the root cause of suffering for women in India are these so called Hindu religious books (Thind; Agarwal). Books like the Manusmriti divide people into a stratified caste system and promotes inequality between men and women (Thind; Agarwal). According to the Manusmriti, women have no right to education, independence, or wealth (n.pag). It not only justifies the treatment of dalit women as a sex object and promotes child marriage, but also justifies a number of violent atrocities on women as can be seen in the following verses (Agarwal; Manusmitri): 


A man, aged thirty years, shall marry a maiden of twelve who pleases him. Or a man of twenty-four a girl of eight years of age. If (the performance of) his duties would otherwise be impeded, he must marry sooner. (Manusmitri IX.94) 


By a girl, by a young woman, or even by an aged one, nothing must be done independently, even in her own house.” (Manusmriti V.147) 

Her father protects (her) in childhood, her husband protects (her) in youth, and her sons protect (her) in old age; a woman is never fit for independence. (Manusmriti IX.3) 2

Women have no right to study the Vedas. That is why their Sanskaras are performed without Veda Mantras. Women have no knowledge of religion because they have no right to know the Vedas. The uttering of the Veda Mantras is useful for removing sin. As women cannot utter the Veda Mantras, they are as unclean as the untruth. (Manusmriti IX.18) 

A Brahman, Kshatriya, or Vaishya Man can sexually exploit any shudra woman. (Manusmitri IX.25) 

Even the killing of a dalit woman is explicitly justified as a minor offence for the Brahmins: equal to the killing of an animal (Manusmitri). If the killing of an untouchable was justified as a minor offence, you can imagine the treatment they received throughout their lives. 


In a male dominated society, Dalit women suffered unimaginable oppression, not only through caste, but gender too, from which there was no escape. The laws in the Manusmriti and other Vedic scriptures close all economic, political, social, educational, and personal channels through which Dalit women could be uplifted (Thind n.pag). The horrendous Laws in the Manusmriti were incorporated into Hinduism because they were favourable only to the Upper castes, which form the majority of India. Even today, in modern times, we see the severe oppression and exploitation of Dalit women. The Laws of the Manusmriti have a devastating effect on the level of education reached by Dalit women. 


The caste discrimination inherited by birth results in Dalit women facing multiple oppression that violates their economic, political, social and cultural rights. The most deprived section of the society comprises of dalit women who are the poorest, illiterate and easy targets for sexual harassment. The women face not just caste violence inflicted on them by the dominant castes, but also state violence. 


ECONOMIC


Of the total population, Dalit women constitute 16.3% of which 18% women live in rural areas. The women perform hard domestic labour which is unpaid and as agricultural labourers or casual labourers they continue to toil under the burning sun, with no protection or benefits that labour laws should provide, since majority of these women are in the unorganized sector. They do not even get the minimum wages that the state/country has specified, since they are unable to organize and demand for decent wage. Dalit women undertake manual, low paying, tedious, time consuming work. They earn less than one U.S. Dollar. 

The women have to walk miles to fetch drinking water and often the water is not safe and potable. Dalit hamlets are usually at the end of the main village or in the village outskirts. They live in small huts and even the few who may have slightly better housing are devoid of basic amenities such as sanitation, light and safe and clean drinking water. The women work on construction sites, carrying heavy loads of construction material. They also work in brick kilns for long hours, as casual labourers to lay roads with hot tar in the burning sun, without sandals and any other protective gear. The women have to walk miles not just for collecting water but also fuel and fodder for their domestic chores. Dalit women are victims of bonded labour, they are abused, sexually exploited by other caste, humiliated and are easy targets of insult. 


A study conducted come up with some shocking facts about the work of dalit women. What is horrifying is that Dalit women work more than bullocks and men. Bullocks and men work in a hectare in a year for 1064 hours and 1202, respectively, while women work for more than 3485 hours. The caste and patriarchal norms legitimise the poor economic conditions of Dalit women. She has to work to survive. She is powerless and has neither access nor control over resources. 


Manual scavenging continues as an occupation in India and most of the manual scavengers are Dalit women. The women are subjected to do this humiliating and degrading work, which further results in discrimination and social exclusion. 


GLOBALISATION


The process of globalisation has affected Dalit women considerably. With the introduction of new farming techniques such as, mechanization for harvesting and transplanting, women have lost their traditional work in the agricultural sector. Food crops have been replaced by Cash crops. Horticulture has been introduced by, big agrobusiness corporations for export purposes. This has deprived Dalit women of their land and the common resources in the village. Formerly women used to collect greens, fish, and shells from fields free for their food requirements. This is no longer available to them. The abject poverty condition has driven large numbers of Dalit women into sex trade to earn for their families. The Globalisation process has increased the feminisation of poverty and this has affected Dalit women in every sphere of their lives. There is also large scale migration from rural areas to the urban centres in search of better livelihood options. Women are left behind to bear the responsibility of the family. This further adds to the existing burden that Dalit women are trying to cope with. More and more female headed households emerge and most of them are Dalit women. Such situations push the women into further situations of impoverishment, making them more and more vulnerable to all forms of discriminations and violations. 

HEALTH


The health condition of Dalit women is alarming with high incidence of maternal mortality and infant mortality. This is due to the fact that Dalit women are unable to access health care services. Due to denial and sub standard healthcare services the life expectancy of Dalit women is as low as 50 years. The infant mortality rate is 90 / 1.000. The sex ratio of Dalit women is 922 / 1000 compared to 927 / 1000 for rest of the population in India. Due to poverty, Dalit women are malnourished and anemic. Early marriage and multiple child births causes the women to suffer from prolapsed uterus. Continuous bending and working while sowing and harvesting in agricultural causes acute back pain. They also develop skin irritation and allergy due to excessive use of pesticides. As they work barefoot and the soil is damp and wet, the women develop soars between their toes. Due to lack of awareness and medical care, many of them suffer from reproductive health complications, including STDs and cervical cancer with white discharges. 

Dalit women are easy target for the Government Birth Control Schemes. Women face forced sterilization, are tested for the use of new invasive hormonal contraception like guinea pigs. They are forced to use long-acting, hormonally dangerous contraceptives. They do not get basic medical facilities. Pregnant Dalit women receive discriminatory treatment in hospitals and there are instances where doctors have refused to conduct the delivery of Dalit women. 


Sasi, a Dalit woman, committed suicide by burning herself because she was deserted by her man. The doctors at the government hospital refused to treat her because she was a Dalit and she died due to lack of treatment. 


EDUCATION


A large majority of the illiterate population comprise of Dalit women with 76.24% of Dalit women being illiterate. The girl drop out rate among Dalit families is increasing with girl-children are forced to work as child laborers, More and more girl children from Dalit communities are school drop-outs and working as child labourers. Dalit women are illiterate because they have less access to education which is an inherent part of the caste system. There are not enough secure facilities for education, taking care of small children and they join the adults to add to the income of the family. Dalit girl children are involved mostly in hazardous work like Beedi making, working in match factories and in the fire-works industry. 

Traditionally dowry, which is not a practice of the Dalits has now became a bane. Due to Sanskritisation by the caste Hindus, the Dalits have begun to emulate the customs and rituals of the hindus. Dowry is one such custom. The Dalit families have succumbed to the societal pressures, added to this the fear of sending the girls to schools which are usually located in distant places deprive them of education. 


Nirma Rani, a Dalit girl student was slapped for saying "Namaste" to a Brahmin teacher and her father was beaten up later for questioning such an act. Caste is practised in schools where Dalit children occupy separate seats given to them. Dhanam lost her eye when she was beaten up by her teacher for taking drinking water by herself without waiting for the other caste fellow to serve her from the pot. 


Girl children are deprived of access to education as belonging to economically weak families, they are unable to pursue their education. They do not get uniforms, school books, special fees, and have to walk long distances to reach their school. This is a limiting factor for dalit children. 


POLITICAL POWER


Dalit women are excluded from decision making. They are not in a position to exercise their power. Wherever dalit women have contested, they have faced stiff opposition and even been brutally attacked. The 73rd amendment provides for mandatory reservation for Dalit women to be elected to the local governing bodies. They are elected but not able to exercise their power. Menaka (a Dalit women and a village Panchayat President was killed in broad day light. 

Ranganayaki was deposed for solemnising an inter-caste marriage. Banwari was gang raped when she objected and reported to the authorities against child marriage in her village. Gowri was made to parade naked for hoisting a flag on Independence Day. Dalit women are militant and powerful. They are now fighting for political power within this caste system. 


There are instances where Dalit women have been elected into local governance and through the reservation policy nominated as the President of the local governing unit called Panchayat. But when these women have endeavoured to exercise their role, it has met with resistance even to the extend of physical violence. A Dalit woman President is not allowed to sit on a chair if the other caste members do not allow this. She is forced to be a mere figure head, while the functioning of the Panchayat is taken over by other upper caste members. 


There are several traditional practices and customs that violate human rights. The practice of dedicating girl-children to become Devadasis, Basavis and Mathammas. This practice is a violation of Dalit Women's Rights. Dalit women are discriminated and treated as untouchables. The shoemakers, Arunthathiar, practice Mathamma, dedicating Dalit girl children to their goddess Mathamma. 


Superstition coupled with poverty and illiteracy is responsible for such practices. It is also using religion to sanction prostitution through the interpretation of mythology by the upper caste so that they can both economically and sexually exploit dalit women. It also is a form of upper caste manipulation to control the lives of Dalits. Further the lack of medical services, allows for such practices to flourish. There is a strong belief that the goddess has healing powers. So when a Dalit girl is sick. She is taken to the temple and left there till she is cured of her sickness. As already mentioned the economic situation is another reason that Dalits are unable to spend money to buy good health service. Once the child is cured, the child is named after Mathamma and married to the goddess with the "Pottu Thali" (wedlock). After she becomes a dancer she belongs to the temple. During temple festivals she dances and earns her livelihood. She is not treated with respect and publicly humiliated by men who harass her sexually. 


The team which plays music with her exploits her by having a share in what she earns. 


Once the girl is dedicated to Mathamma, she cannot marry and lead a family life, as she is wedded to the Goddess. Therefore, she is sexually exploited by her partner who leaves her, to fend for herself and her child. Other men also tend to sexually exploit these Dalit women. Mathammas have no family, no security and left all alone with a child, so she has to struggle life long to maintain herself and the child. 


Dalit women who are dedicated to Mathammas end up in the sex trade and become vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS. 


Dalits facing Human Rights violations is a legion. A random sampling of headlines in mainstream Indian newspapers tells their story: "Dalit boy beaten to death for plucking flowers"; "Dalit tortured by cops for three days"; "Dalit 'witch' paraded naked in Bihar"; "Dalit killed in lock-up at Kurnool"; "7 Dalits burnt alive in caste clash"; "5 Dalits lynched in Haryana"; "Dalit woman gang-raped, paraded naked"; "Police egged on mob to lynch Dalits". 


"Dalits are not allowed to drink from the common wells meant for all the people, attend the same temples, wear shoes in the presence of an upper caste, or drink from the same cup in tea stalls," said Smita Narula, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch, and author of Broken People: Caste Violence Against India's "Untouchables." Human Rights Watch is a worldwide activist organization based in New York. 


India's Untouchables are relegated to the lowest jobs, and live in constant fear of being publicly humiliated, paraded naked, beaten, and raped with impunity by upper-caste Hindus seeking to keep them in their place. Merely walking through an upper-caste neighborhood is a life-threatening offense. 


Nearly 90 percent of all the poor Indians and 95 percent of all the illiterate Indians are Dalits, according to figures presented at the International Dalit Conference that took place May 16 to 18 in Vancouver, Canada. 


Non-implementation of existing safeguards


Despite the existence of constitutional, administrative and legal provisions to protect women from all communities, and specific provisions for women in the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (1989), women of disadvantaged groups are vulnerable to gender-specific abuses such as rape, stripping and being paraded naked. AI found non-implementation of the provisions set up to protect these very women against such abuses and to enable them to take advantage of the criminal justice system. Impunity for perpetrators remains one of the main obstacles to stopping violence/torture of women both in the community and by employees of the state. This pattern of non-implementation leads AI to believe that the government of India is failing to exercise due diligence in preventing these abuses.( Amnesty International Report) 

The Appeal 

Caste, class and gender discrimination prevents Dalit women from enjoying their basic human rights, particularly to dignity, equality and development. Atrocities and violence against Dalit women are both a means of sustaining systemic discrimination, as well as a reaction when particularly untouchability practices and caste norms are challenged or not adhered to. Impunity for this discrimination and violence is then used as a means to preserve the existing caste and gender disparities. Before Dalit women can enjoy their human rights, and before the Millennium Development Goals can be achieved, discrimination, violence and impunity must stop. 

Cases of Atrocities committed on Dalit Women

Asha a seven year old Dalit child who belongs to the Meliruppu village of Cuddalore district was brutally raped by an other caste boy Kuppan from the same village on 23.05.2005. The child fell unconscious and had to be rescued by a team of Dalits who later admitted the child in a hospital. A case was registered after much protest from the villagers. However the police failed to register the case under the SC/ST prevention of Atrocities Act. The perpetrator was arrested and enlarged on bail. (Global Action for Dalits: Report 2005, Tamil Nadu Women’s Forum) 

Rajasthan Dalit social worker gangraped –January 24th ,2006

 In a chilling reminder of the Bhanwari Devi case, a Rajasthan anganwadi worker was allegedly 
gangraped by her supervisors during a state sponsored training session. Instead of helping the 25 year old Dalit woman, the police tried to hush up the incident, declaring her mentally unstable and packing her off to a psychiatric clinic. According to the FIR the woman, an anganwadi sahyogini, was raped by three of her supervisors after her female supervisor took her to a room at the training center in Karauli, some 150 km from Jaipur. The incident took place on the night of December 30th,2005. Her husband was told three days later that she had been admitted to a hospital after a ‘mental breakdown’. We brought her back to Karauli but the police refused to file our case. When they finally lodged an FIR on January 20, the SP again sent her with a constable to Jaipur to get her admitted to the SMS Hospital’s psychiatric center. Her husband Ram Niwas Meena said that SP B K Pande denied the charge: ‘We did not send her to the psychiatric center. We have arrested two accused and are hunting for the other two’. Home Minister Gulab Chand Kataria, who visited her in hospital today, said a probe will be held. 

Dalit women tortured in Jail – Punjab

Three Dalit women from Muktsar district in Punjab have accused the police of torturing them, including administering electric shock to their “private parts” and confining them illegally. Talking to reporters at the BJP headquarters in Chandigarh on Friday, Amarjit Karur, Virpal Kaur and Rarni alleged they were picked up by the police after they rejected the overtures of two drug traffickers to join the flesh trade. Amarjit alleged she and Virpal were detained for five days at the police station. “We were tortured in the presence of the SHO. We were stripped and electric shock administered to our private parts,” she said, adding that she suffered a miscarriage due to this. Virpal said their families were silenced with threats. Both claimed they were let off without registration of any complaint or FIR after five days. They alleged the SHO was acting at the behest of the drug traffickers. Rani’s claims were similar. The district BJP unit arent’t buying the DSP’s claim that the women were picket up for trafficking poppy husk and plan to approach the Punjab 

Human Rights Commission, National Women’s Commission and SC/ST Commission. 

 (Hindustan Times 18.2.06)

Dalit women denied passport

 Girija Devi, a Dalit woman who was scheduled to attend a UN seminar in the US, failed to get her passport. Opposition parties in the state have threatened to take up the issue in the assembly, Girija Devi, a 59 year old mother of four from the Musahar community, was scheduled to address a seminar on ‘Women Environment and Development Organisation’ in Bhojpuri. “It was the state government’s fault. This was done to stop her from attending the UN convention to present her views” said RJD leader Shayam Rajak. Musahar Vikas Manch leader Amar Kumar Majhi said red-tapism was to blame. “The old Dalit woman was forced to run from one office to another. She would had done Bihar proud by speaking at an international convention” he said. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said, “I will take action. Let me collect the 
facts”.  (Hindustan Times 28.2.06) 

Death in police station, probe sought

Jaipur: The National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights has demanded a CBI enquiry into the death of a Dalit woman in Chomu police station of Jaipur district on Thursday. The woman, Kamla, who was brought to the police station to meet her son who was in police custody on a charge of murder, had died of mental shock and agony due to police misbehaviour, an enquiry report by NCDHR and Centre for Dalit Rights said. The main opposition in the State, the Congress party had made a similar demand. Pradesh Congress Committee president B.D. Kalla in a statement on Friday demanded a judicial enquiry into the case. The party has alleged that the death had taken place at the police station following the ill treatment of the victim. The Chomu police last week had arrested Kammla’s son Sumit on a charge of murdering a history sheeter Sikandar Khan. Kamla, a schoolteacher was taken to the police station on Thursday last by five constables, including two women constables to meet her son in the lock up. The police version is that the woman, apparently depressed over the act of her son had consumed poison at home before leaving for the police station. She gave a dying declaration to this effect but her family members had challenge this. The NCDHR team, which visited the spot, found the role of the police and administration “doubtful”.  (The Hindu 5.6.06) 

Upper castes ill-treated us Dalits

 Dalits in Cidiyas village, in Rajasthan’s Bhilwara district, say they were ill treated when they worked as labourers engaged in famine relief. “The upper caste Hindus treated us as untouchables when they served drinking water,” said Prema Meghwal. The village falls under the constituency of Rajasthan rural development minister Kalular Gujar and has a small Dalit population. The upper caste Hindus employed three upper caste women – Madhu, Chandi and Pushpa Suthar- to serve water to the Dalits at the relief work site Badri Meghwal told this correspondent. Last week, they decided to clean up the temple to Devra, a local deity, and asked the relief workers to volunteer. “They employed Dalit women to clean the premises. When the work was finished, they collected Rs.5 from each worker, barring Dalits, saying their 
contribution would not be accepted by the deity,” claimed Bhanwar Meghwanshi, a Dalit activist in Cidiyas. “It is shocking for us as the deity accepted our voluntary work, but not offerings,” said Mr. Meghwanshi, well known among Rajasthan’s Dalits as he publishes a magazine title Diamond India from his village Cidiyas. His wife Prema, who feeds her family by working as a relief worker, said there were 50 people employed at a government relief work of which 13 were Dalits. “You can see 23 workers are from a single powerful caste. Their males will not work, but they get a share in the earnings because the payment is taskbased,” Said Prema, adding, “We were not allowed to touch the pitcher and water served by upper caste women when we requested them,” She said. The Dalits raised the issue in the village, but the upper caste Hindus said it was a tradition and no one had the right to oppose it “I have asked the sub-divisional officer to look into the matter and send a report,” said Bhilwara additional district magistrate M.L. Yadav Reeling under severe drought conditions, Cidiyas has 300 Dalits and is dominated by caste Hindus. “Many times we quench our thirst with polluted water served by caste Hindus, “said Mr. Meghwanshi. “It is painful for as it happens during government-run relief work,” he added. (Asian Age 21/6/06) 

