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Dalit women

Dalits displaced by floods in Bihar, India in October 2007.

At the bottom of South Asia’s caste, class and gender hierarchies, are Dalit women.

They suffer multiple discrimination – as Dalits, as members of an impoverished underclass and as women. The endemic gender-and-caste discrimination that Dalit women face is the outcome of severely imbalanced social, economic and political power equations.

Violence and inhuman treatment, such as sexual assault, rape, and naked parading, serve as a social mechanism to maintain Dalit women’s subordinate position in society. They are targeted as a way of humiliating entire Dalit communities.

Sanctioned impunity on behalf of the offenders is a key problem. Police personnel often neglect or deny the Dalit women of their right to seek legal and judicial aid. In many cases, the judiciary fails to enforce the laws that protect Dalit women from discrimination. In the year 2006, the official conviction rate for Dalit atrocity cases in India was just 5.3% according to a report by the National Crimes Bureau entitled Crimes in India.

In November 2006, Dalit women gathered in the Hague and called on the United Nations, the European Union and the community of states to “raise the issues and concerns of Dalit women at all levels and to involve and introduce all necessary measures, and to support and secure the implementation of the recommendations of this Declaration with a sense of great urgency”.

Several UN human rights bodies such as CEDAW and CERD and have raised concerns about the human rights situation of Dalit women.
> Click here for more information on UN treaty bodies and Dalit women 

Country Information on Dalit Women

Specific forms of violations:

> Forced prostitution

> Manual scavenging

Database

IDSN has created an extensive database on caste-based discrimination.

Click here for all documents on Dalit women >>

Other Resources

Download IDSN's Briefing Paper on Dalit Women >>

Find more information Dalit women and the UN >>

Read CEDAW's comments on Dalit women in it's report on India in 2007.

Read IDSN recommendations on good practices and strategies to eliminate caste discrimination (addressing multiple discrimination against Dalit women)

Dalit Women Speak Out - Violence against Dalit Women in India, An overview Report in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar,Tamil Nadu/Pondicherry and Uttar Pradesh by Aloysius Irudayam S.J. Jayshree P. Mangubhai and Joel G. Lee, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, New Delhi, March 2006

Women in Ritual Slavery by Anti-Slavery International, 2007. 

Hague Declaration on the Human Rights and Dignity of Dalit Women, 21 November 2006.

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.

From Beijing 1995 to the Hague 2006 – The Transnational Activism of the Dalit Women’s Movement a paper presented at the Canadian Political Science Association Annual Meeting, Vancouver, British Columbia, June 2008, by Peter Smith.

Dalit Women’s Right to Political Participation in Rural Panchayati Raj  - A study of Gujarat and Tamil Nadu by Jayshree Mangubhai, Aloysius Irudayam sj, and Emma Sydenham. Published by IDEAS, Justitia et Pax, Equalinrights (2009).

Violence against Dalit women submitted by All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch (AIDMAM), 2012

Videos - Caste Discrimination and Dalit Women

In 2012, IDSN produced this short film on Dalit women and caste discrimination. It includes accounts by Dalit women on rape, sexual abuse and forced prostitution. On IDSN's YouTube Channel, you can find many other films on Dalit women.

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