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Caste Dynamics Behind Sexual Violence In India

According to the 2011 Census of India, Dalits make up 16.6 percent of the country's overall population and bear a disproportionate amount of its socioeconomic hardships. It may be argued that the only group still dealing with the agony of the most humiliating social degradation brought on by the centuries-old practise of untouchability through casteism is Dalits (constitutionally referred to as reserved caste).

Despite all the constitutional protections and the passage of several laws to uphold the honor and dignity of women, caste has been shown to have a significant influence on the legal system on a number of times across the nation. Their vulnerability and social marginalisation in society are primarily caused by the unequal distribution of resources, opportunities, and treatment of Dalit women.

It is crucial to comprehend how identities and status based on religion, caste, gender, class, ethnicity, and area may become a potential source of inciting Violence since exclusion is Violence since exclusion is both the cause and the effect of India's severely divided society. Therefore, while examining the violence committed against Dalit (ex-untouchable) men and women as a result of their caste status in society, identification is crucial.

Dalit women lack fundamental human rights. They are mainly uneducated, at the bottom of the caste, class, and gender hierarchies in India, and they are routinely paid less than their male colleagues. In rural regions, the bulk of Dalit women work as scavengers and landless workers. Their position of subordination becomes a target for abuse by others in positions of authority, who carry out their attacks without consequence.

When we look at Indian society today, it is evident that many individuals are being driven to the sidelines due to discriminatory behaviours, and Dalit women are left alone at the end of this margin. Triple brutality is perpetrated against them. In cities, there have been fewer cases of Dalit women being sexually harassed. As a result of their poverty and the fact that they must work with the upper castes to meet their necessities, these women nevertheless experience abuse and sexual harassment while living in the countryside.

A Dalit lady was gang raped by four males of a higher caste in the Hathras incident in Uttar Pradesh in October 2020, and she passed away in a Delhi hospital two weeks later. Dalit women are increasingly being raped in Indian communities. But when we look at these occurrences, most people either link them to Dalit women's poverty or to their physical appearance. Rapes are not taken seriously and Dalit women are not believed since they are considered "untouchable". The 1992 Bhanwari Devi Case involving the potter community is only one of many such important incidents in contemporary India.

Increasing Sexual Violence Against Dalit Women

There are approximately 100 million Dalit women, and the National Crime Records Bureau estimates that every day, more than four Dalit women are raped. Over 23% of Dalit women report being raped, and many of them record numerous rapes, according to the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights, an NGO.

Experts claim that because there are so few convictions for sexual crimes and so few laws protecting the victims, many offenders feel free to conduct these crimes.

According to activists documenting atrocities against the Dalit community, rural women are victimised by horrifying crimes when they or their families are judged to have broken customary standards and regulations rooted from caste.

"One form of punishment is that either their property is burnt down or looted. The other degrading method is, women are raped, undressed and then paraded in public squares," Shabnam Hashmi, a social activist.

Reasons Behind Sexual Violence Of Dalit Women

The majority of researchers and observers (like Ranjana Kumari, director of the Center for Social Research) claim that the instances show that caste-based rape is a dominance tactic used by higher castes against "lower-caste" women.

Observers have noted that when there is a caste or class dispute, rape is frequently utilised as a weapon. This was made clear in February 2016, when unrest in the northern state of Haryana caused by the Jat community—a relatively wealthy upper caste farming community demanding reservations or quotas of government jobs—disrupted daily life. It was discovered that during the bloody riots, assailants took out nine Dalit women from their homes and gang-raped them.

There are several factors that may be used to explain why violence against women in marginalised areas is on the rise. Women in their families are left unprotected in their villages as more males from lower caste groups migrate to cities and metropolitan regions in quest of jobs. Additionally, women have lost their safe circumstances of existence and are now vulnerable as a result of the displacement of indigenous groups from their recognised habitats, such as forests.