Doctor robs Dalit woman of Kidney 

In a bizarre incident, a Dalit woman has been robbed of her kidney by an Uttaranchal-based doctor. The woman has been waging a lone battle to get a case registered against the doctor but the police has, so far, refused to lodge her complaint. The victim has now written to the President of India and the National Human Rights Commission for justice and is also preparing to go to court. According to Phool Singh, a resident of Akbarpur Patti village in Jyotiba Phule Nagar, his wife Maya, 45, had been diagnosed as having stones in the uterus in December 2003. “We are poor and could not afford to bear the expenses of the operation. A relative told us about one Dr. Arun Richharia at Rudrapur in Uttaranchal, who does not charge fees from poor people. I took my wife to Dr. Richharia’s clinic, and she was operated upon by the doctor on December 20, 2003. We returned home after the operation, but after some time my wife again complained of pain. I took her back to the doctor for a checkup but he said that it was a minor post-operative problem that would vanish after a few months,” says Phool Singh. The couple returned to their village, but Maya continued to suffer from intermittent pangs of pain for almost two years after the operation. Finally, in January this year, the couple went to consult another doctor in the district, who recommended an ultrasound test. “When we got the ultrasound test done, we were shocked to find that Maya’s left kidney was missing. The following day we went to Dr. Richharia’s clinic and informed the receptionist of our problem. To our dismay, the doctor refused to meet us, and the hospital staff physically assaulted us for ‘attempting to malign the reputation of the doctor’,” says Phool Singh. The couple went to the local police station, but the police refused to register their complaint. “The police was obviously under the influence of the doctor, and though we showed them all the relevant papers related to the operation, they just refused to entertain our complaint,” says Phool Singh. (Asian Age 21/6/06) 

Dalit Woman beaten up and paraded naked 

A 50-year-old Dalit woman in a Jharkhand village was beaten up and paraded naked for allegedly “selling” a 12 year old boy in Uttar Pradesh two years ago. Balchand has been traceless ever since Sukri took him to UP with the assurance of a job. After the family of Balchand Oraon failed to trace the boy, they approached Sukri, a resident of Saram village. When Balchand’s father Mangra Oraon inquired about his son, Sukri said he had run away at Mugalsarai station and she had no clue about his whereabouts. Some people who had accompanied Mangra Oraon started beating up Sukri. Her husband Indru Nayak was also beaten up when he tried to intervene. Sukri was then forcefully taken to Balchand’s village and stripped. She was forced to roam around the village and was later tied to a tree. The villagers then started beating her with sticks. The boy’s family believes Sukri sold Balchand and that he was still in the captivity of the owner of a brick kiln. After seven hours of trauma, the village elders decided that the Dalit woman should be burnt alive so that no other person would dare to so such a thing. Just when kerosene was being poured on her, some local journalists and the Chanho police reached and rescued her. Mangra has been arrested. (Asian Age 24/6/06) 

SC body backs woman sarpanch

The National Commission of Scheduled Castes has asked the Superintendent of Police of Jhajjar district (Haryana) to furnish the details in the alleged implication of a “Dalit woman sarpanch”, Sheela Devi, in a murder case. Her family members have approached the National Commission for Scheduled Castes which had earlier sent notice to the SP of Jhajjar that if the reply was not filed within the stipulated time, the commission may exercise the powers of civil courts conferred on it by the Constitution. On February 24, 2006. Youth Congress leader Bachu Pehlwan was shot dead in broad daylight by three men, near local MLA’s office in Bahadurgarh. Immediately, the police arrested nine people for his murder including a Dalit woman sarpanch of Mandothi. Sheela Devi had won the village Panchayat election in 2000 from a reserved seat. Currently Sheela is under police arrest. But her family members are crying foul. According to them the village is notorious for group politics that has resulted in several gang wars. They allege that murder of Bachu Pehlwan is the result of a gang war. To vindicate their stand they sighted the 26 murders that have taken place in the village after the gang war was ensued between the two groups of Jats in 1994. The family members of Sheela Devi also allege that the village Panchayat was about to receive Rs. 4 crores as land compensation and one group was eyeing this amount. The group with the support of local MLA 
Rajendar Joon has falsely implicated Sheela and her husband. MLA Rajendra Joon was quick to refute the charges. He said, “The matter has not occurred because of the money, instead it is because of the rivalry that Bachu was murdered.” “In the war of the two groups, the Dalits are suffering as the poor people have to do what the groups of the goon are saying. They used to ask the sarpanch to use scandalous methods to siphon off the allocated money,” he said. Mr. Joon further countered the charges by saying, “It was me who used to stop them and this has made me an eyesore for them.” (Asian Age 28/6/06) 

Dalit women in UP protection force

In a move that will lead to empowerment of Dalit women in Uttar Pradesh, the Mulayam Singh government has decided to enroll Dalit women in the Prantia Rakshak Dal. The Prantiya Rakshak Dal (PRD) is a statelevel protection force that is usually deployed to maintain law and other in villages, in large congregations like the Kumbh Mela and during elections. The strength of the PRD force in UP is 24,000 and PRD jawans are sent for refresher training every three years. This will be the first time that women will get a chance to be a part of the PRD which, till now, is an all male force. The state government has now cleared the way for enrolment of more than 500 Dalit women in the PRD and recruitment will begin shortly from the district to the block level. Talking to this newspaper on Saturday, a senior official of the PRD department said,”This is being done for the first time to empower Dalit women in the age group of 20 to 30. Under the 
gender budgeting programme, nearly 30 per cent of the PRD force will comprise of women. In the coming assembly elections, people will see Dalit women dressed in khaki PRD uniforms deployed at polling booths”. The state government believes that this decision will not only instill confidence in Dalit women but will also take them away from traditional menial jobs. “Once the PRD enrolment begins, we see Dalit women moving away from menial jobs and becoming increasingly aware of the need for education”, the official said. According to sources, the state government has decided to encourage women to seek enrolment through a massive publicity campaign next month. “We will convince the women in the SC/ST categorize to step out of their homes and join the PRD which will give them financial independence, dignity and status in society,” the official added. (Asian Age 24.9.06) 
(htt://www.isidelhi.org.in/hrnews/dec/0712-2jun.htm) 

Dalit paraded half-naked for ‘not toeing’ Panchayat line

Bhopal: A women was allegedly beaten up, stripped and paraded by women in Dedgaon village of Harda district because a young girl from the village had been found in her house in a compromising position with an upper-caste boy. Fulvatibai of Korku tribe alleged she was paraded naked in public. Four female relatives of the girl, of Gond tribe, and two upper-caste women allegedly also strung a garland of shoes around her neck. According to Fulvatibai, she was tortured because she refused to give a false statement to the police that she invited had the girl to her house and locked her in. She claimed the girl had an affair with the boy and the two had entered the house in her absence. However, the girl’s family in a countercomplaint alleged Fulvatibai of inviting the 17-years-old to her house where Madan was already present and he molested her. SP (SC/ST) M.L. Solanki told. The Indian Express of shoes. Four women have been arrested and the police are looking for Madan, an OBC, who is at large. The police have also booked Fulvatibai for abetment to molestation on a complaint from the girl’s father. The girl told the police Fulvatibai had invited her home when she was returning after immersing a Durga idol at night. A team of state women’s commissions has left for the village to investigate the matter. The commission said it saw no reason to disbelieve the girl’s statement but felt the women should not have taken law into their own hands. A police official said the village Panchayat met after the incident and wanted Fulvatibai to give a statement to the police that would save the girl’s honour. When she refused to toe the majority line, the women decided to teach her a lesson, he said. Ramesh, the girl’s brother, has also been identified as an accused. (Indian Express 5/10/06) 

Dalit gets Rs. 4.5 lakhs for deaths

Nagpur: Over 12 days after the merciless lynching of four members of the Bhotmange family of village Khairlanji in Bhandara district, the Maharastra government has woken up and paid compensation of Rs.4.5 lakhs to the victims’ kin. The Maharashtra government on Thursda paid compensation of Rs. 4.5 lakhs to Mr. Bhaiyyalal Bhotmange, whose wife Surekha (44), daughter Prinyanka (18), and sons Roshan (23) and Sudhir (21) were killed in mob frenzy on September 29. The cheque was handed over by Maharashtra minister for social justice Chandrakant Handore. Speaking to reporters in Nagpur later, Mr. Handore said the incident was clearly a case of atrocity against Dalits and hence compensation was paid as per the Atrocity Act. Under the provisions of the Act, a compensation of Rs. 2 lakhs is paid for the death of each earning member of a family and Rs. 1 laky for the death of each non-earning member. The compensation payable to Mr. Bhotmange was Rs. 6 lakhs for the death of two earning members and two non-earning members of the family, Mr. Handore said. However, only 75 per cent of the total amount due is paid to the next of kin pending the disposal of the case, hence the cheque for Rs. 4.5 lakhs, the minister explained. Mr. Handore said Mr. Bhotmange owned five acres of land in the village. The owner of the adjacent field wanted to have a passage through the middle of the field, and would not make do with the passage provided by Mr. Bhotmange along one edge. The dispute was deliberately allowed to aggravate and ultimately assumed the form of mob frenzy against a particular section of society to which the Bhotmange family belonged, Mr. Handore said. The police had arrested 32 persons in this connection, and two or three other suspects were absconding, he said. All the suspects were from the same village, he said. (Asian Age 13/10/06). 

Up Govt. orders fresh probe into rape by SDM father

New Delhi: The Uttar Pradesh government has ordered a fresh inquiry into the sensational case of a 25 year old Dalit woman who has accused her SDM (sub-divisional magistrate) father of raping her and unleashing a reign of terror against her husband’s family to avenge her escape. Pratima, a science graduate, had approached the National Commission for Woman (NCW) nearly a month ago. Although the authorities in Lucknow are yet to respond to NCW letters, Pratima was called by the Director General of Police Bua Singh and Chief Secretary Navin Chandra Bajpai to Lucknow recently. “They gave me a patient hearing and have promised a fair inquiry into the false cases lodged against my husband’s family and also my personal exploitation by my father,” She told The Indian Express. An officer of the rank of Senior Superinteendent of Police has been given the charge of the inquiry. Pratima has alleged that her father Birendra Kumar, SDM of Derapur in Banda district of Kanpur, had repeatedly raped her for one year and the police authorities did not pay heed to her several complaints. Buckling under SDM’s influence, inquiry officers would inform her father about it and eventually she would be made to deny having made such a complaint. Finally, she had escaped and married a distant relative’s son. Pratima’s petition with the NCW said her “powerful father used his influence to allegedly kill her brother in law and got several false cases lodged against her in-laws.” In between, she was allegedly abducted and raped by her father again and only a habeas corpus petition filed by her husband set her free. Pratima, who is seven month pregnant, has been offered a job by the DGP. “They arranged a job for me for Rs.15,000 per month in a sugar mill and assured full security to the family. “Fearing attacks, Pratima and her husband have taken refuge in Delhi. However, maintaining her skepticism, Pratima said: “I want the false legal cases against my husband;s family withdrawn to feel secure.” The NCW has decided to send a special team to Lucknow to conduct an independent probe. (Indian Express 24/10/06)

Village quiet after it ganged up to hack Dalit mother, 3 children

Khairlanji (Bhandara): A day after mobs ran riot in Nagpur, protesting the killing of four of a Dalit family, an eerie silence has descended on Khairlanji, the village in Bhandara district where the family was hacked to death. No one here’s willing to talk, not anymore: “We haven’t seen anything. So what can we say?” Policemen, who weren’t there when they were needed, simply wave you on. In eastern Vidarbha’s paddy belt, Khairlanji has never been the same ever since the Bhotmanges, one of the three Mahar families in the village who became Buddhists, objected to people cutting across their field to get to their own. The Bhotmanges, who had land in Khairlanji, had moved in from neighbouring Ambagadh. This simple assertion of their right annoyed others in the village. Cutting across castes, they all ganged up against the Bhotmanges. Surekha Bhotmange, a mother of three, sought the help of Siddharth Gajbhiye, a cousin from neighbouring Dhusala, in the matter and this annoyed the villagers even more because Gajbhiye had already had a fight with one of them over a money transaction. Some villagers chased and beat up Gajbhiye. The Bhotmanges, especially Surekha, stood up for Gajbhiye and testified against the villagers, leading to their arrest. On September 29, Surekha, her sons Sudhir and Roshan and daughter Priyanka were hacked to death and their bodies thrown in a nullah. Priyanka and Roshan were stripped before they were killed. The attackers showed no mercy to even Sudhir who was visually impaired. Bhaiyyalal, Surekha’s husband, was the only one to survive. “I was in the field when I heard people shout. When I rushed to my hut, I saw some 50-60 people attacking my family. “Realising he couldn’s take on the mob, Bhaiyyalal fled, seeking shelter with relatives in nearby Warthi. “The local police should have gauged the seriousness of the development that led to the incident and acted to prevent it. They are at fault,” says a police officer. (Indian Express 8/11/06) 

Khairlanji protests: Cops look for the invisible hands

Nagpur: Two front activists of ultra-leftis groups taken over the protests against the Khairlanji killings? This is the question nagging the Nagpur police though. In a flare-up in the city yesterday, protests in Dalitmajority areas against the killing of four members of a Dalit family turned violent. The police resorted to lathicharge to disperse the rioting mob. The protests shifted to the satellite town of Kamptee around 11 p.m. The situation became so tense that the police had to call in a State Reserve Police company and impose curfew, which is still in force. Today, similar protests were staged in Yavatmal city leading to imposition of curfew in Patinagar and Ambikanagar. Bhandara district also witnessed minor incidents of violence. “These kinds of protests are generally organized by leaders wanting to take credit for the same. We do not know any such leaders here. So who are the people who instigated the mobs yesterday is what we trying to find out, said commissioner of police SPS Yadav here today. It was an entirely new kind of protest organization. Handbills were distributed first through backdoors and suddenly there was a crowd of some 3000 people in Indora,’ Yadav said. The Handbills categorically declared that henceforth the agitation won’t be allowed to be led by any politician and it called upon the Dalits to exact justice for themselves. “The Hindus will rape and kill our daughters and sons. Shall we remain mute? it asked. Response to the appeal was instant. Protesters stoned the house of north Nagpur Congress MLA Nitin Raut, himself a Dalit, 
who was the first one to visit Khairlanji and raise the issue. Throughout the day, protesters allegedly made abusive calls to a Hindi channel correspondent asking him to cover the protests and threatening to kill him he did not do so. When asked if the instigators were non-politiical, Yadav said, “I can’t say everything now. We hope to catch them soon”. A lot of misinformation was also being spread. (Indian Express 8.11.06) 

INDIA: Dalit female village head unable to conduct her public obligations due to manipulative caste discrimination

Name of victim: Mrs. Munia devi 
Address of victim: Koirajpur village under Harhua Block, Varanasi district, UP, India 

Alleged perpetrators: 

1. Mr. Ravindra singh, the resident of village Koirajpur, Varanasi 
district, Uttar Pradesh, India 
2. Mrs Sushma singh wife of Mr. Ravindra singh, the resident of 
Koirajpur village, Varanasi district, Uttar Pradesh, India 
3. Mr.Lalchand, the secretary of the Koirajpur village 
4. Satendra rai, Food Inspector 
5. Nilesh Uppal, Supply Inspector Pindra 
6. Rameshwar singh, Supply Inspector, Badagaon 
7. Sanjay singh, Nayab Tahasildar Athgaonva 
Duration of the incident: From September 2005 to date I am writing to you to inquire into the situation of Mrs. Munia devi, the current village head of Koirajpur village, under Harhua Block in Varanasi district of Uttar Pradesh, India. I have been informed that Munia is from the Chamar community belonging to the Scheduled Caste in India. I understand that Munia was elected as the village head in September 2005, but is still denied to the rights to discharge her duties and has being denied control over the management of the village by the upper caste persons named above. I am surprised to know that the village secretary who was appointed by the government to help the village head in manage affairs has joined hands with the upper caste people and is not aiding Munia in any way. I have also learned that Munia was physically assaulted by Mr. Ravindra singh for voicing her opposition to the corruption within PDS (Public Distribution System) shop. I know that Munia was allegedly verbally abused and intimidated by Mr. Ravindra Singh, the husband of PDS shop keeper. 
I am aware that the election of Munia as the village head of Koirajpur village was because the constituency was reserved for a member from the Scheduled Caste or Tribe during the 2005 elections. However, I understand that even though Munia was elected she is not able to discharge her duties as the village head thus far due to the threats and intimidation of the upper caste members named above and also due to the non-cooperation of the village secretary Mr.Lalchand. I am also aware that the 73rd amendment of the Indian Constitution was to percolate local administration to village level and also to facilitate empowerment of the marginalized communities in India especially the members of the lower caste and those from the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe and the women. 
However, from the facts made available to me regarding Munia's case suggest to me that such an attempt is yet to take real shape owing to various tactics played by the upper caste Hindus in rural villages in India. I am aware that while on the one hand this case could be considered as yet another example of caste based discrimination in India, I also see this case as a glaring example of the administrative failure in several parts of India, particularly in rural villages. It is clear that the acts meted out against Munia are a crime under Section 3(x) and section 4 of the Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. 

However, I am surprised to know why no action has been taken against the perpetrators in this case. I therefore urge you to immediately institute an impartial inquiry into this case and see to it that the complaints of Munia are addressed and also necessary action is taken under the provisions of the above law against the alleged perpetrators. I am also informed that the Asian Human Rights Commission is writing a separate letter to Mr. Doudou Diene the United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism and racial discrimination to express concern about this case and calling for an intervention. Safai karmacharis demand alternative livelihood  Manual scavenging, despite an Act banning it during the tenure of late Biju Patnaik, continues to be very much an obnoxious reality in most parts of the State. The disgusting practice is very much a reality even 13 years after the legal ban, even after the Centre asked all States to draw a list of manual scavengers engaged in the shameful practice of lifting human excreta with their hands and carrying it on their heads. Cleaning of dry latrines and transporting human excreta have been banned since 1993. Under the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993, the employment of scavengers or the construction of dry latrines (latrines that are not connected to a drainage system) could result in imprisonment of up to one year and/or a fine of Rs 2,000. Offenders are also liable to prosecution under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. 

