India is home to more than 80 million Dalit women – a calculation based on the statistics of the national census 2001.

A three-year study of 500 Dalit women’s experiences of violence across four Indian states shows that the majority of Dalit women report having faced one or more incidents of verbal abuse (62.4%), physical assault (54.8%), sexual harassment and assault (46.8%), domestic violence (43.0%) and rape (23.2%).

Verbal abuse included regular derogatory use of caste names and caste epithets possibly amounting to ‘hate speech’, as well as sexually explicit insults, gendered epithets and threats(1).

Most women do not report violence and the study shows that only 1% of the cases that are actually filed end in convictions.

The 2009 report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Womencontains an overwhelming number of accounts of Dalit women in India being raped and beaten by higher castes in the course of their daily lives, such as while  working in the field, going to the market or doing domestic work.

Sometimes disputes over land and resources can be a cause of violence, but just as often they are violated simply because they are Dalit women.

Almost all cases show that the Dalit women are punished by police officers when trying to file a complaint or threatened to remain silent by means of physical assaults and rape and threats of further recourses(2).The report reveals that the women in most cases are denied their right to medical treatment for their injuries.

The perpetrators are usually released on bail without arrest, police investigation or prosecution(3).Based on the evidence of the situation of Dalit women, the UN Special Rapporteur expresses special concern and urges the Indian Government to act.

In 2007, the report of the UN Committee Elimination of Discrimination against Women  (CEDAW) addressed the issue of dalit women India. More information.

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