The Dalits' political claim has also contributed to the rise in assaults. "The government is lying when it says that Dalit rights are protected. Power dynamics based on caste need to be questioned. Here, we are dealing with a historical issue "activist Paul Diwakar explains.

Suggestions To Prevent Such Horrendous Crime

  • In order to protect women and children from gender- and caste-based violence, the government should map atrocity prone regions (districts) as well as vulnerable populations, including as Dalits, Indigenous people, single mothers, and girl children in and near such places.
     
  • Governments must ensure the development of effective legal systems to encourage prompt investigation and expedited trial procedures in all cases of gender-based, sexual, and descent-based violence, as well as to ensure the rehabilitation of atrocity survivors to ensure their financial security and independence;
     
  • By emphasising women's rights under the constitution and other laws, as well as government policies, programmes, and schemes, and allowing them to utilise them, the state should implement systematic steps to guarantee that women have access to justice and their legal entitlements;
     
  • Regular public awareness campaigns should be conducted by the government to promote gender equality among citizens in all regions, with the assistance of regional human rights organisations and a focus on teaching men and boys in particular. Prejudices based on caste and gender should be addressed by sponsoring community-based initiatives and services that educate the general public. Such occasions need to motivate individuals to reconsider how they view caste and gender discrimination more broadly and to periodically have human rights and legal rights debates in schools;
     
  • Participate in the educational system to bring about systemic change at the level of the entire nation of India, promoting gender equality, introducing and promoting the culture of diversity, and also catering to educate teens on problems connected to sexuality and consent. Current regressive social standards should be taught to children in primary school, and efforts should be made to foster the development of a scientific temperament;
     
  • The state of Dalit residential schools and dormitories has to be rectified, with a focus on girls' safety measures. This will result in a focused development and progress of Dalit girl students' educational condition right now.
     
  • Reorganize and concentrate public funding distribution to promote women's economic opportunities, fair access to productive resources, and basic social, educational, and health needs, particularly for women from Dalit and Adivasi backgrounds and other disadvantaged populations who live in poverty. Planning and budgeting from a gender lens must incorporate the inter-sectionality framework, which prioritizes the perspectives, interests, and voices of women from the most underrepresented groups;
     
Conclusion
One of the largest barriers to establishing an equitable and just society is violence against women. Violence against women in any form is abhorrent. Rape is the most heinous act committed against women of all forms of discrimination. It involves a number of social, cultural, and political issues related to women's bodies in addition to being a forced, non-consensual sexual act on a woman's body.

This write up examines the critical role that forced sex plays in weakening Dalit women's rights and the sense of value in the community. It also sheds light on the patriarchal, class-based, and caste institutions that support sexual assault against women belonging to lower castes. Patriarchal and Brahminical customs served as the inspiration for the rape of a Dalit woman. It is crucial to realize that caste plays a significant role in sex crimes against Dalit women.

Rape frequently results from a number of circumstances, including land conflicts, intra-faction competition, and caste domination, due to strongly ingrained, religiously sanctioned prejudice.

The incidents in Hathras and Khairlangi Cases demonstrate how low can a man be to commit such crimes. These demonstrated how the "so-called" upper caste males think of women based on their caste identification and abuse them on the basis of it.

In the situation of Dalit women, the idea of individuality is gone. In addition to being a violent physical crime, caste-biased rape leaves a festering wound on the victim's and her community's psyches. Dalit women suffer from chronic anxiety as a result of the trauma and memories caused by such tragedies, which has a negative impact on their hopes for the future.

Therefore, the rape of women must be addressed within the context of human rights in order to effectively and completely solve Dalit women's concerns. Furthermore, "substantive" justice rather than "punitive" justice is required to lessen violence against Dalit women. It won't be feasible unless all available institutional assistance is offered and until the government, civic society, academia, and the media start working together to discover objective answers to their problems.

Written By: Ria Choudhary, BBA LLB (Hons.), School of Law Lovely Professional University

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