 Estimates say there are more than 13 lakh manual scavengers in the country while State figure reached at more than one lakh comprising districts of Cuttack, Kendrapara, Phulabani, Nayagarh, Titilagarh, Sonepur, Kalahandi, Nuapada, Rayagada, Balesore and Puri. 
Interestingly, in its latest effort to eradicate manual scavenging, the Centre has set up a deadline of 2008 and asked all States to address the issue on a priority basis and prepare a comprehensive list of manual scavengers along with family details and addresses but ground reality is far to match with what the Union Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry is doing in this regard. Scavengers while speaking at a seminar here on Thursday organised by the Safai Karmachari Andolan demanded the State Government should provide alternative livelihood to them and rehabilitate them. They demanded the Government should finalise new schemes in which identified scavengers would be provided subsidy and loan for undertaking self-employment ventures, besides the scavengers should also be provided training. 
"Poverty has compelled us to this profession, if we stop, we should be given proper rehabilitation and alternative livelihood," said Sabita Das, 65-year old Safai worker of Bapuji Nagar. There are many like Sabita who, despite concerted efforts, cannot shake off the curse of being a lower caste and are forced into scavenging. Refusal to perform such tasks leads to physical abuse and social boycott In yet another case of police excesses which has come to light, a poor Dalit woman allegedly bore the brunt of the Balinga Outpost in-charge's high-handedness on Saturday afternoon. 
She was admitted to the District Headquarters Hospital (DHH) here only after the intervention of the locals.  The severely injured woman was reportedly denied even first-aid and the DHH staff, instead, sent her back to report the matter to the woman SP S Shyni. Some residents of the Hospital Chowk area helped her into a rickshaw and took her to the nearby residence of the SP, according to sources. 
Since the SP was not available at her office or residence as she was at the police reserve line on the outskirts of the town, the Dalit woman was brought back to the Chowk. The irate locals phoned a TV channel's Sundargarh correspondent who recorded her complaints in the DHH 
premises. This compelled the DHH staff to respond to the woman's plight. As per reports, the Dalit woman Dashmanti Rohidas (40) had been employed for over a decade as a 
sweeper at Balinga Outpost under Hemgir police limits since the inception of Basundhara Area MCLowned coalmines at Gopalpur. When the new in-charge of the Outpost, ASI Kashinath Kujur, took over, he allegedly divested Dashmanti of her job two months back. 
 When Dashmanti approached Kujur on Saturday at around 3 pm, Kujur allegedly hit her hard, which led to her bleeding. 
Kujur, on his part, stated that Dashmanti was habitually drunk and used to hurl abuses at his wife residing in the Outpost premises, following which he had recommended to the local MCL authorities to sack her. On Saturday afternoon, she once again threw her drunken tantrums, as a result of which he lost his temper and gave her a thorough dressing down. 

Dalit Murasu, March 2005 

Raja Nagar, Kancheepuram District: 
 Dalit women and Dalit community were neglected during the tsunami rehabilitation process. 
Government and other supporting bodies are only concern with the fisherfolk. They didn’t even turn to the Dalit community. Caste is playing a violence even in the disasters. 106 Dalit families are starving in Raja Nagar. Chinnamanickampangu, Nagapattinam: Vanamazhi a Dalit woman, aged 52 years has got few rehabilitation materials. She was directly attacked by the fisher community people and named her that she is taking the materials of fisher communities. 

Untouchability practices in Pudukottai District

A survey was conducted in 104 villages of Pudukottai district. In this area, untouchable practices are in various ways. 

Tea Shop: Three tumbler system 

Temple: Dalit communities are deprived to the temple worship. 
Saloon Shop: Dalit people are neglected to cut their hair in the saloon shops. 
Public resources: Village public resources were deprived, no rights to have a bath in the temple ponds, no graveyard for the Dalits. 
Marriage: inter-caste marriage was not allowed in the Dalit community. If they get inter caste marriage they will get punishment, they treat as bonded ages. 

Dalit huts were burnt in Soolagiri:

 August 15, 2006, 25 Dalit huts were burnt in Mathersanapalli Villlage of Krishnagiri District. 

Dalit women key to land rights fight:

New Delhi: Dalit women have been at the forefront of Dalit land rights movements and whenever they have participated in these campaigns they have been much more successful, advised Mr. Nicholas, the convenor of the National Federation for Dalit Land Rights Movement, at a seminar at the India Social Forum in New Delhi on Friday. He said at the seminar, which discussed “ caste and class attacks on Dalit Land Rights,’that Dalit women must always be involved in land rights movements. Manas Tena, also a convenor of same federation, said there are two areas where the federation is fighting for land rights of Dalit sand these include cases were Dalits hold possession of the land, but do not have right of the land and the other where the land belongs to them on paper, meaning they have rights, but they do not have possession of the land. “We are working at three levels first is the local level, second is the national level and finally at the South Asian level where Dalits from Pakista, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan also face the same problems in their countries.” Elaborating on Dalit Land rights movements, Mr. Nicholas said the Dalits are about 162 million strong in India and of these about 70 percent do not own any land. So, we are agitating for land to be given to the Dalits for their upliftment. He said it has been observed that Dalit women retain their land much better than their male counterparts and added that this was also historically true. (Asian Age 11.11.06) 

Dalit girl refused to drop rape charge, burnt:

Sahalwada, November 23: A 15 year old Dalit girl, who refused to drop a rape charge against an upper cste youth, was burnt alive by the alleged rapist when she was sleeping at her home late Tuesday. Asha katiya told the police before she died of her burns at a hospital in Pipariya on Wednesday that Chhote Singh Rajput had threatened to kill her if she did not change her statement in court. “ I will burn you set your house afire and cut your father into pieces,’ her mother. Shashibai, quoted the 22 year old as warning them when she was with her daughter in the field on Tuesday afternoon. Late in the afternoon, riding the only horse in the village, Chhote Singh sped past the girl’s house and around 9.00 p.m doused the victim with kerosene from an opening in the roof of a room where she was sleeping and threw a burning matchstick. Anita, the Victim’s aunt, told the Indian Express on Thursday. Anita claimed she saw Chhote Singh escape into in the fields. Unlike the Dalit family which is very poor, the Rajput family owns two acres of land. The horse belongs to some one else but Chhote Singh rode it occasionally. Asha had been allegedly raped in July and the court proceedings were on in Hoshangabad, the district headquarters about 90 km away. She was to appear in the court in a month. The family had a tough time arranging for a vehicle to take Asha to the hospital as she lay outsidie her house. The family members alleged that though there are many vehicles in the upper caste dominated village, no one came to their rescue and they had to call one from Sandia, about 8 km away. “They though if Asha dies the rape case will have no meaning”. Asha’s grandmother Narbadi alleged. The victim’s mother said the family was all prepared to leave the village the next morning but Chhote Singh struck before that. The family, however, did not inform the police or the villagers about the threat to their life. The upper caste villagers deny the charges leveled by the Dalit family. “He was with us when the incident happened, there are many eye witnesses,”Chhote Singh’s parents Laxaman Singh and Jeerabai claimed. He wanted to douse the fire but returned when he learnt that the girl’s father named him, Govind Sharma, a neighbour claimed. “The police are simply not recording our statements, they are going by what the girl said before dying, they should investigate the case properly,” Harish Sharma, a villager said, suggesting that the girl committed suicide. “It was a mistake all of us commit in our youth” he said of the rape charge. According to him, the family was getting frustrated because they could not find a match for her. SP Ved Prakash Sharma and DSP JS Jaggi said the police are 
going by the dying declaration where the victim clearly named Chhote Singh. The alleged killer was arrested on Wednesday afternoon from his home, a proof the villagers say proves his innocence. “He would have fled the village had he committed the crime,” sarpanch Govind Singh Rajput said. (Indian Express 24.11.06) 
http://www.isidelhi.org.in/hrnews/dec/0712-2nov.htm 



DALIT WOMEN IN INDIA

DR. J. MUTHUMARY,      PTOFESSOR
 CENTRE FOR ADVANCED STUDIES IN BOTONY,    UNIVERSITY OF MADRAS GUINDY CAMPUS, CHENNAI 600 025
E-mail: botany_vsnl.com

INTRODUCTION:
There are about 250 million Dalits in India. There is meagre improvement in the socio-economic condition of dalits in the past 50 years. Which that is not enough when compared to non-dalits. Of course, much more needs to be done. The urgent need is to have a national sample survey on dalits. Every fourth Indian is a dalit. There is no proper survey to give the correct number of dalit women in India. They are generally scattered in villages and they are not a monogamous group. About 75% of dalits live below poverty line. Economic backwardness of dalits is mostly due to injustice done to them by the high castes and also due to exploitation. From the time immemorial they worked like slaves, sold as commodities resulting in their social discrimination, economic deprivation and educational backwardness. To assess the position of dalit women in India this chapter is divided into various heads.


EDUCATION:

Till some years ago, many dalit women were ill treated and educationally backward inspite of the facilities for free education. The reasons for the high rate of illiteracy among dalit women are many.

The following are the main reasons:

1 Resistance from the family to send girls to schools.

2 Fear of insecurity in villages.

3 Lack of physical facilities like accommodation, school, transport and medical facilities.

4 The girls were forced to take care of the siblings when the parents are away at work.

5 Girls were forced to do domestic chores which prevent them from attending school.

6 Working to earn for the family prevent the girls from attending school.

7 Working with parents to earn their livelihood in beedi factories or other unorganized sector made them illiterate.

8 Because of the sick and unemployed parents girls were forced to work.

9 Many were forced to get married at young age, which stop schooling.

10 Social restriction is that the girls should stop education after marriage.

11 In some areas there are complaints from dalit women teachers of misbehaviors, blackmail and exploitation by the male staff of other high caste people.

12 Distance of schools from home.

13 Irrelevant content of the education system.

14 Fear of alienation of girls from their environment as a result of education are some of the other factors for low literacy level among SC girls. Even if the education improved the marriage prospects of the girls, the minus point is the increase in dowry. Therefore many parents wish to withdraw the girls from schools.

The present positions seems to be better with reference to the rate of literacy among dalits. The literacy rate is 31.48% for boys and 10.93% for girls. Dalits women belonging to the creamy layer of the society are better with good education and socially and economically they are well off like other high castes. They are fully aware of the welfare schemes provided by the Government and their percentage is very low when compared with the total dalit population. In rural areas, the first generation girls from SC needs the attention of Government and other organization. Mostly the teachers of the locality provide information to them about the welfare schemes. In many Dalit association executive position are occupied by male members whereas very poor representation is made by women in their pasts. The women are not properly informed about the Government schemes and there is an urgent need to get a feedback about the welfare schemes where lot of money is spent for the development of Dalits. The funds are not utilized properly for their upliftment. Many of the schemes go unnoticed because they are not popularized properly.
The coaching programmes conducted by the Government for dalit women are beneficial in training many women to compete in the competitive exam. These programmes also do not reach the needy dalit women because they are cornered by the very few creamy dalit women. This should be monitored properly and the schemes should be reached by the most deprived and constantly struggling dalit women. Because these dalit women are neglected by socially advanced communities and also by the better off among the dalits, which leads to an unhealthy socio-economic condition. There should be some scientific basis to pick up the poorest and they should be equipped with facilities.
There are some pre-examination coaching centers giving trainings for dalits which are doing very good service to train them in vocational line, for competitive exam, in medical and engineering field, railway recruitment boards, bank recruitment, etc.

Here are some suggestions for the better implementation of the schemes to dalit women:

1 Competitive spirit should be instilled in the girls.
2 Selection and identification of the talented girls should be done correctly.
3 Identify the candidate at college level for coaching.
4 Result oriented teaching is necessary.
5 Group discussions, quiz, and seminars to instill confidence.
6 Teacher : Student ratio 1:20 or below.
7 Monitoring by the teacher after class hours.
8 Loan facility.

Financial aid for uniform for girls, maps, charts, examination grant, laboratory facilities, library facilities should be provided for them special coaching should be given for meritorious dalit girls to compete for IAS and IPS. Hostel facilities for dalit girls at all levels of education starting from primary school up to higher education should be provided reservation policy especially for girls should be allotted in both admission and employment.

There is an increased awareness in recent years among dalit women about their rights and about the Government welfare schemes about higher education. This should be augmented by information technology, which should reach even to the remote rural citizen.


HIGHER EDUCATION:

The UGC has given reservation for seats in colleges for SC students 25%, ST 7.5%, which is highly beneficial. Also relaxation in marks for 5% is given to all dalit students in admission. Financial assistance in the form of fellowships is given to dalits. Rs. 3,600/- is given per JRF to continue research studies at the University level. There are special SC/ST cells at the University for effective implementation of the Government orders and to improve the condition of University level dalit students.

There are some of the suggestions for effective implementation of the various welfare schemes for the dalit students.

1 The communication gap between the educational institution and the social welfare department should be reduced.

2 District wise computer database of the male and female dalit students is very essential to provide necessary facilities to them.
3 Pamphlets with details about the welfare schemes should be distributed to the students.

4 Supply of books to the dalit students.

5 Incentive scholarship should be given to deserving and meritorious girls to encourage them for higher education.

GENDER EQUALITY:

Female infanticide is more prevalent among the uneducated dalit families. Educational development among SC women is very marginal because only girls were not sent to school because of the responsibilities at home.

Therefore the gender discrimination starts at the very early stage in the life of a dalit girl. Normally girl children are retained at home to look after the siblings. Another thing is the compulsory marriage of the girls at very early age after which the education is stopped. Generally in the male-dominated society, polygamy is allowed and more so in many dalit families. Because of this the position of the women deteriorated. Joint family system, polygamy, property structure, early marriage, and permanent widowhood were hurdles for the development of all women in early period. But in the twentieth century, after the Mahatma Gandhien movement to educate women, slowly changes occurred in the position of women. But here, rural women were more blessed than urban women because divorce and remarriage were allowed for them. Mainly Sudras (i.e. low caste people) allowed divorce and remarriage for their women.

OCCUPATION:
The occupation of many SC women can be divided in the following heads:

1 Agriculture labourer.
2 Marginal Cultivators.
3 Fisherwomen.
4 Traditional artisans.
5 Leather Workers.
6 Weavers.
7 Scavengers and sweepers.
8 Midwifery.
9 Beedi factories and unorganised sectors.

The Work Participation Rate (WPR) of SC population is said to be for males 22.25% and for females 25.98%.

The contribution of SC women to the economic development of our country is significant especially in the agricultural sector. They are exploited by the higher caste landlords. They are paid very marginal salary for the hard work in the field for the whole day. In leather industries the tanning process is considered to be an unclean job which is done only by socially backward class. Traditional artistes get very more benefit because the middleman exploits them. The condition of scavenger and sweepers is very deplorable and they the most vulnerable sectors among SC. The working condition is very poor and the remuneration is also very poor.

FAMILY ROLE:
Because of the girls remain uneducated, they got married very early. Marriage in the high reproductive stage with high fertility rate, children care more. Because of the unlimited family, the burden fell on the young girls which affected their health. They were not able to assist in family matters to their husbands. But now the situation is different. The girls manage to plan their family, educate the children, assist the husbands in family matters and office going and professional girls improve the economic conditions. On the whole the family becomes socially developed because of the education of the girls.
Education among women increased intercaste marriages, which is definitely a sign of development. Government also encourages intercaste marriages among dalits and highcaste by incentives.

PROTECTION FROM ILLTREATMENT:
Most women are illtreated even today among tribals. Ministry of welfare GI (1993 –94) Annual report had recorded 18,014 crimes against SCs (murder, rape, etc.).
Disputes on land, minimum wage for SC workers bonded labourers, in debatedness – problem.

SC/ST under privileged, regarded less then humanbeings assigned lowest of the low status in society.
Scavenging: is no other country scavenging is amalgamated with the evil structure of caste.

UNTOUCHABILITY AND ILLTREATMENT:
1 Non-access to temples, places of worship.
2 Non-access to hotels and eating-places.
3 Not available – barber services for SC/ST Tamil Nadu.
4 Not allowed in gramsabha sittings – Tamil Nadu.
5 Discrimination in educational institution, public health services.
6 Not allowed to participate in social ceremonies – Tamil Nadu.
7 General untouchability – Tamil Nadu.
8 Enforcement of removal of carcasses – Tamil Nadu.
9 Not access to public cremation / burial ground / public pathways/roads.
10 Not allowed in residential premises of high caste.
11 Access to Dharmasalas – denied.
Untouchability is acute in villages. There is a gradual change in rural areas because they have become aware of their rights. Spread of education, improvement in economic conditions, welfare measures.

MEASURES TO BE TAKEN FOR UPLIFTMENT:

BASIC COMMON NEEDS:

The following facilities should be provided:

1 Nutrition:
Malnutrition in female children high infant mortality should be corrected.
2 Health:
Unclean surroundings – proper accommodation should be provided.

3. Family welfare:
SC – women get married very soon high fertility – affect health.
4 Safe drinking water.

5 Electricity in village.

6 Essential goods and medicines.

7 Retail outlets not available.
8 Fair price shops – necessary.
SLUM IMPROVEMENT AT THE GOVERNMENT BASE:
1. Conservation of assets of SC.
2 Provide land to SC women.
3 Train them in new fields for employment.
4 Ensure minimum wages.
5 Compulsory education up to 35 years.
6 Introduce new employment facilities.
7 Self-employment program for women.
8 Modernizing existing traditional activities.
9 Liberate the women from scavenging work – alternative arrangement for dignified work.
10 Eradicate social untouchability.
11 Provide minimum basic facilities.
12 Positive discrimination. i.e. policy of reservation should be continued both in Government and public sector.
13 Fee excemption, age relaxation for direct recruitment – separate interview.
14 Atrocity control room:

Close watch, monitoring of atrocities against dalit women.

PRESENT POSITION:
The present position is better because of education, literacy rate for boys 31.48%, girls 10.93%. Now they have lot of self respect, aware of their rights, organisations to voice their feelings. The creamy layer is well aware of the Government welfare schemes. Among SC dalits executive positions in associations are occupied only by men, very poor representation by women. Feedback about the welfare programme is very essential.

The Status of Dalit Women in India’s Caste Based

System, Sonia Mahey, University of Alberta

In this paper I wish to present the devastating effects of the caste system on the educational, social, and economical status of Dalit women in modern India. My aim is to highlight the harsh reality of the suppression, struggle and torture Dalit women face every day of their miserable lives. The hardships of Dalit women are not simply due to their poverty, economical status, or lack of education, but are a direct result of the severe exploitation and suppression by the upper classes, which is legitimized by Hindu religious scriptures (Thind n.pag; Agarwal n.pag).

We see many examples of brave Dalit women who being quite aware of the horrifying truth and despite the heavy odds still strive to put an end to their suffering (Thind; Agarwal; News Archives).
In doing so they most certainly ensure a brighter future for the generations to come. Ruth Manorama, an active member of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights and the National Alliance of Women, once stated that in a male dominated society, "Dalit women face a triple burden of caste, class and gender" in which she sums up the plight of Dalit women, highlighting the fact that Dalit women are a distinct social group and cannot be masked under the general categories of "Women" or "Dalits" (News Archives ).
In Ancient India (3200-2500 B.C.), the caste system was non-existent since even the most learned men were good householders and had varied occupations. The women of ancient India were just as superior as men in learning, education, and intellect. The choice for her mate was according to her own wishes and marriage was practiced after the coming of age. She attended parties, competitions, and religious functions as she wished. The remarriage of young widows was also a common practice (Thind).

The creation of a number of Hindu religious books including the Manusmriti, Atharva Vedas, Vishnu smriti , and many others like these and their strict compliance by the Brahmans (upper priestly hindu caste), led to a society in which equality between men and women was far from existent (Agarwal). Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, an architect of the Indian constitution, also makes it very clear in his article titled "The rise and fall of Hindu woman" that the root cause of suffering for women in India are these so called Hindu religious books (Thind; Agarwal).
Books like the Manusmriti divide people into a stratified caste system and promotes inequality between men and women (Thind; Agarwal).
According to the Manusmriti, women have no right to education, independence, or wealth (n.pag).
It not only justifies the treatment of dalit women as a sex object and promotes child marriage, but also justifies a number of violent atrocities on women as can be seen in the following verses (Agarwal; Manusmitri):
A man, aged thirty years, shall marry a maiden of twelve who pleases him. Or a man of twenty-four a girl of eight years of age. If (the performance of) his duties would otherwise be impeded, he must marry sooner. (Manusmitri IX.94)
By a girl, by a young woman, or even by an aged one, nothing must be done independently, even in her own house." (Manusmriti V.147)
Her father protects (her) in childhood, her husband protects (her) in youth, and her sons protect (her) in old age; a woman is never fit for independence. (Manusmriti IX.3)
Women have no right to study the Vedas. That is why their Sanskaras are performed without Veda Mantras. Women have no knowledge of religion because they have no right to know the Vedas. The uttering of the Veda Mantras is useful for removing sin. As women cannot utter the Veda Mantras, they are as unclean as the untruth. (Manusmriti IX.18)
A Brahman, Kshatriya, or Vaishya Man can sexually exploit any shudra woman. (Manusmitri IX.25)
Even the killing of a dalit woman is explicitly justified as a minor offence for the Brahmins: equal to the killing of an animal (Manusmitri).
If the killing of an untouchable was justified as a minor offence, you can imagine the treatment they received throughout their lives.
In a male dominated society, Dalit women suffered unimaginable oppression, not only through caste, but gender too, from which there was no escape. The laws in the Manusmriti and other Vedic scriptures close all economic, political, social, educational, and personal channels through which Dalit women could be uplifted (Thind n.pag). The horrendous Laws in the Manusmriti were incorporated into Hinduism because they were favourable only to the Upper castes, which form the majority of India. Even today, in modern times, we see the severe oppression and  exploitation of Dalit women. The Laws of the Manusmriti have a devastating effect on the level of education reached by Dalit women (Thind n.pag).

According to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes 2000, approximately 75% of the Dalit girls drop out of primary school despite the strict laws of the Government of India, which hold reservations for Dalit children (National Commission n.pag). Despite showing keen academic aptitude, reasons for this early drop out from the education system is poverty or to escape humiliation, bullying and isolation by classmates, society, and even their teachers (Thind).

There are large numbers of reported atrocities on Dalit women that can be found recorded in various newspaper articles, journals, and government reports in India many of which can be viewed on www.ambedkar.org. The majority of the stories we read and hear are of bright young Dalit girls who are punished by the upper caste teachers in rural area of India, for daring to score good grades. Feeling rejected most girls in this situations drop out of school and have nowhere to turn but towards manual scavenging and other repulsive jobs (News Archives).

According to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, the majority of the educated people are of the upper caste, many of which may practice caste-based discrimination. Therefore, Dalit girls feel discouraged to enter education and we see the lowest literacy rate for Dalit girls compared to the Total population of educated upper caste girls (National Commission n.pag). The Annual Report of University Grant Commision for 1999-2000 , shows that Dalits in general have very low participation rates in higher education (
Annual Reports of University n.pag).

The main reasons for the very low literacy rate among Dalit women could be some or all of the following:


The Lack of educational resources especially in rural areas.
Privatization of schools and colleges.
Extreme poverty, because of which they cannot afford the expensive fees for the private schools.
The demand for an increase in the Dowry for educated girls.
Humiliation and bullying by the high caste students and teachers. (Thind)
Since only a small percentage of the total population of Dalit women are educated, the fate of the majority is very grim. 

According to India’s Ministry of Labour, 85% of the Dalit women have the most formidable occupations and work as agricultural laborers, scavengers, sweepers, and disposers of human waste. Many of these women work for minimal wages under the upper caste landlords, since it is proposed that by the National Commission for SC/ST that 85% of the Dalits are landless ( News Archives). When the Dalit women refuse to work for ridiculously low wages or fail to follow their harsh orders it results open violence, humiliation, beatings, rape, and jail. There are also a number of cases where the houses of Dalit women have been burnt down (Agarwal;News Achives).

In one particular case, a four months pregnant agricultural labourer, from the southern part of India, was stripped naked and beaten, in front of the whole village and her family by the upper caste landlord. Later, she was retained in jail, where the police beat her. This resulted in the miscarriage of her baby (News Archives). In another case, a school student in Gujarat made a mistake of joining the dancing in the main square of her village, in which most of the participants were of the upper caste. The upper caste boys pulled her out and threatened to rape her. For interfering, her mother was slapped. In the hope for justice, she forced her parents to file a complaint to the police against her assailants. Her mother was constantly threatened by the upper caste families for complaining to the police. Feeling deeply humiliated by no justice and rumors of rape, the girl committed suicide (News Archives).

There are many cases like these, all of which cannot be discussed here. The worst exploitation of dalit women involves a lifetime of suffering, torture, and rape (Thind n.pag). Justified by the Vedic scriptures, the Devdasi system (also known as temple prostitution) was introduced by the High caste Hindus, and it still exists in some parts of India (Thind; Agarwal; Narula). 

According to the Human Right Watch Report in 1992, an estimated 50,000 girls were sold every year to Hindu organizations that are involved in the Devdasi system (n.pag). These girls
are called the "female servants of god" and are sexually exploited (Thind n.pag).
After a lifetime of living as a prostitute and servant, the women in their later years are sold to brothels, where they are further tortured and often die of neglect or AIDS (Thind; News Archives). The Devdasi system and Child marriage are also justified by Hindu Scriptures (Thind; Agarwar; News Archives).

The 1992-93 Annual report from the Ministry of Welfare shows 1,236 reported cases of rape on Dalit women and the National Commission for SC/ST shows that approximately 10,000 cases of human right violations on Dalits are reported every month. But what is even more disturbing, is that only one out of ten of the cases are reported annually whilst, nine go unreported. In addition to this, according to the Human Right watch Report, approximately 115 million children are in slavery and 2.6 million children are held as bonded labourers (Narula). After fifty-five years of India’s independence and despite the excellent laws in place to protect Dalit women, they are still suffering unimaginable atrocities from the high caste Hindus. It is believed that thousands of these cases go unreported and unpublicized because the poor Dalits that live in rural areas, who are the worst victims, have no control on power, wealth, justice, police and the media (Thind n.pag). The only way these Dalit women can escape the viscous cycle of poverty, abuse and oppression is through education. Through education more Dalit women can come to know their basic human rights and they can then raise an even stronger voice against abuse and exploitation from the upper castes (Thind; Agarwar).

Many Dalit Non-Government Organizations (NGO‘s), both in India and abroad, have been involved in raising the plight of India’s 250 million untouchables. One of the most important tasks of these Dalit NGO’s is to bring the plight of Dalit people to the attention of the International community and to document and publicize human right violations. As the poorest of the poor, Dalit women lack the means and the opportunity to defend themselves at home or to make their problems known outside of rural India. Many Dalit women have formed NGO’s through which they collectively fight against abuse from the upper classes. Such Dalit women abandon tears and embrace the shield of confidence in the hope of equality. The courage, struggle, and persistence of today's Dalit women against suppression, exploitation and torture has the power to ensure that the future generations will not have to face the bleak reality Dalits have faced for the past two thousand years. The caste system is truly a crippling disease to approximately 250 million Dalits in India today (Narula n.pag). Since its roots are embedded in the Hindu religious scriptures, it seems this disease has no cure, but every voice raised against caste-based discrimination and suppression through Dalit Organizations will turn this from a losing battle to one of victory in which every Dalit will have equal rights, access to education, and a chance to succeed and prosper.
Many of the Dalit NGO’s are involved in establishing schools, scholarships, and basic supplements to Dalits in the rural parts of India. NGO’s such as the Ambedkar Centre for Peace and Justice and the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights are involved in bringing the plight of the Dalit people to the attention of the international community and to document and publicize human rights abuse. The longterm objectives are to enfranchise Dalits as full citizens of their society and eliminate caste-based discriminations.
I would like to acknowledge
www.ambedkar.org, Mr. R. Kamble and Dr. Narnaware for their valuable support and knowledge. Works Cited Thind, G. S.
Our Indian Sub-Continent Heritage. Crosstown Press, LTD. British Columbia, Canada.
Agarwal, S. 1999.
Genocide of women in Hinduism. Sudrastan Books. Jabalpur. India.
Available online: http://www.dalitstan.org/books/.Manu. 1920.
Manu Smriti: The laws of Manu with the Bhasya of Medhatithi. Translated by
Ganga Natha Jha. University of Calcutta, Calcutta, India.


News Archives


. http://www.ambedkar.org.
The National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes
, Government of India.
The Annual Reports of University Grant Commision
, Government of India.
Narula. S.
Broken People: Caste Violence Against India's "Untouchables." London: Human
Rights Watch, 1999.



Dalit women in India

by Ruth Manorama


The Dalits
In India and other countries in South Asia, people have been systematically discriminated against on the basis of their work and descent for centuries. Over 200 million people are Dalits, also known as untouchables or outcasts. They experience violence, discrimination, and social exclusion on a daily basis. Economic growth in India has been strong over the past decade. However, the caste disparities are increasing.

Dalit womenThe situation of Dalit women in India needs special attention. They are one of the largest socially segregated groups anywhere in the world, and make up 2% of the world’s total population. Dalit women are discriminated against three times over: they are poor, they are women, and they are Dalits. Dalit women constitute half of the ca. 200 million Dalit population, and 16.3 of the total Indian female population. The traditional taboos are the same for Dalit men and Dalit women. However, Dalit women have to deal with them more often. Dalit women are discriminated against not only by people of higher castes, but also within their own communities. Men are dominant in Dalit communities. Dalit women also have less power within the Dalit movement itself. Women are active in large numbers in the movement but most leadership positions in the organisations, local bodies and associations have until now been held by men.

Human rights of Dalit womenIndia is a democracy and is a Party to most of the major human rights treaties. These treaties provide the same rights for men and for women. Because India is also a Party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Government has an extra obligation to make sure that women can realise their rights. It is generally accepted in international law that governments have to do more than just pass legislation to protect human rights. The Government of India has an obligation to take all measures, including policy and budgetary measures, to make sure that women can fulfil their rights. It also has an obligation to punish those who engage in caste-based violence and discrimination. The government of India, as a modern country with a growing economy, has the means to fulfil its obligations.


Civil and political rights

India is a Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Based on this treaty, the Government of India has an obligation to make sure that Dalit women can enjoy a whole range of human rights, such as the right to life, freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, freedom from slavery, the right to be equal before the court, the right to recognition as a person before the law, the right to privacy, the right to marryonly with free and full consent, and the right to take part in public affairs. The life and dignity of Dalit women depends on the realisation of these human rights.However, they are breached systematically. An essential precondition for the realisation of civil and political rights of Dalit
women is registration. Article 24 (2) of the Covenant provides that every child shall be registered immediately after birth. In India, 46 % of all children are not registered. There is also no system of registration of marriages. This is not only a barrier for the realisation of civil and political rights; it also prevents the protection of Dalit girls from sexual exploitation and trafficking, child labour and forced and early marriages.


Economic, social, and cultural rights

India is also a Party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). This treaty not only identifies a range of economic, social and cultural rights, but it also requires that all people have these rights, without discrimination. The treaty also discusses the ways in which states must work to realise the rights. The rights outlined in the ICESCR include the right to work and to just and favourable conditions of work, and to form trade unions, the right to social security, protection of the family, the right to an adequate standard of living, including food, housing and clothing, and the right to health. Dalit women hardly enjoy any of these human rights.


Millennium Development Goals and Dalit womenIn 2000, 189 countries accepted the Millennium Declaration and agreed to take the necessary action in order to attain eight specific goals: the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The realisation of human rights of Dalit women will have a major positive effect on the realisation of the MDGs. Dalit women are

extremely poor, and make up 2% of the world’s population. In India, 60 million children do not attend primary school; the majority of these children are Dalit girls. India’s child mortality rate is one of the highest in the world and with its vast population and a rate of 540 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, India accounts for more than 20 % of all global maternal deaths. A greater availability and accessibility of healthcare for women, including Dalit women, is needed.


Violence against Dalit women – impunityCertain kinds of violence are traditionally reserved for Dalit women: 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, and violence including murder after proclaiming witchcraft, are only experienced by Dalit women. Dalit women are threatened by rape as part of collective violence by the higher castes. However, sexual assault and rape of Dalit women and girls also occur within 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. The Devadasi system of temple prostitution is the most extreme form of exploitation of Dalit women. Dalit girl children are forced to prostitution. The majority of cases of violence against Dalit women are notregistered. The lack of law enforcement leaves many Dalit women unable to approach the legal system to seek redress. Women are often also unaware of the laws and their ignorance is exploited by their opponents, 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 acquittal.


Action by Dalit women

Dalit women have been active throughout history, though often this has not been recorded. They were actively involved in the anti-caste and anti-untouchability movements in the 1920s. Today they are the strongholds of the Dalit movements in thousands of Indian villages. They continue to play a critical role in the movements for land rights. They are making their mark as independent thinkers and writers in the literary world and visionary leaders in the Panchayati Raj institutions. However, they are unable to put an end to the structural discrimination and exclusion. Violence and impunity are used to keep them in their place.


Getting organised as Dalit womenSince the late 1980s, therefore, Dalit women have increasingly felt and articulated the need for a separate platform – created, developed and controlled by themselves – through which they could forge their own identity, fight for their rights and find solutions to their particular problems as Dalits and as women.Conscious that the call for a separate platform could be interpreted as a divisive move by both Dalit men and non-Dalit women, the proponents of such a special forum emphasise that their initiative must not be mistaken for a separatist movement. Rather they assert that there is need for strong alliances between the Dalit movement, the women’s movement and the Dalit women’s movement if their common vision of social, economic and political equality and justice for all is to be realised.

The National Federation of Dalit Women (NFDW) was launched by Dalit women themselves and committed itself to undertake several tasks to bring about positive changes in the lives of Dalit women, such as legal action against caste based atrocities, political empowerment of Dalit women, economic empowerment against growing pauperisation, building self-confidence and leadership.

Women in South Asia



“There are more than 120 million women in South Asia who have been discriminated against and whose rights are violated based on caste and gender,” explains Manjula Pradeep, Executive Director of Navsarjan, an Indian organization that works to empower Dalit women in their struggle against oppression. Ms. Pradeep stresses that Dalit women have been subjected to forced prostitution, gang rape and other violence for more than 3000 years due to their gender and caste, and it must end now.

Caste “condemns individuals from birth and their communities to a life of exploitation, violence, social exclusion and segregation,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, wrote in an opinion piece last year. Comparing caste to apartheid and slavery she urged that, “we can and must tear down the barriers of caste too.”


Dalit women are among the women in the world that are the most vulnerable to violence and yet also among those that the world hears the least about. On the UN’s day for the elimination of violence against women, Dalit women are therefore calling for the world to support them in their struggle and help raise public awareness of their situation,


Despite their destitution, Dalit women are mobilising to fight their corner and risking the consequences to bring awareness to their situation and eradicate the suppressive caste system that causes the violence against them, explains Durga Sob, President of the Feminist Dalit Organization (FEDO) in Nepal. Ms. Sob urges the UN to pay special attention to the plight of Dalit women subjected to multiple discrimination, saying that, “Dalit women are especially vulnerable to violence and abuse because they are untouchable, because they are women, because they are poor.”


At a press conference to commemorate the stop violence against women day Michele Bachelet, Head of UN Women, the UN agency on women’s issues, explains, “Ending violence against women is not just an end in itself but is a key factor in achieving wider gender equality and accelerating the progress on the MDGs.”


Dalit women are hoping that UN Women, the UN and the international community will help them to stop the violence against them and raise awareness of their struggle to become more than ‘the untouchable women the world forgot’.


Human Rights Watch has documented the use of sexual abuse and other forms of violence against Dalit women as tools by landlords and the police to inflict political "lessons" and crush dissent and labor movements within Dalit communities.  In Laxmanpur-Bathe, Bihar, women were raped and mutilated before being massacred by members of the Ranvir Sena in 1997; in Bihar and Tamil Nadu, women have been beaten, arrested, and sometimes tortured during violent search and raid operations on Dalit villages in recent years.  Like other Indian women whose relatives are sought by the police, Dalit women have also been arrested and raped in custody as a means of punishing their male relatives who are hiding from the police.  As very young women, they are forced into prostitution in temples under the devadasi system. 

Cases documented by India's National Commission for Women, by local and national nongovernmental women's rights organizations, and by the press, reveal a pattern of impunity in attacks on women consistent with our findings.  In all cases of attacks on women documented in this report, the accused state and private actors escaped punishment; in most cases, attacks were neither investigated nor prosecuted.  Until recently, the plight of Dalit women has also been neglected by various political movements.  As explained by Ruth Manorama, head of the newly constituted National Federation for Dalit Women:
Dalit women are at the bottom in our community.  Within the women's movement, Dalit issues have not been taken seriously.  Within the Dalit movement, women have been ignored.  Caste, class, and gender need to be looked at together.  Dalit women have contributed to this discourse...  Women's labor is already undervalued; when she is a Dalit, it is nil...  The atrocities are also much more vulgar.
Other activists echo the notion that women are hit the hardest in everyday life and during caste clashes.  One activist told Human Rights Watch, "Sexual violence is linked to debt bondage in rural areas."  Another commented on the need to give priority to women's cases:
Making women eat human defecation, parading them naked, gang rapes, these are women-specific crimes.  Gang rapes are mostly of Dalit women.  These cases should be given top priority, requiring immediate action and immediate punishment.
This chapter examines some of the constitutional, statutory, and international treaty protections afforded to women in India.  It then offers several case studies to illustrate the government's failure to prosecute cases of rape and the manner in which differential rates of prosecution are compounded by corruption and caste and gender bias, even at the trial level. 


Dalit Women in Bangladesh

The inhabitants of Dalit 'colonies' in Dhaka often wash their clothes and bathe in the same place - with no privacy. Photo: ABIR ABDULLAH/EPA

Introduction

Caste discrimination affects both the Hindu and the Muslim populations in Bangladesh, and perpetuates the poverty trap the country is caught in. Dalits exist far below the poverty line with extremely limited access to health services, education and employment. They live in ‘colonies’ with very poor housing and work almost exclusively in ‘the service sector’, doing unclean jobs in urban areas such as street sweeping, manual scavenging and burying the dead.
The lives of Dalits are particularly harsh due to the practice of caste discrimination. They are frequently prevented from entering the homes of non-Dalits and are often met with discrimination when trying to bury members of their family at public graveyards. A large number of child labourers in Bangladesh are Dalits. Members of minorities, most of whom are Dalits, hold almost no official positions.
The estimates of the number of Dalits in Bangladesh vary from 3.5-5.5 million. They have been much overlooked in the development and rights discourse and have only recently been able to raise their voices. Having started to engage with government and international donors, they have now managed to place the issue of caste discrimination on the agenda.

Key issues

Dalit women: Girls and women from Dalit communities in Bangladesh often fall victim to prostitution and trafficking of bonded labour. They are deprived control, not only over property, but also over their own bodies. They are excluded from political participation, community development and employment, and have faced violent attacks when trying to vote.


Dalit women in Nepal

Caught in a system that defies logic, Dalit bonded labourer Gore Sunar, 55, has worked without a salary for 25 years because of loans. He works for four landlords in Western Nepal to avoid repayment demands. A situation like Gore’s reinforces and perpetuates the unequal caste system. Photo: JAKOB CARLSEN

Introduction

Almost half of Nepal’s Dalits live below the poverty line. They are landless and much poorer than the dominant caste population. Their life expectancy is lower than the national average, and so is their literacy rate. Dalits are routinely denied access to religious sites, they face resistance to inter-caste marriages, refusal by non-Dalits to handle water touched by them and many other forms of discrimination.
Progress has been made in recent years. The Dalit movement has secured some provisions for non-discrimination, equality and protection in Nepal’s interim constitution. In the international arena, the government has expressed support for the UN principles and guidelines to end caste discrimination, thus showing a willingness to involve the international community in addressing the issue and setting an example for other countries with caste systems.
Nevertheless, many problems persist. Dalits continue to be under-represented at the political level, having secured just eight per cent of the seats in the now dissolved Constitutional Assembly despite an official share of the population which at the time was 13 per cent.
Estimates of the number of Dalits in Nepal vary greatly. According to the official 2011 census, they constitute 13.6 per cent of the total population (or appr. 3.6 million people), but researchers and Dalit organisations assess that this number could be above 20 per cent – or as many as five million people.

Key issues


Dalit women: Nepal’s Dalit women are even worse off than Dalit men. They have no control over land, housing or money and are forced into the most demeaning jobs.
Forced prostitution: Dalit women are often victims of trafficking and sexual slavery. Girls and women from a particular Dalit sub-caste, the Badi caste, are forced into prostitution.
Bonded labour: Despite being illegal, bondage in Nepal continues to exist in two forms of permanent agricultural labour relationships. There may be more than 300,000 bonded labourers in the country.
Political participation: As in other South Asian countries, Dalits in Nepal often have limited access to equal and meaningful political participation.

Caste in Kenya

August 2002, Adam Hussein Adam, Research and Publications Programme Officer

Centre for Minority Rights Development

IDSN Coordinator

Thomas Clarkson House, The Stableyard,Broomgrove Road, London SW9 9TL United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7501 8323 Fax: +44 (0)20 7738 4110 idsncoord@yahoo.co.uk

www.dalitfreedom.org


Caste in Niger

August 2002

By Association Timidria

IDSN Coordinator

Thomas Clarkson House,

The Stableyard,

Broomgrove Road,

London SW9 9TL

United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7501 8323
Fax: +44 (0)20 7738 4110
idsncoord@yahoo.co.uk
www.dalitfreedom.org

Dalit Women in Pakistan

Manu Bheel, a Dalit, was freed from bonded labour in 1996. His family then worked as wage labourers, but in 1998, nine of his family members were kidnapped, allegedly by men sent by his former landlord. The case is still unresolved, and Manu Bheel’s symbolic hunger strike has become a symbol of the plight of Pakistan’s Dalits. Photo: Jakob Carlsen

Introduction

Dalits in Pakistan mostly belong to the Hindu minority and fall victim to double discrimination due to their religious status - as non-Muslims in a Muslim state – as well as their caste. As in neighbouring India, they are officially known as ‘scheduled castes’ and suffer numerous forms of abuse, from bonded labour to rape. Crimes against them are often committed with impunity.
An illiterary rate above 75 per cent is the norm, and poverty is rampant. In the Sindh and Punjab provinces, the majority of Dalits live as bonded and forced labourers enslaved by landlords. The only reservation policy is a reinstated six per cent quota for minorities in public services, which is not being enforced.
Officially, the number of Dalits is approximately 330,000 (as of 1998), but according to researchers the real figure may be as high as two million. However, these data do not include ‘lower castes’ within the Muslim community, living under similarly depressed conditions.

Key issues

Dalit women in Pakistan fall victim to sexual abuse, abduction and forced religious conversion. They suffer triple discrimination due to their gender, religion and caste.
Forced and bonded labour in Pakistan is widespread, particularly in agriculture and brick making. The majority of bonded labourers come from marginalised communities, including Dalits.
As in other South Asian countries, Dalits in Pakistan have limited access toequal and meaningful political participation.

Dalit Women in Sri Lanka

Introduction

Sri Lanka has three parallel caste systems for each of the country’s main population groups: the Sinhalese majority; the Sri Lankan Tamils to the north and east; and the Indian Tamils who are mainly found in the tea plantations and at the bottom of the urban social hierarchy. Most people will know to which caste they belong. Nevertheless, the issue is rarely discussed in public.
While caste discrimination in Sri Lanka is relatively mild compared to other South Asian countries, it is still entrenched in society. Some underprivileged castes are denied access to religious sites, and certain unclean jobs such as cleaning of toilets and garbage collection are inherited through generations.
The estimated number of people experiencing caste discrimination in Sri Lanka is four-five million or 20-30 percent of the total population. In Sri Lanka, there is no common identity as ‘Dalits’ among the ‘lower’ castes and it has been difficult for them to organise themselves – contrary to the Dalits of India and Nepal.

Key issues

Bonded labour is widespread in tea plantations in Sri Lanka. Dalits constitute 83 percent of the total of 3.6 million plantation workers. Most of them are Tamils of South Indian descent. The prevailing caste hierarchy of the Tamil plantation community is more or less a continuation of the South Indian caste system.

Africa

Introduction

Caste systems exist in pockets in some African countries. It is found in parts of Sahelian Africa, particularly in certain West African communities, and among populations in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya.
Although significantly different in nature and scope, there are some common features between the caste systems of Africa and South Asia. Stigma is often attached to this problem, and as a consequence "low caste" communities in Africa suffer various forms of social exclusion and discrimination, particularly with regard to employment, political representation and inter-caste marriages. In a comprensive study by the former UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, this form of discrimination is termed discrimination based on work and descent
Several African countries have adopted legislation guaranteeing freedom from discrimination, but laws have not been enforced and discrimination based on work and descent still occurs in different forms. A key challenge to address human rights problems related to caste-based discrimination in Africa is that caste remains a hidden issue in many countries, and that few comprehensive studies have been conducted on the issue.
Key reports on discrimination based on work and descent in Africa include:
Senegal: The Constitution of Senegal guarantees the right of all citizens to equal protection of the law and prohibits all acts of racial, ethnic and religious discrimination. But though members of the neeno caste do not file complaints about incidents of discrimination, caste-based discrimination is still evident in Senegal.
Nigeria: The Nigerian Constitution guarantees the right to freedom from discrimination for every citizen of Nigeria, but members of the Osu caste are still subjected to social exclusion, segregation and mistreatment, along with discrimination in employment and marriage.
Mauritania: In Mauritania there are legal provisions against slavery, but caste-based slavery still exists because the law is not implemented.

Caste-based Slavery in Mauritania

  • Bonded labour based on caste and descent also exists outside of South Asia. Recent reports reveal its spread in the countries of Mauritania and Madagascar, where existent social hierarchies and exploitation are rooted in the former slave trade.
    Whilst there has been no definitive research on the extent of slavery in Mauritania, a local human rights organisation, SOS Esclaves estimate that approximately 18 per cent of Mauritania’s population (which amounts to over half a million people) live in slavery today.
    Slavery has existed in Mauritania for hundreds of years and is deeply rooted within the society. Slavery status is inherited from generation to generation. Historically the white moors raided and enslaved people from the indigenous black population, who are today called the Haratine or the Black Maures. Virtually all cases of slavery in Mauritania today involve Haratine born into slavery.
    This age-old distinction underpins the very nature of slavery in Mauritania whereby individuals are assigned to a ‘slave caste’ which is ascribed at birth. They are forced to work for their masters throughout their lives and are never paid for their work. They do what their masters tell them to do or they are threatened and abused. Deeply embedded discriminatory attitudes not only contribute to the persistence of slavery in Mauritania but provide the context for further marginalization and social exclusion. Mauritania’s stratified society means that those who are former slaves or descendents of slaves still live under the stigma of their ‘slave-class’ and are ostracized by society .
    Upon his visit in 2008, the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism concluded that Mauritanian society has been deeply marked by continuing discriminatory practices of an ethnic and racial nature. These are rooted in cultural traditions and are pervasive in social structures, attitudes and principal institutions of the State, in particular the armed forces and justice system.
    In October 2009, the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery visited Mauritania. Speaking at the end of her fact-finding mission, she stated that there were are all forms of slavery in Mauritania – child labour, domestic labour, child marriages and  human trafficking.
    Legal provisions against slavery do exist, such as the 2007 Act No. 2007-042, which criminalizes slavery and slavery-like practices and makes it punishable with prison sentences of between five and ten years and a fine of between half a million and one million ouguiya (US$2,100 – 4,201). However, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) expressed concern over the lack of implementation of the law, at its 51st session in May 2009. The Committee is seriously concerned over reports indicating the continued existence of caste based slavery, which has a particular impact on girls in domestic service and boys forced to beg by marabouts.
    The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) also took note of the rampant caste based slavery when reviewing the State Party in 2004.
Niger: Caste in Niger (prepared in French by Association Timidria for the 61st CERD session in 2002)
Kenya: There is one caste system among Asian Hindu immigrants, and another among the Borana people in Kenya. The Constitution of Kenya prohibits discrimination but this has not ended caste-based discrimination in the country.
  • Caste in Kenya (prepared by Adam Hussein Adam for the 61st CERD session in 2002)
Somalia: The lowest castes in Somalia are called sab and are considered polluted. The unrecognised state of Somaliland has declared that programmes aimed at eradicating long lasting bad practices shall be a national obligation, but has not introduced specific anti-discrimination legislation.
  • No redress: Somalia's forgotten minorities (Minority Rights Group International, 2010, prepared by Martin Hill)
  • Caste in Somalia (prepared by SAFRAD – Somali Association for the 61st CERD session in 2002)

UK

Although caste discrimination is most common in South Asia, this form of discrimination is also widespread in the UK. Evidence has been found that South Asians who have relocated to the UK, tend to bring the caste system, and inherent discrimination, with them when they move. Caste discrimination is therefore reproduced within South Asian communities in the UK.
It has been estimated that there are at least 250.000 Dalits living in the UK. The exact figure, however, is unknown due to issues concerning identification as a ‘Dalit’, lack of detailed research and the absence of caste data in the census.
While culture-specific menial occupations, such as for example manual scavenging, are not known to be pursued by Dalits in the UK, the ‘untouchability mindset’ persists and UK based Dalits are victims of several forms of direct and indirect discrimination. Dalits and lower castes in the UK are subjected to discrimination in education (in the form of pupil-on-pupil bullying) in the workplace and in the supply of goods and services (such as healthcare and in treatment in shops). Furthermore, caste based discrimination occurs in worship, religion and politics. The more direct forms of discrimination manifests itself in incidents of violence and public harassment.
Comprehensive studies (see below) confirm the existence of caste discrimination (see below) in the UK. In April 2013, after a prolonged campaign by civil society organisations, the UK government finally decided to outlaw caste discrimination.

Caste in Niger

Brief Review of Somali caste systems

STATEMENT TO THE COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION OF RACIAL DISCRIMINATION AUGUST 2002 Professor Asha A. Samad, City University of New York (CUNY) and Executive Director, SAFRAD – Somali Association IDSN Coordinator

www.dalitfreedom.org

Introduction

Caste stratification is a daily component of Somali society. In the smallest nomad

village, in towns, in cities, in refugee camps, as well as in the overseas Somali communities, these stratifications are alive and well. Geneological lines of descent are taught to children from an early age. The family clan history is told and retold throughout life, including its relations with other clans. Traditionally caste was directly related to occupation, residence, political and civilian opportunities, and status throughout life. This stratification is less important when the nation-state and its institutions function well, and much more important when it is weak,

collapsing or non-existent, as in the past few decades. However, caste is important to most Somalis even in communities abroad. To be a Midgan-Madibhan, or an outcaste person, in Somali society is to suffer life-long indignities, to be deemed impure, unlucky, sinful, polluting, and thus meriting the disdain, avoidance, and abuse of others. Even small children shout insults at both child and adult Midgans. Many Midgans have been denied food, medical treatment, and protection just because of their outcaste status by many other Somalis. The only other groups in Somali treated similarly are the Jareer and Bantu descendants of slaves brought from East Africa over a century ago.

Midgans have been beaten brutally, wounded, raped, kidnapped, and forced into slave

and unpaid labor just because of their outcaste status. They have no weapons, allies or lands that they control and can escape to. Most Midgan are attached to “noble” dominant clans as their clients, serfs, or virtual slaves. Should they complain or seek to organize, they face severe reprisals from those “noble” clans dominating them. This is another ongoing case of global caste in the 21st century.

Background

Caste has been an integral part of Somali society for centuries. It persisted throughout the twentieth century and continues today in the 21st century.

This society is divided into patrilineal segmented and ranked clan groups. Those groups are based upon relation to a male progenitor and traditional occupations. As in all caste societies, the elite clans are classified as noble and “pure,” while those at the other end of the ranking are considered outcaste and impure, or “polluted.” Generally speaking, most of the noble clans’ occupations have been herding and trade, while the outcaste clans have engaged in small farming, usually on the land of the other clans, as well as in service or scavenger occupations.

The outcaste clans do not descend from the Arabic-origin ancestors of the noble clans. Some scholars report that the outcaste groups may have descended from the

conquered indigenous groups occupying the region prior to its conquest by the Somali tribes. Most Somali elders indicate that the polluted status of these despised groups is due to their ancestors breaking of food taboos without cause or an immediate ritual cleansing. If the latter is the case, this would be another instance of blaming the outcaste victims and their ancestors for their debased, pariah status.

The outcaste groups have been relegated to dirty, polluted areas and occupations, and they are traditionally forbidden to socialize (as equals) with others in Somali society.

Anyone from a noble caste breaking this taboo, much less marrying an outcaste person, faces the danger of being outcaste from his or her own family and clan. Somali society is based on clan relations, reciprocity, and alliances, especially in times of conflict, when there is a lack of a strong, central government. Indeed, and particularly at such times, the main forms of governance and protection come from one’s clan.

Children, the elderly, the ill, the weak, and the wounded can count only on their clans forfood, care and social support. Thus, even liberal-minded Somalis must carefully weigh these considerations.

In Somalia, the outcaste groups are collectively referred to as “Midgan” or “Madihiban,” the former term being much more disrespectful and insulting than the latter one. However, there are actually many more Somali outcaste groups. Each is connected as clients, former slaves, or servants to a noble clan group. They include the Kuulbeer, Hildid, Khayr, Hubane, Aden, Aarsade, Howie, Afarta Ganbar, Gaakaab, Madaraale, Magtal, Omar, Hussein and others scattered all over the Somali regions, including Ethiopia, Kenya and the broader Somali diaspora. The Midgan constitute the largest Somali outcaste family, and its subclans include the Madhiban, Maxamed Gargaarte, Muuse-Darye, Tumaal, Yibir, Howle, Mahaad-Bare, and, according to SIMA, hidden others.

Each outcaste clan has its own dialect. When the noble tribes’ patrons and rulers engage in conflict, their outcaste Midgans clients are forced to fight for them. However they are neither protected nor defended, nor given any share of the resources. Even the most heroic and accomplished Midgan outcaste fighter cannot dream of socializing as an equal or marrying into the noble clan that he is attached to.

When convenient, the Midgan outcaste clients are counted numerically as part of the noble clan they come under. When the Midgan outcaste oppressed groups try to organize, (as all the noble clans do), they are threatened, abused, and physically attacked. Due to the power and arms of the noble clans, most Midgan outcaste Somali people have been forced to keep silent. Any attempt to protest inequality or gain redress meets brutal reprisals.

The Midgan outcaste groups control no land of their own, they are also not usually allowed to live in villages, to drink or get water from the “pure” wells or to use the plates, cups or utensils of the noble clans people. Their status can be compared to the Dalits, or “untouchables,” of South Asia. Yet, they do not even have the constitutional guarantees (reserved places) Indian Dalits have, at least in theory. Only under the last government of Somali General President Mohamed Siad Barre did Midgans have some rights in their own country. When he was deposed, they suffered reprisals from his noble clan rivals who accused them of supporting him.

Particular Jeopardy Faced by Midgan-Madhiban Small Outcaste Clan Members The Midgan-Madhiban is the largest of several Somali minority outcaste clans. Thus they are collectively designated as “Midgan- Madhiban.” Somali society is divided into patrilineal kinship-based clans and sub clans . All Somalis can trace their ancestry to a clan or sub clan. The three main large clans (Darood, Hawiye and Isaak), traditionally control large areas of lands, many resources and exercise great political power. Certain smaller clans have respectable status but fewer resources and less political leverage due to their smaller populations. Often those small, respected clans must affiliate with and relate to nearby clans as clients and for protection in case of conflicts.

In 1991, Hawiye forces, many of whom were loyal to General Mohamed Farah Aideed, ousted Barre in a coup, which led to the wide-scale civil war. At first the war was characterized as fighting between clans, but soon, sub clans within the same clan began to fight one another. After the Hawiye toppled Barre, they attacked his government, which was mostly Darood. They also retaliated against Barre supporters, or anyone they believed to be a Barre supporter. That included the Midgan-Madhiban, all of whom they believed to be supporters of Barre, and, also because of longstandinghatred for that despised group. Some Darood clan-family militia also attacked many minority and outcaste clans. None of the powerful clans came to the protection of the Midgan-Madhiban. Consequently, large numbers of them perished. The Midgan-Madhiban were routinely raped, expelled from their homes, kidnapped and killed. Large numbers of MidganMadhiban simply disappeared. There is evidence of mass graves, suggesting that they were killed extra judicially. The Midgan-Madhiban were not the only group persecuted in retaliation against Barre, but they stand out for the powerlessness and inability to fight back or gain any compensation for their losses.

A person belonging to the Midgan-Madhiban clan cannot flee to safety in other areas of the country. He/She would be in serious physical danger if found in any part of Somalia in which his family is not a client of the local powerful clan family. Geographically, the country has become extremely segregated by clans and sub clan. The MidganMadhiban do not control any territory and are therefore vulnerable in any area of Somalia. In addition they have no recourse against violence because they are politically, socially and militarily powerless.

The last government of Somalia that of General Mohamed Siad Barre, had appointed several Midgan-Madhiban clan members to visible defense positions. Thus when General Barre’s government fell in 1991, the Hawiye clan brought about General Barre’s defeat and targeted all Midgan-Madhiban clan members for retaliation. This lead to even greater and more murderous attacks on the Midgan-Madhiban families. Their homes were attacked and looted, girls and women raped, men tortured and often killed. Many have had to flee and live in hiding to survive this brutality. Very few other Somalis or clans will protect the Midgan-Madhiban either for fear of being targeted and attacked themselves or because they too feel that the Midgan-Madhiban merit no protection (as an outcaste or polluted group). As no clan is permitted to marry the Midgan-Madhiban, they have no kinship ties with other groups to offer them shelter or protection.

Caste in the Somali Diaspora

Somalia was divided into French, British, and Italian colonies at the end of the nineteenth century. After World War II, the former Italian Somalia was divided. Thus, adjacent areas of neighboring Ethiopia and Kenya were actually part of Somalia until several decades ago when parts of the former Italian Somalia were given to the then British government of Kenya and the Imperial Ethiopian government of Haile Selossie. The majority of the population of those regions is ethnic Somali. Large Somali populations are also found in areas of Northern Tanzania and Yemen. Half or more of the population of the adjacent Djibouti – the former French Somaliland – is ethnic Somali. In all of these areas of Somali population, as in Somalia, Puntland, and Somaliland, Midgan-Madhiban and other outcaste groups are the lowest rank of the society’s stratification.

For over eleven years Somalia has experienced a breakdown in its central government, as well as suffered from droughts, floods, and war. Moreover, in the south sporadic conflict continues, despite several peace conferences and the appointment of the Provincial National Government (PNG) in the fall of 2000. Thousands of survivors of this  horrific situation have fled to the surrounding nations. The Midgan-Madhiban and other outcaste persons face on going discrimination, abuse and attack in the refugee camps and communities in those adjacent areas where many Somalis still languish. After over a decade, they either await peace in Somalia or acceptance as refugees in developed countries.

Thousands of more fortunate refugees, of all of clans, have been sponsored as refugees by countries as diverse as Canada, the USA, England, Netherlands, Australia, and Scandinavia. In desperation, many others have managed to enter those receiving, developed nations illegally to appeal for political asylum. Thus there is a sizable Somali diaspora in several developing world areas today. Clan and caste continue therein. Ironically, many “noble” clan Somalis seeking refugee or political asylum have falsely claimed outcaste Midgan-Madhiban status. They do this as the receiving developed nations understand the special jeopardy faced by outcaste Midgans, and, therefore usually grant them political asylum. Quite often, when such a false application is granted, the applicant then takes pain to over emphasize, within the Somali community, his or her actual noble status. Somali International Minority Association (SIMA), and other researchers are often called upon to check genealogies, associates and records to assure the validity of such claims. Meanwhile, the Midgan-Madhiban in the diaspora still face caste discrimination within the Somali community. Fortunately, they also have new opportunities in their new countries.

Summary

Midgan-Madhiban, Yibir, Tumal and other outcaste groups are still facing restrictions, prejudice, discrimination, harassment, abuse and attacks. Not only is this treatment a continuation of their historical exploitation, but it is also because they are assumed by some of the large, aggressive, heavily armed, “noble” clans to have been supporters of their rival and hated ruler, the late Somali President Barre. Midgan-Madhiban have never had any secure rights or protection in Somali society. Even in overseas Somali society they still face hatred, harassment, and abuse. Similar caste situations exist throughout the Horn of Africa.

DESCENT BASED SLAVERY IN MALI

Population: 15.8 million 
Capital: Bamako 
Major languages: French, Bambara  
Major religions: Islam, indigenous beliefs 
Average income: US $600
Life expectancy: 51 years (men), 53 years (women) 

Slavery was formally abolished in the 1960s after Mali gained independence from France. However, descent based slavery still exists in the northern regions of the country. People descended from slaves remain as ‘property’ of their ‘masters’, either living with them and serving them directly or living separately but remaining under their control. 

Others descended from slaves live freely and no longer have links with their traditional masters, but they typically face discrimination because of their ‘slave’ status. There is very little political will to address descent-based slavery and its existence is often denied by the government altogether. 

Action Taken  IN MALI:

Anti-Slavery International works with local groups Temedt and GARI to support people of slave descent and lobby the government for stronger measures against slavery.

Together we have:
  • Supported people who are the victims of slavery leave their masters
  • Provided legal assistance to victims of slavery who want to take their cases before the courts.
  • Provided training to magistrates and other judicial officials in dealing with slavery cases.
  • Conducted research on slavery in Mali.
  • Formed groups for women of slave descent and provided vocational training as well as low interest, small business loans.
  • Drafted a law specifically criminalizing slavery and lobbied the government to pass the law.
The changing political and security situation in Mali continues to be problematic for our partners of the ground.

Personal story: Iddar

Iddar’s grandmother was bought as a slave, so Iddar was inherited by his master. He was never paid and beaten regularly by the family.

“The work is very hard. I had to do everything in my master’s house. I looked after the large flock of sheep alone, collected the water and did all the heavy domestic work. I worked day and night and I never received any money.

Slavery by inheritance means my children are also slaves. My son Ahmed was barely three years old when a niece of the master got married. They took Ahmed away from me to work in her service. They thought he could do little jobs like make the fires. They like to enslave the children early so that they grow up understanding their place. 

Ahmed belonged to the family so there was nothing I could do. I was so sad. I spent 50 days pleading with them to give me my son back, but they refused. I was so shocked; I worried so much I could not sleep.”

Iddar managed to escape in 2008 with Ahmed and his wife. He met our partners Temedt and GARI who have proved support to Iddar and his family.  
  • The family have been provided with a cart and two donkeys and 15 goats and provided micro-credit loans with the result that the children now go to school. 
  • Assistance in getting Iddar has a national identity card which is crucial to finding work but difficult for someone with slave status.
  • A lawyer is pursuing a case against his former master before the courts and managed to make sure the master had to appeared in court – this is significant as masters usually see themselves as above the law, although the political crisis has suspended this for now.
Iddar feels he has claimed his freedom – he said even if he were to die tomorrow, he would be happy as his children have their dignity. 

Dalit Women in Yemen

Al-Akhdam children in Yemen often have to work and consequently drop out of school. This severely limits their possibilities in the labour market. Photo: Mathieu Génon / justdia.org

Introduction

The Al-Akhdam community is a minority group, which is regarded as an "untouchable" outcaste group in Yemen. For centuries the Al-Akhdam has suffered perpetual discrimination, persecution, and social exclusion from mainstream society. They are at the bottom of the social and economic hierarchy when it comes to access to employment and conditions of work, and they are forced to live isolated from the remaining society. The term “Al-Akhdam” literally translates as “the servants” and is figuratively suggestive of “people held in contempt and servitude” in Yemen.
The total figure of this population is unknown, and there are large inconsistencies between official and unofficial numbers. The government census of 2004 stated that the number is 153.133, but other sources claim that between 500.000-3.5 mio. persons belong to this minority group. Although they are commonly known as Al-Akhdam – the servants, they prefer to be known as Al Muhamasheen – the marginalized ones.
Some of the most critical problems affecting the Akhdam population is the lack of access to adequate housing, employment, education, and basic social services. This has a negative effect on other living conditions, including health conditions. The Al-Akhdam earn their living by performing dirty jobs such as sweeping, collecting plastics, or begging – the latter being especially common for women. The level of child labour is extensive and adds to a vicious cycle of school dropouts and limitations in access to employment due to lack of basic education. Moreover, many Al-Akhdam children suffer from serious diseases such as dyspnoea, malaria, and polio, and the death rate is high.
The UN treaty bodies have on various occassions expressed grave concern about the persistance of descent-based discrimination against the Al-Akhdam community in Yemen. UN bodies have recommended the Government of Yemen to, among other things, take measures to combat de facto discrimination discrimination against the Al-Akhdam in accordance with the CERD General Recommendation 29 on descent, and to adopt a national action plan to address the issue.

SLAVERY IN MAURITANIA

Population: 3.5 million
Capital: Nouakchott 
Major languages: Arabic (official), French
Major religion: Islam 
Life expectancy: 57 years (men), 61 years (women)
Average income: US $1030

How many slaves are there in Mauritania?

There has been no definitive survey but SOS Esclaves, and some political parties believe that as much as 18 per cent of the population (600,000 people) may still be in slavery. 

Who is in slavery?

The Hratine make up the main ‘slave caste’ and are descended from black African ethnic groups along the Senegal river who have historically been raided by White Moors. 

The White Moors form the ethnic elite in Mauritania and control the economy, government, military and police. Today, virtually all cases of slavery in Mauritania, involves Hratine born into slavery and belonging to White Moors masters. 
What does it mean to be a slave?

Those who are still in slavery today are treated as property by their masters. They are never paid for the work they do, although they may be given food and shelter. Slaves often suffer from degrading treatment, are excluded from education and politics, and are not allowed to own land or inheriting property.

What do slaves do?

The men and children care for the animals, which are usually camels, cows, and goats. In some cases, slaves work the master’s land and give them a percentage of the crops to him. Female slaves who live in their masters’ homes are rarely allowed out of the master’s camp and generally work from before sunrise to after sunset, caring for the master’s children, fetching water, gathering firewood, pounding millet, moving tents made of heavy animal skin and performing other domestic tasks. 

They face double discrimination both as members of the ‘slave caste’ and as women. Women in slavery are frequently beaten and raped by their masters who consider them to be their property. Their children are also considered to be the master’s property and, along with other slaves, can be rented out, loaned or given as gifts in marriage.

Why don’t slaves just run away?

While slaves in Mauritania are not chained or publicly beaten they remain totally dependent on their masters because they are dressed, fed and sheltered by them. In a vast country, much of it desert, it is extremely difficult to run away and leave their families. Those that do manage or choose to escape from slavery are left with few options and face an uncertain future.

Slavery and the misuse of Islam

Slaves are told that under Islam their paradise is bound to their master and that if they do what the master tells them, they will go to heaven. This is a powerful mechanism of control which teaches those who are enslaved to follow orders and accept their fate or they will be forsaken by God and live outside of Islam. Without access to education or alternative means of living, many believe that it is Allah’s wish for them to be slaves when in reality Islam dictates that a Muslim cannot enslave a fellow Muslim.

Is slavery accepted in Mauritania?

While the practice of slavery is illegal, deeply embedded discriminatory attitudes towards Hratines are the basis of slavery in Mauritania. Mauritania's caste-based society means that even those who are former slaves or descendents of former slaves are still considered to be part of the ‘slave-caste’ and are ostracised within society.

WHAT ARE WE DOING IN MAURITANIA?

Anti-Slavery International works in Mauritania with our local partner SOS Esclaves.  Slavery was officially banned in 1981 although it is still very commonplace with a strong caste system keeping the ethnic Hratine group in slavery. 

Because of the nature of descent-based slavery in Mauritania, victims have been indoctrinated over generations into accepting their status as possessions of their masters and often have no concept of their own rights. Read more about slavery in Mauritania here.

Political instability in the country makes it very difficult for anti-slavery groups to prosecute slave owners and the law is rarely, if ever enforced. SOS Esclaves faces huge obstacles and threats to their safety as they challenge ideas around slavery which are so dominant in the country.

We work with our partner organisation SOS Escalves to provide support to people who escape from slavery. For those who are able to escape they leave with no possessions and face serious discrimination. 

We help by:
  • Providing initial financial support and shelter
  • Help into long term training and provide low interest, small business loans so they can become financially independent
  • Legal assistance to prosecute former slave masters
  • Help to release family members that are still in slavery

In 2007 Mauritania’s parliament passed a law which criminalised slavery. It was first applied in November 2011 when Ahmed Ould El Hassine was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. The new law is a definite improvement on the previous one which incredibly offered compensation to masters instead of punishing them. This was a significant step in terms of official acknowledgment that slavery exists and without the persistence of Anti-Slavery International with SOS Esclaves and other Mauritanian activists, this could not have happened.

Story of Moulkheir

"I grew up working for a family. I was born into the family – my mother worked for them before me. It was hard work. I had to go out and look after the goats in the day and then come back and do all the housework. I didn’t always get enough to eat. I was hit and beaten regularly. I had children and they all grew up working for the family too. Two of my girls are the daughters of the master’s eldest son. He said he would behead me if I ever told anyone it was him.

"When I had my fourth child, a baby girl, the family wouldn’t let me take her out to the fields with me. They said I couldn’t look after my baby and look after the goats as well. I came home one day and found that the baby had been left out in the sun all day. She had died and her body was being eaten by ants. No one had looked after her. I had to bury her myself, with my hands. There were no burial rites. I buried her how you’d bury a dog.

"One day someone from SOS-Esclaves learned I was a slave in the family and told the police. Someone warned the master that the police would come round, so I was sent to another home. They told me to say that I was a relative who came to visit them occasionally. I stayed with this new family for a while, but I was hungry and so were my children, my new master, the Colonel wouldn’t let me go. He said I belonged to him now. He decided he would marry my eldest daughter, she was very young. She cried and cried.

"He used to make me watch him rape her at gunpoint. He raped me too, in front of my two daughters, threatening us all with his gun. He did this on several occasions

"He took my daughter, and told me never to come back. I went and found my older brother and told him what had happened and he contacted SOS-Escalves. My daughter managed to escape with the help of the people from SOS while the Colonel was away

"I am now pressing charges against the Colonel, for the slavery and the rape of my daughter. SOS-Esclaves helped me so much. They found me somewhere to live, and all the women brought me clothes and things for the house."

Women and the Law

India's constitution

Article 14 of India's constitution ensures equality by providing that: "The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India."  Article 15(1) 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," while articles 16(1) and 16(2) prohibit discrimination in general, and gender discrimination in matters of public employment.  To promote equality, Article 15(3) provides that the state is free to make "any special provision for women and children."   

Part IV of the constitution lists the Directive Principles of State Policy, including Article 39(b) of the constitution which provides that the state direct its policy toward ensuring equal pay for equal work for men and women.  Section (a) of the same article provides that the state shall, in particular, direct its policy toward securing that citizens, men and women equally, have the right to an adequate means of livelihood.  Section (c) requires that the state secure the health of workers, men and women, and ensure that children are not abused, and citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter vocations that are unsuited to their age and strength.  Finally, Article 44 of the constitution, asks that the state strive to introduce a uniform civil code for citizens so that varying religious codes do not dictate the personal laws governing women's lives.  These provisions cannot be enforced in the state through courts as they are a "directive principles" of state policy.

Penal and criminal codes

In recognizing the history of police abuse against women, amendments to the Indian Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code afford women a variety of legal protections in their dealings with state agents.  For instance, when a woman is searched upon arrest, it must be done by a female officer with "strict regard to decency and modesty."   A police officer has no power to compel a woman or a child below the age of fifteen to appear in a police station to obtain information from her, and must instead visit the place in which the informant resides When searching a place occupied by a person sought to be arrested, if the place is occupied by a female (not being the person to be arrested) the police must give notice to her before entering that she has the liberty to withdraw.

The Indian Penal Code also provides for stricter punishments when the crime of rape is committed in custody.  Section 376 states that the crime of rape, when committed by a private actor, is punishable by a minimum of seven to ten years and a maximum of life imprisonment.  Under subsection (2), the rape is punishable by "rigorous imprisonment" for a term of ten years to life if it is committed by a police officer against a woman in his custody (or in the custody of a police officer subordinate to him), or on the premises of his police station or a station house.

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 1979

Under Article 2 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, states parties are required to "establish legal protection of the rights of women on an equal basis with men and to ensure through competent national tribunals and other public institutions the effective protection of women against any act of discrimination."  They must also "refrain from engaging in any act or practice of discrimination against women and to ensure that public authorities and institutions shall act in conformity with this obligation."   Women are also entitled to equal remuneration and protection of health and safety in working conditions

With respect to the situation of rural women, the convention requires states parties to take into account the "significant roles which rural women play in the economic survival of their families, including their work in the non‑monetized sectors of the economy," and to, "take all appropriate measures to ensure the application of the provisions of this Convention to women in rural areas."

Caste discrimination:

An estimated 260 million people around the world, mainly Dalits in South Asia, are condemned to a lifetime of abuse simply because of the caste into which they are born. Caste denotes a system of rigid social stratification that is reinforced through the threat of social ostracism, economic boycotts, and physical violence resulting in severe violations of civil and political, as well as economic, social and cultural rights. In its consequences the caste system resembles that of South Africa’s apartheid and racism. Dalits - also known as ‘untouchables’, often suffer routine violations of their right to life and security of person also through state sanctioned acts of violence, including torture, with de facto limited access to justice and redress. Dalit women are particularly exposed and subject to multiple forms of discrimination, including sexual abuse by the police and upper-caste men and forced prostitution. As a result they face even higher levels of poverty and exclusion. As a major cause of poverty, caste-based discrimination is also an obstacle to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.




Status and survival of Female Dalit by Gale Kamen

Dalit Women : Issues and Perspectives



DALIT WOMEN IN INDIA

by
DR. J.  MUTHUMARY
PTOFESSOR
CENTRE FOR ADVANCED STUDIES IN BOTONY
UNIVERSITY OF MADRAS
GUINDY CAMPUS, CHENNAI 600 025
E-mail: botany_vsnl.com




INTRODUCTION:
There are about 250 million Dalits in India.  There is meagre improvement in the socio-economic condition of dalits in the past 50 years.  Which that is not enough when compared to non-dalits. Of course, much more needs to be done.  The urgent need is to have a national sample survey on dalits.  Every fourth Indian is a dalit.  There is no proper survey to give the correct number of dalit women in India.  They are generally scattered in villages and they are not a monogamous group.  About 75% of dalits live below poverty line.  Economic backwardness of dalits is mostly due to injustice done to them by the high castes and also due to exploitation.  From the time immemorial they worked  like slaves, sold as commodities resulting in their social discrimination, economic deprivation and educational backwardness.  To assess the position of dalit women in India this chapter is divided into various heads. 

EDUCATION:
            Till some years ago, many dalit women were ill treated and educationally backward inspite of the facilities for free education.  The reasons for the high rate of illiteracy among dalit women are many. 
The following are the main reasons:
1        Resistance from the family to send girls to schools.
2        Fear of insecurity in villages.
3        Lack of physical facilities like accommodation, school, transport and medical facilities.
4        The girls were forced to take care of the siblings when the parents are away at work.
5        Girls were forced to do domestic chores which prevent them from attending school.
6        Working to earn for the family  prevent the girls from attending school.
7        Working with parents to earn their livelihood in beedi factories or other unorganized sector made them illiterate.
8        Because of the sick and unemployed parents girls were forced to work.
9        Many were forced to get married at young age, which stop schooling.
10    Social restriction is that the girls should stop education after marriage.
11    In some areas there are complaints from dalit women teachers of misbehaviors, blackmail and exploitation by the male staff of other high caste people.
12    Distance of schools from home.
13    Irrelevant content of the education system.
14    Fear of alienation of girls from their environment as a result of education are some of the other factors for low literacy level among SC girls.  Even if the education improved the marriage prospects of the girls, the minus point is the increase in dowry.  Therefore many parents wish to withdraw the girls from schools.
           
The present positions seems to be better with reference to the rate of literacy among dalits.  The literacy rate is 31.48% for boys and 10.93% for girls.  Dalits women belonging to the creamy layer of the society are better with good education and socially and economically they are well off like other high castes.  They are fully aware of the welfare schemes provided by the Government and their percentage is very low when compared with the total dalit population.  In rural areas, the first generation girls from SC needs the attention of Government and other organization.  Mostly the teachers of the locality provide information to them about the welfare schemes.  In many Dalit association executive position are occupied by male members whereas very poor representation is made by women in their pasts.  The women are not properly informed about the Government schemes and there is an urgent need to get a feedback about the welfare schemes where lot of money is spent for the development of Dalits.  The funds are not utilized properly for their upliftment.  Many of the schemes go unnoticed because they are not popularized properly.  
The coaching programmes conducted by the Government for dalit women are beneficial in training many women to compete in the competitive exam.  These programmes also do not reach the needy dalit women because they are cornered by the very few creamy dalit women.  This should be monitored properly and the schemes should be reached by the most deprived and constantly struggling dalit women.  Because these dalit women are neglected by socially advanced communities and also by the better off among the dalits, which leads to an unhealthy socio-economic condition.  There should be some scientific basis to pick up the poorest and they should be equipped with facilities.
There are some pre-examination coaching centers giving trainings for dalits which are doing very good service to train them in vocational line, for competitive exam, in medical and engineering field, railway recruitment boards, bank recruitment, etc.
Here are some suggestions for the better implementation of the schemes to dalit women:
1        Competitive spirit should be instilled in the girls.
2        Selection and identification of the talented girls should be done correctly.
3        Identify the candidate at college level for coaching.
4        Result oriented teaching is necessary.
5        Group discussions, quiz, and seminars to instill confidence.
6        Teacher : Student ratio 1:20 or below.
7        Monitoring by the teacher after class hours.
8        Loan facility.
Financial aid for uniform for girls, maps, charts, examination grant, laboratory facilities, library facilities should be provided for them special coaching should be given for meritorious dalit girls to compete for IAS and IPS.  Hostel facilities for dalit girls at all levels of education starting from primary school up to higher education should be provided reservation policy especially for girls should be allotted in both admission and employment.
There is an increased awareness in recent years among dalit women about their rights and about the Government welfare schemes about higher education.  This should be augmented by information technology, which should reach even to the remote rural citizen.

HIGHER EDUCATION:
            The UGC has given reservation for seats in colleges for SC students 25%, ST 7.5%, which is highly beneficial.  Also relaxation in marks for 5% is given to all dalit students in admission.  Financial assistance in the form of fellowships is given to dalits.  Rs. 3,600/- is given per JRF to continue research studies at the University level.  There are special SC/ST cells at the University for effective implementation of the Government orders and to improve the condition of University level dalit students.     
There are some of the suggestions for effective implementation of the various welfare schemes for the dalit students.
1        The communication gap between the educational institution and the social welfare department should be reduced.
2        District wise computer database of the male and female dalit students is very essential to provide necessary facilities to them.
3        Pamphlets with details about the welfare schemes should be distributed to the students.
4        Supply of books to the dalit students.
5        Incentive scholarship should be given to deserving and meritorious girls to encourage them for higher education.

GENDER EQUALITY:
Female infanticide is more prevalent among the uneducated dalit families. Educational development among SC women is very marginal because only girls were not sent to school because of the responsibilities at home.
Therefore the gender discrimination starts at the very early stage in the life of a dalit girl.  Normally girl children are retained at home to look after the siblings.  Another thing is the compulsory marriage of the girls at very early age after which the education is stopped.  Generally in the male-dominated society, polygamy is allowed and more so in many dalit families.  Because of this the position of the women deteriorated.  Joint family system, polygamy, property structure, early marriage, and permanent widowhood were hurdles for the development of all women in early period.  But in the twentieth century, after the Mahatma Gandhien movement to educate women, slowly changes occurred in the position of women.  But here, rural women were more blessed than urban women because divorce and remarriage were allowed for them.  Mainly Sudras (i.e. low caste people) allowed divorce and remarriage for their women.

OCCUPATION:
            The occupation of many SC women can be divided in the following heads:
1        Agriculture labourer.
2        Marginal Cultivators.
3        Fisherwomen.
4        Traditional artisans.
5         Leather Workers.
6        Weavers.
7        Scavengers and sweepers.
8        Midwifery.
9        Beedi factories and unorganised sectors.
The Work Participation Rate (WPR) of SC population is said to be for males 22.25% and for females 25.98%.
The contribution of SC women to the economic development of our country is significant especially in the agricultural sector.  They are exploited by the higher caste landlords.  They are paid very marginal salary for the hard work in the field for the whole day.  In leather industries the tanning process is considered to be an unclean job which is done only by socially backward class.  Traditional artistes get very more benefit because the middleman exploits them.  The condition of scavenger and sweepers is very deplorable and they the most vulnerable sectors among SC.  The working condition is very poor and the remuneration is also very poor.

FAMILY ROLE:
            Because of the girls remain uneducated, they got married very early.  Marriage in the high reproductive stage with high fertility rate, children care more.  Because of the unlimited family, the burden fell on the young girls  which affected their health.  They were not able to assist in family matters to their husbands.  But now the situation is different.  The girls manage to plan their family, educate the children, assist the husbands in family matters and office going and professional girls improve the economic conditions.  On the whole the family becomes socially developed because of the education of the girls.
            Education among women increased intercaste marriages, which is definitely a sign of development.  Government also encourages intercaste marriages among dalits and highcaste by incentives.  

PROTECTION FROM ILLTREATMENT:
         Most women are illtreated even today among tribals.  Ministry of welfare GI (1993 –94) Annual report had recorded 18,014 crimes against SCs (murder, rape, etc.).
Disputes on land, minimum wage for SC workers bonded labourers, in debatedness – problem.
SC/ST under privileged, regarded less then humanbeings  assigned lowest of the low status in society. 
Scavenging: is no other country scavenging is  amalgamated with the evil structure of caste.

UNTOUCHABILITY AND ILLTREATMENT:
1        Non-access to temples, places of worship.
2        Non-access to hotels and eating-places.
3        Not available – barber services for SC/ST Tamil Nadu.
4        Not allowed in gramsabha sittings – Tamil Nadu.
5        Discrimination in educational institution, public health services.
6        Not allowed to participate in social ceremonies – Tamil Nadu.
7        General untouchability – Tamil Nadu.
8        Enforcement of removal of carcasses – Tamil Nadu.
9        Not access to public cremation / burial ground / public pathways/roads.
10    Not allowed in residential premises of high caste.
11    Access to Dharmasalas – denied.
Untouchability is acute in villages.  There is a gradual change in rural areas because  they have become aware of their rights. Spread of education, improvement in economic conditions, welfare measures.

MEASURES TO BE TAKEN FOR UPLIFTMENT:

BASIC COMMON NEEDS:
The following facilities should be provided:
1 Nutrition:
            Malnutrition in female children high infant mortality should be corrected.
2 Health:
            Unclean surroundings – proper accommodation should be provided.
3 Family welfare:
SC – women get married very soon high fertility – affect health.
4 Safe drinking water.
5 Electricity in village.
6 Essential goods and medicines.
7 Retail outlets not available.
8 Fair price shops – necessary.

SLUM IMPROVEMENT AT THE GOVERNMENT BASE:
1        Conservation of assets of SC.
2        Provide land to SC women.
3        Train them in new fields for employment.
4        Ensure minimum wages.
5        Compulsory education up to 35 years.
6        Introduce new employment facilities.
7        Self-employment program for women.
8        Modernizing existing traditional activities.
9        Liberate the women from scavenging work – alternative arrangement for dignified work.
10    Eradicate social untouchability.
11    Provide minimum basic facilities.
12    Positive discrimination. i.e. policy of reservation should be continued both in Government and public sector.
13    Fee excemption, age relaxation for direct recruitment – separate interview.
14    Atrocity control room:
Close watch, monitoring of atrocities against dalit women.

PRESENT POSITION:
            The present position is better because of education, literacy rate for boys 31.48%, girls 10.93%. Now they have lot of self respect, aware of their rights, organisations to voice their feelings.  The creamy layer is well aware of the Government welfare schemes.  Among SC dalits executive positions in associations are occupied only by men,  very poor representation by women.  Feedback about the welfare programme is very essential. 

West Bengal: The post
Past The Last Post - In remotest Bengal the 'runner' of old exists still, with his burden of news and fortitude

Oh, Runner...

No one will ever know of your pain or your plight/

Your story will be a secret of the dark black night
— from the Bengali poem 'Runner' by Sukanta Bhattacharya
Actually, it's a bright sunny day on top of a hill in the rolling, forested landscape of Ayodhya Pahar in Bengal's Purulia district, and 60-year-old Putuna Mura, a local tribal, seems only too willing to share her story with us—a runner's story. Putuna is a surviving relic of this virtually defunct institution whose roots lie deep in the country's postal past. In Bengal, the tribulations of these tireless messengers, traversing miles on foot, their bells jangling through the stillness of the night, delivering mail in remote regions and covering stipulated distances within strict timeframes, have for long fired the imagination of artists, writers and poets like Sukanta Bhattacharya. In Putuna's case, the story has a special twist, not only is she one of the state's three surviving runners—she is also the only woman known to have ever become a runner.
Explains Purulia division's assistant superintendent of post, Gautam Ghosh: "She was given the job on sympathetic grounds when her husband, Buddheshwar, who was a runner, died 20 years ago." At first, Putuna's life turned topsy-turvy. She had to suddenly switch from being an ordinary housewife who cooked, cleaned and looked after children to, in her own words, "a postman going from door to door delivering letters". But two decades on, not only is she used to the drill, hill folk too are no longer shocked at the sight of a woman in white—being a widow, she wears only white—sprinting across dense forests and deep rivers in rain and sunshine alike, to deliver mail. And sometimes in the moonlight too: "like a ghost", she says eerily.

Nightrunner of Bengal Putuna Mura, widow of a runner, covers a minimum of 20-30 km a day, often braving bandits and wild beasts (Photograph by Sandipan Chatterjee)
No matter how late she goes to bed, Putuna wakes up at the crack of dawn and leaves the house by 7 am sharp. She steps out of her little mud hut in Ayodhya village and hops across to the tiny post office beyond the dirt road. She reports to the postmaster, who scribbles the names on postcards and envelopes piled up on a table into his register, stamps the mail with his seal and puts it into a jute sack, which he hands over to Putuna. She places it over her shoulder, looks at the clock on the wall, mutters a "7:10 already" under her breath and struts out of the door and into the street. There are 22 villages across Ayodhya Hills, each a cluster of no more than 10 to 20 houses. But the villages are separated by long stretches of dense forests, deep rivers and wide valleys. Putuna walks a minimum of 20-30 km a day, often much more. If there are too many letters and too much distance to be covered, she leaves some of the work for the next day, but that is not encouraged—the mail could be urgent. "Today, I have to cover 17 destinations, and the distances between each are long," she says stoically, as she gets into her stride.
"Yes, I get scared sometimes," she admits, as she makes her way. "There is much to fear in the jungles and hills," she whispers. "Snakes, elephants, often even bears." For runners, the other source of terror, traditionally, has been bandits and dacoits. As the Ayodhya branch post master Bibekananda Mahato explains, the threat is accentuated because they carry money orders, apart from ordinary mail. "Many of the hill folk have relatives living outside who send money home. Runners could be attacked and looted."
However, the biggest danger right now, in the Ayodhya Hills, is Maoist activity, of which this region is a hub. No runner would want to rub the Maoists the wrong way, says Putuna, who tries her best to avoid them and do her job quickly. The presence of Maoists is not new in Purulia, especially its Ayodhya Hills region. Surrounded by porous borders and covered in dense forests, it is one of the country's most remote regions in terms of accessibility by road or rail, which makes it virtually a haven for the insurgents. As Rakesh Kumar, director of General Post Office, South Bengal, explains, "It is this very inaccessibility which makes runners a necessity even in this day and age. As you know, the designation has been done away with in most other parts of the country."
Indeed, Putuna is not the only runner operating in the region—there are two others. Sixty-five-year-old Kalipada Mura has been a runner since the death of his famous father, Khepu Mura. Khepu, a runner during the Raj, became a legend for his bravery in confronting  dangers, be they wild beasts or bandicoots. Kalipada's colleague, 60-year-old Anath Sardar, is also the son of a former runner from the region, Dhananjoy Singh Sardar. But, unlike Putuna, these two don't deliver mail person-to-person or door to door, but lug their mail bags from postal point to postal point. Each of them walks 30 to 50 km per day to reach these outposts. While Putuna, being literate and able to read names and addresses, gets a monthly salary of Rs 6,000, the two men, illiterate like their fathers were, are paid daily wages—Rs 200 a day—for their labour.
So far the job seems to have been transferred seamlessly, from husband to wife, from father to son, but will future generations want to carry on this tradition? The answer, from the sons, daughters and grandchildren of all three runners, is a firm "no." "Too dangerous," is the common refrain. So how will the people of Ayodhya Hills get their letters after the current generation of runners is too old to carry on? That's a question for the authorities to mull over; the runners themselves are content to be a vital link with the world beyond. The more affluent villagers have begun to acquire mobile connections, but these are unreliable. And most villages don't have electricity—those which do have only a few TV-owning households. Letters, therefore, are vital. "I bring smiles to people's faces when I bring them good news," Putuna says proudly. It's true. Twenty-five year old Suchitra Hansa is delighted when Putuna hands her a much-awaited envelope. "It's from the state government. I've been called for a job interview," says this wife of a local school teacher. But 18-year-old Shidhu Soren, who has applied for a clerk's job, is still waiting for a reply. "Is there a letter from me?" he calls out to Putuna, when he bumps into her on her run. "Not yet," Putuna shakes her head. "But maybe tomorrow." That's mles away.



Dayamani Barla

Dayamani Barla is an indigenous tribal journalist and activist from the Indian state of Jharkhand. She came from very humble backgrounds and worked as a maid to pay her way through the University. She became notable for her activism in opposing Arcelor Mittal's steel plant that tribal activist say would displace forty (40) villages. She has won a number of prestigious awards for journalism.

Dayamani was born in the indigenous tribal (also known as Adivasi in India) dominant Jharkhand state of eastern India. Her family belonged to the Munda tribe. Dayamani’s father like other tribals in the region was cheated out of his property, because he could not read and lacked paperwork to show his rights to the land. Her father became a servant in one city, and her mother a maid in another. Barla remained in school in Jharkhand but worked as a day laborer on farms from the 5th to 7th grades. To continue her education through secondary school, she moved to Ranchi and worked as maid to pay her way through University. She sometimes slept in Railway stations in order to continue her education in Journalism.

Early life

Dayamani was born in the indigenous tribal (also known as Adivasi in India) dominant Jharkhand state of eastern India. Her family belonged to the Munda tribe. Dayamani’s father like other tribals in the region was cheated out of his property, because he could not read and lacked paperwork to show his rights to the land. Her father became a servant in one city, and her mother a maid in another. Barla remained in school in Jharkhand but worked as a day laborer on farms from the 5th to 7th grades. To continue her education through secondary school, she moved to Ranchi and worked as maid to pay her way through University. She sometimes slept in Railway stations in order to continue her education in Journalism

Career

Barla works in a popular Hindi newspaper Prabhat Khabar to bring attention to myriad problems facing the Munda people and other tribal communities in the Jharkhand region. She is the National President of Indian Social Action Forum .Earlier her journalistic work was supported by a small fellowship for some years by Association for India's Development(AID). Barla owns and runs a tea shop that effectively supports her journalistic desire and career. She chose the business consciously because tea shops are gathering places where social issues are discussed.

Activism

Jharkhand region is rich in natural resources and many government and private companies have appropriated land to build number of natural resources extracting factories. Although the tribal people are supposed to receive compensation, numbers of activists allege that they do not receive adequate compensation.
Arcelor Mittal wants to invest US $8.79 billion to set up one of the world's biggest steel plants in the area. The Greenfield steel project requires 12,000 acres (49 km2) of land and a new power plant. According to Barla, that would displace forty tribal villages. Barla and her organization Adivaasi, Moolvaasi, Astitva Raksha Manch (Forum for the protection of tribal and indigenous people's identity) - says apart from causing massive displacement, the project will destroy the forests in the area. It will also have an impact on the water sources and ecosystems, thereby threatening the environment and the very source of sustenance for indigenous peoples, it says.
We will not give an inch of our land
, says Ms Barla. Arcelor Mittal on its part says that it does not want to grab local peoples land as is willing to negotiate with all stake holders. But Barla counters that the subsistence trial communities will not survive the alienation from their native land and they cannot be compensated for such a loss.

Awards

Barla won the Counter Media Award for Rural Journalism in 2000 and the National Foundation for India Fellowship in 2004. Counter Media Award is funded by royalties from journalist P. Sainath's bookEveryone Loves a Good Drought, and is meant for rural journalists whose (often outstanding) work gets ignored or even appropriated by the larger press at the State or national level in India.

Madurai tops list of dalit women facing atrocities

Chinnayi Ayyappan (55) was among the group of dalits who stridently fought non-dalits of her Koolayanur village near Bodi in Theni district after the latter refused the former to be buried in the village graveyard.
But barely 20 days after the dalits demanded burial rights in January 2011, a group of non-dalits hurled petrol bombs on her house. Four days later, she succumbed to injuries at the Government Rajaji Hospital in Madurai. Not all dalit women are as unfortunate as Chinnayi to die, but they endure equally harrowing experiences if one goes by a study on crimes perpetrated against dalit women conducted by an NGO.
Incidentally, more number of atrocities against dalits, are reported from southern districts, particularly Madurai. The study conducted by Evidence, a Madurai-based human rights organisation found that 124 cases of atrocities against dalit women in 25 districts of Tamil Nadu from January 2009 to September 2013. Madurai tops the list of districts with 23 cases, followed by Tirunelveli with 13, Sivaganga 12, Virudhunagar and Theni 11 each and Dindigul 10. “These numbers pertain only to those atrocities that were registered in police stations and pursued legally and not all incidents of atrocities,” said A Kathir, executive director, Evidence.
“Thirty-six of the women were raped, eight survived attempts to rape and 18 suffered sexual harassment,” the report said. A case in point was the plight of Thulasiammal (35), a widow who was raped by a gang of non-dalits at her house in Veerapagoundanur near Pollachi in 2010. In the same year, at Jittandahalli in Dharmapuri, a 16-year-old girl was molested by the school headmaster.
Shockingly, seven of the 124 women have committed suicide while 16 of them have been murdered. The study also said that the perpetrators have not targeted the victims just once, but several times in some cases.
After the Dharmapuri violence in 2012, there was marked increase in atrocities perpetrated against dalit women, says the study listing out 27 such incidents that occurred across Tamil Nadu.
A senior police official said that it was wrong to paint a picture portraying that dalit women are targeted in large numbers. “If you look at the number of atrocities against women in general, dalit women would only be a small part of it,” he said. “We don’t discriminate atrocities based on the caste of victims. We approach the cases depending on the magnitude of the offence and not based on the victim or perpetrator,” said the officer.
Kathir, however, said that seldom do the police register cases under SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. “Committees comprising human rights activities, feminists, advocates and journalists should be formed in each district to monitor atrocities against dalits,” he urged.
BRAZEN ATTACKS (January 2009 – September 2013)
124 cases in 25 districts of Tamil Nadu
Madurai tops the list with 23 cases
Tirunelveli comes second with 13
Sivaganga follows with 12
Virudhunagar and Theni 11 each
Dindigul recorded 10 cases
7 of the 124 have committed suicide
16 of them have been murdered
36 women were raped
8 survived attempts to rape
18 suffered sexual harassment
Times of India

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/madurai/Madurai-tops-list-of-dalit-women-facing-atrocit ies/articleshow/23754326.cms


Getting a Toe-Hold

By: Divya Trivedi
South Asia
In a first, Dalit women from four South Asian countries made a representation at the United Nations in Geneva on their struggles and movements earlier this month.
Following a side event at the UN Human Rights Council on multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and violence against Dalit women and women from similarly affected communities, non-government organisations—IMADR, Human Rights Watch, Minority Rights Group International and the International Dalit Solidarity Network called on UN member states to support efforts to eliminate gender and caste based discrimination.
The multiple forms of discrimination and violence against Dalit women have mostly been neglected until now, but some UN human rights bodies, including Special Rapporteurs and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, have begun to pay attention to this serious human rights issue.
Rashida Manjoo, UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences said, “The reality of Dalit women and girls is one of exclusion and marginalisation in geographic contexts within which they live. They are often victims of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights violations, including sexual abuse and violence. They are often displaced; pushed into forced and/or bonded labour, prostitution and trafficking; and also experience inter and intra-community violations of rights.”
The ambassador from the German UN Mission, Hanns Heinrich Schumacher, said he had been “shocked” when gathering information about the situation of Dalit women and came to realise the “urgency, the dimension of the problem.”
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, called on UN member states to “take on the challenge of addressing caste-based discrimination and the human rights violations flowing from this seriously and by mobilising all of their relevant institutions to this end.”
The group consisted of women from India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Whether lobbying at the UN makes a difference on the ground is another question but the Dalit activists visiting Geneva have already travelled very far – in more than one sense of the word.
“It is my first experience with such high level meetings. I am watching what is happening and learning how to lobby, how to put forward different themes and key points to the international community,” said Bagwhani Rathore of Pakistan in a statement.
The Hindu, June 11, 2013


Trafficking of tribal girls: Sick gardens trigger exodus
By Sumati Yengkhom
Several Delhi-based placement agencies, that claim to provide work to these trafficked girls, are being run illegally and without any registration. These agencies work in nexus with the ‘agents’ who are local tea garden workers and known to the victims.
The ignorant poor parents, who cannot feed their children, are ready to lap up the opportunity of sending the children to Delhi for work. in order to get rid of the their responsibility and also in the hope of getting a regular monthly income.
Once the victims reach Delhi, they stay in touch with the families for a few days. some of them is in contact with the family.
But soon they are barred from communicating with their parents and also, money stops reaching their families. Only a handful of them get work as domestic help, while the rest are either sold in brothels or for marriage.
About four months ago, a placement firm by the name Sai Placement Agency lured four girls from the Mateli police station area. Shakti Vahini members rescued the girls with the help of West Bengal Police. The agency was found to be fake and the trafficker Neelima Sharma was arrested after an FIR (number 223/12 under section 363/366/374 dated 21/11.2012) was lodged with the Mateli police.
Though the trend of migration by tribal girls started way back in 2000, the exodus has taken a massive proportion in last five to six years after several tea gardens were declared sick. Many of these tea estates do not even have primary schools and heathcare facilities. There is hardly any penetration by organizations that work for the welfare of the tribals.
Jalpaiguri police are aware of the magnitude of the problem and admitted that there is need to do much more to prevent trafficking. Police’s anti-trafficking activities like awareness programmes are restricted to educational institutions, a place that is out of bounds to the girls here.
“Poverty is the main issue. Unless it is addressed, the girls here will remain vulnerable. Though we cannot do much on that front, we are working on other preventive measures. Few days back we arrested two agents in Banarhat for trying to lure some girls. We need to penetrate deeper into the tea gardens. Officers-in-charge of all police stations have been asked to maintain records of girls who are going away for work, the persons taking them away, contacts of employers in collaboration with the local panchayats,” said Jalpaiguri SP Amit P Javalgi.
The schemes for the poor, like the BPL card and old age pension, are distant dreams. Most are not even aware of the existence of such schemes. There is no effort worth mentioning on part of local politicians for uplift the economic status of this tribal population. A major portion of the funds under schemes like NREGA are being pocketed by local panchayats.
“Recently we found misappropriation of NREGA funds by the local panchayat. Many garden workers were made to sign that they were paid for 100 days work, whereas these illiterate workers were paid only for seven days. We were even threatened by some panchayat members for unearthing this information and educating workers on their rights and dues,” said Omega Minj, a field worker.
Unfortunately NGOs active in anti-trafficking in many pockets of North Bengal seem to have left out these tea gardens of Jalpaiguri.
“We have been working in various parts of North Bengal but we need better penetration in the tea gardens. We will work out with the district administration, police and other stake holders to start off,” said Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini, an orgnisation that has successfully worked with administration and police in Malda.
Going all guns out on the traffickers by the police could only serve a temporary purpose. Till the concerned departments salvage the tea garden community out of poverty and hunger, young women and children will 
continue to be smuggled unabated from the cursed tea gardens.
The Times of India, March 4, 2013
Where Virginity Is For Sale in India
By Joanna Sugden
In Koppal, an impoverished district in Karnataka, virginity is for sale.
When girls dedicated in local temples under the illegal devadasi system hit puberty, their virginity is auctioned off to the highest bidder. Traditionally girls in this district in south India undergo an 11-day purification ceremony following the onset of menstruation. The “first maturity” ceremony, as they call it in Koppal, marks the transition into womanhood.
Bheemakka, who doesn’t have a surname because she doesn’t know who her father is, went through the puberty ritual in March, but she wasn’t sold.
The 11-year-old’s mother and grandmother are both devadasis, which means female servants of god. They were dedicated to the Hindu deity Yellamma as children and sold off after hitting puberty. They have been used by the men in their village for sex since their early teens.
Bheemakka says she was covered in turmeric and sandlewood paste as part of the purification process. After washing off the concoction, she was kept indoors for 11 days. Afterwards, her neighbors came over for a party.
“I enjoyed the attention,” says Bheemakka, wearing a bright pink shirt stretched tight over her chest and a red wilting flower clipped into her black braided bunches. “But I’m not going to become one of them.”
She means a devadasi. “Society looks down on them and they are labeled as prostitutes.”
Some say the original devadasi system of giving over females in service or marriage to a deity dates back to the ninth Century, but others believe it has existed in some form since 2500 B.C.
Their role and status have changed over the years.
In their heyday, between the 13th and 16th centuries, devadasis were high caste, educated women — sometimes from royal families — who performed dances for Yellamma, the deity, and looked after the temple precinct. They were forbidden from marrying mortals.
Historians record that by the 16th Century the role of devadasis had become sexualized and they were regarded in the community as auspicious high-class mistresses who men could visit for sex with impunity. Successive legislation to ban the practice since the 19th Century however meant that their status declined and lower caste women began to take their place.
The system was outlawed in Karnataka in 1982 but it is still widely practiced, mainly by poor, illiterate Dalit women in the northern parts of Karnataka, in places like Koppal, according to charities working in the region.
Many devadasis in Koppal have one partner who is usually already married and regards the devadasi as his “second woman” but not a legal wife. Other devadasis who don’t have the support of one man, known as a mallik (master), have many partners.
The penalty for anyone taking part in a devadasi dedication is up to five years imprisonment.
Government rehabilitation programs for ex-devadasis offer 400 rupees ($7.25) a month as a “pension” for the 46,000 women they have identified in Karnataka who say they have given up the role. Local NGOs working with both devadasi and ex-devadasi women say that amount is a pittance and not enough to deter women from continuing as devadasis with quasi-support from a partner.
“Every time they get paid the pension they have to give some back as a bribe,” said Nazar P. Sainudheen, an advocacy co-ordinator for Visthar, an NGO working with devadasi women and their children in Koppal since 2005. “They aren’t empowered enough to take a stand,” he added.
Nagar Raj, general manager of the Karnataka government’s Women’s Development Corporation, says sometimes there is a delay in getting the money to the women. “But we have not received any complaints about bribery,” he said.
Mr. Raj added that the devadasi system was “not existing” in Karnataka now because of better education. “If anyone is practicing they can be arrested,” he said.
But David Selvaraj, founder and director of Visthar, says programs and legislation have failed to eradicate the devadasi practice.
“You can go to temples where there will be a plaque on the wall saying that dedication of daughters is banned and round the back there will be a room where those dedications still take place,” Mr. Selvaraj says. “It’s an abuse of women with a religious sanction.”
In 2010, his organization set up a free school and residential home called Bandhavi (meaning “friend” in Kannada, the local language) for the daughters of devadasi women who are at risk of being dedicated into the system.
Bheemakka is one of its pupils. After her 11 days of purification she returned to the school, located on a copper-orange patch of land in the village of Chikkabidanal, just beyond Karnataka’s fertile cotton belt.
The 11-year-old left her job working as an agricultural laborer to join the school in 2011 after a team from Visthar arrived in her village asking if anyone wanted to have a taster day at the school.
“If I didn’t come to school my brain wouldn’t grow and I wouldn’t get to know what is right and what is wrong,” she says. Above her on the classroom wall is a portrait of perhaps India’s most famous Dalit, Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, who drafted the country’s constitution.
“He was a poor boy like us,” says Bheemakka before rattling off his achievements in enshrining freedom of religion and equality in the constitution.
There are 100 girls at the school. Mr. Selvaraj says he could fill it many times over with the daughters of devadasi in the area. Some have entered child marriages or been rescued from child labor. Most, according to Mr. Selvaraj, were at risk of being made devadasis.
It costs $24 a month to look after a pupil at the school. Around 80% of the funding comes from Kindernothilfe, a German NGO.
Around half of the pupils, like Bheemakka, don’t have enough education to go straight into mainstream school so they join the Bandhavi bridge school where they learn the basics as well as lessons on current affairs and human rights.
Another pupil at Bandhavi, 15-year-old Jyothi, says one of the best things about the school is not being teased about her parents.
“Outside, other children used to say to me, ‘We don’t know how many men your mother has slept with and then you were born.’ Here that doesn’t happen,” Jyothi says.
Both Jyothi and Bheemakka say their mothers are happy that they have joined Bandhavi. But money worries can sometimes tempt them to remove the girls from the school.
“Our mothers’ dreams are very small,” said Bheemakka.
These small dreams mean their mothers believe it may be easier to put them to work in the fields and eventually as devadasis, she added.
“It’s not because our mothers are our enemies,” Bheemakka says. “The situation and the cost of daily life make them think that we shouldn’t be here… But it’s only for a short time and we can bring change because of our learning.”
Bheemakka says she hopes to become a teacher and help others enjoy their childhood and education.
“I’m expected to do the same as my mother and go down that channel,” she says. “But I’m going to break the chain.”
The Wall Street Journal – India Real Time, April 5, 2013

Dalit women at the receiving end

By Rahi Gaikwad
“Would you like to compromise?” That’s the first question a judge asks when a caste atrocity case comes up for trial, says Manjula Pradeep, of the Gujarat-based non governmental organisation Navsarjan. A study done by Navsarjan on atrocity data obtained through RTI for Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu found that between December 2004 and November 2009, “there were convictions in only 0.79 per cent of cases (three cases) of violence by non-Dalits across the three states. In Gujarat there were no convictions at all.”
The worst sufferers of a systemic failure to probe caste crimes are Dalit women. They are known to face double discrimination; they become the target for upper caste men outside homes and gender-based violence at home.
In a submission to the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), Navsarjan states, “Dalit women are considered as easily available for all forms of violence…The Indian justice system cannot serve as a deterrent for crime when there is no consequence for the perpetrators of violence against Dalit women.”
According to the organisation’s study there were 379 cases of violence against Dalit women by non-Dalits between December 2004 and November 2009 across the three states. However, the outcome of only 101 cases (26.6 per cent) was known to have been decided when the data was analysed in the beginning of 2011.
In the three state—Five Dalit women were murdered by non-Dalits (three in Tamil Nadu and one each in Gujarat and Maharashtra). There were 76 reported cases of rape or gang rape (20 in Gujarat, 35 in Maharashtra, 21 in Tamil Nadu). On the other hand violence on Dalit women by the community itself (including family) saw 15 women being murdered in the three states (eight Tamil Nadu, four Gujarat, three Maharashtra), and 37 cases of rape or gang rape (19 Tamil Nadu, 12 Gujarat, 6 Maharashtra) were reported.
A total of 117 cases (30.9 per cent) remained pending in the courts and the status of 161 cases (42.5 per cent) was unknown. The cases where no information is available are likely to be undecided, the study noted. Navsarjan points out that the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women noted, “Dalit women face targeted violence even rape and murder by the state actors and powerful members of dominant castes used to inflict political lessons and crush dissent with the community.”
At a recent seminar held at Mumbai’s Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), activists and academics raised concerns over state complicity as a major hurdle in seeking justice under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. “The Act has completed 20 years, but people, even lawyers still don’t know about it. It is not part of the university curriculum,” Manjula Pradeep says.
She points out that Dalits were moving to the cities to “escape” atrocity and “the identity of being an untouchable.” While fighting caste violence and discrimination, the attitude of the government, police and the judiciary poses a formidable challenge.
Eknath Avhad, Dalit activist from the Marathwada region of Maharashtra blamed low political willpower for the dismal justice rate in atrocity cases. “Activists and people are ready to fight,” he says, “but they can’t fight the politics.” The Maharashtra government’s ‘Dispute Free Village’ scheme for instance is a case in point.
A programme designed to work out compromises, almost imparts impunity to caste and other kinds of crimes. “It’s a licence to hooliganism. All odds are stacked against the Dalits,” Mr. Avhad said. “The police will not register cases or delay registration; if they do, they will conduct shoddy investigation. Then there is no witness protection. After 1995, the percentage of case registration was low. It dropped further after 2000.”

The Hindu, September 25, 2012

Girls Conditions India

http://shudrasangh.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/girls-conditions-india/
2011 में दिल्ली में हुए बलात्कार के लिए तो करोड़ों लोग अपनी जान की परवाह किय बगैर खड़े हो गए.. क्योकि मामला एक ब्राह्मण लड़की का था… परन्तु इस दलित लड़की प्रियंका(18 साल) की क्या गलती थी..? इस लड़की में क्या कमी थी? 29 अगस्त 2006 में इस मासूम लड़की से तीन लोगों ने बलात्कार किया.. और मार कर सड़क के किनारे फेंक दिया गया? इस लड़की की एक ही गलती थी.. ये लड़की दलित जाति से सम्बंधित थी.. भारत में 90 करोड़ दलित है.. 2-4 मर भी गए तो क्या फर्क पड़ता है..? सभी ब्राह्मणवाद के शिकार हुए आपस में कुत्तों और बंदरों की तरह लड़ते रहते है.. ये मेरी जाति.. ये मेरा धर्म..!! आज ऐसी हजारों घिनौनी हरकतें हर रोज होती है.. हजारों लड़कियों की जिंदगी बर्बाद हो जाती है.. लेकिन किसी को जाति और धर्म से समय मिले तभी तो इन मासूम बेटियों के बारे सोचेंगे ना? नहीं तो किस के पास समय है.. क्यों आन्दोलन करे.. आज दूसरों के घरों में आग लगी है.. तो तमाशा देखते रहते है.. कल को अपने घर में भी आग लगेगी तो भी सिर्फ तमाशा ही देखेंगे..
कभी कभी शर्म आने लगती है मुझे भी कि मैं किन मुर्दा हो चुके इंसानों को जगाने के लिए लिख रहा हूँ.. लेकिन मेरी आत्मा नहीं मानती.. एक दर्द-एकdalit-girlएहसास मुझे मेरी आत्मा में महसूस होता है… आँखे भर आती है.. और हाथ फिर से लिखने के लिए मजबूर हो जाते है… कब तक मेरे लोग मूर्खों की तरह मेरी जाति मेरा धर्म के नाम पर लड़ते रहेंगे? दोस्तों, उठो और आँखे खोलो… ये जाति या ये धर्म तुम्हारे नहीं है.. क्यों इन जातियों और धर्मों को बंदरी के मृत बच्चे की तरह सीने से लगा रखा है.. जिसको बंदरी तब तक नहीं छोड़ती जब तक उसको अगला बच्चा नहीं हो जाता… दोस्तों, छोड़ दो इन जातियों और धर्म को.. इन से बदबू आने लगी है… सच को समझो… यह 2013 है.. विज्ञान का धर्म मानो.. विज्ञान जिस बात को साबित करे उस बात पर विश्वास करो… आँखे बंद कर के अपना और अपने बच्चों का भविष्य बर्बाद ना करो.. कभी समय मिले तो सोचना हमारी आने वाली पीढियां हमारे बारे क्या सोचेंगी? आने वाली पीढियां हम लोगों को नपुंसक और हिजड़ों जैसे शब्दों से अलंकृत करेगी..
भारत में 90% बलात्कार ब्राह्मण, राजपूत और वैश्य ही करते है.. आवाज उठाओ.. आगे बढ़ो.. बाबा साहब जी ने जो अधिकार दिलाये है उनका सम्मान करो.. बाबा साहब जी की जय बोलने से कुछ नहीं होगा.. उनके दिखाए रास्ते पर चलो.. उनके दिए अधिकारों का प्रयोग करो.. यही बाबा साहब जी के लिए सच्चा सम्मान और सम्मान होगा.. कमी बाबा साहब जी की सोच में नहीं तुम लोगों में है.. जो आवाज नहीं उठाते… अपने विचार व्यक्त नहीं करते… संगठित नहीं होते.. संघर्ष नहीं करते… विज्ञान की जगह अंध विश्वासों के नाम पर जाति और धर्म को बढ़ावा देते हो…
2012 में दिल्ली में बलात्कार हुआ.. दोषी कौन थे? शर्मा और ठाकुर..??? मरने वाली लड़की कौन? उच्च जाति की.. उसके लिए पूरा भारत एक तरफ हो गया… लेकिन जब एक दलित लड़की की हत्या होती है… उसका बलात्कार होता है तो तुम लोगों की अंतरआत्मा कहा मर जाती है?? ऊँची जाति की लड़की के लिए चिलाने वाली तुम्हारी जुबान खामोश क्यों हो जाती है?? मीडिया के दलालों ने भी उस बलात्कार को ऐसे उठाया जैसे पता नहीं सारी उच्च जाति की महिलाओं के साथ बलात्कार हो गया हो.. नाम दिया गया “दामिनी बलात्कार केस”.. जब एक मूल निवासी लड़की की बात आती है तो उसे नाम दिया जाता है “प्रियंका” और केस बंद.. आखिर क्यों ? क्या देश के 90 करोड़ लोगों का इस देश पर कोई अधिकार नहीं है? क्या देश में कानून नाम की चीज़ सिर्फ उच्च जाति के लोगों की रक्षा के लिए बनी है? 90 करोड़ मूल निवासियों को न्याय का कोई हक नहीं है? मीडिया तक के कान बंद हो जाते है जब दलित लोगों पर अत्याचार होते है…. सारे मीडिया कर्मियों के बाप मर जाते है और वो मौन धारण कर के बैठ जाते है.. लेकिन क्यों??? दोस्तों, जागो, उठो और आवाज उठाओ… ये देश हमारा है… हम इस देश के असली शासक है… बाबा साहब जी की आवाज पर चलो.. विज्ञान के धर्म को मानो और सच पर विश्वास करो.. अम्बेडकरवाद में विश्वास रखो.. ऐसी कोई समस्या नहीं है जिसका हल अम्बेडकरवाद में ना हो.. अपने आप को अकेला ना समझे.. हम और हमारी टीम के सभी सदस्य आप लोगों के साथ है.. आप भी हमारी टीम के साथ जुड़ सकते हो.. आज ही हमारी वेबसाइट पर जाये और मुफ्त में हमारी टीम के सदस्य बने.. अपने दोस्तों, रिश्तेदारों और दुसरे अपने समाज के लोगों को भी हमारी टीम का सदस्य बनने के लिए प्रेरित्त करे.. आओ हम मिल कर आवाज उठाये.. सभी मूल निवासियों को जागरूक बनाये.. और भारत पर मूल निवासियों के शासन की फिर से स्थापना करें……

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