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An estimated 15-minute read

Violence against Dalit Women

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By Yashi Mishra, Author

and Nishith Pandit Advocate



Dalit is a designation for a group of people traditionally regarded as untouchable. The highest population of this class of people have been recorded in India. Dalits are those classes of people who are not only considered as untouchable but also deprived of their basic right to life. According to Ancient Indian System, Dalits, basically are those people which does not belong to any of the four castes i.e. Brahmin, Vaishya, Kshayatriya, Sudhras. They are outcasted or does not belong to any of the four castes and tend to do such impure works such as sweeping roads, cleaning toilets, removal of rubbish etc. They are not a particular caste or class of people but are divided into many small groups. Due to their nature of work, they have been, on many occasions, deprived of their basic necessities and rights.

Although, in modern times, their rights and necessities are seriously being considered by the government of India and many rules and regulations have been made to protect people who are called Dalits. Dalits does not have, in particular, any religion especially in modern times but the origin of the word 'Dalit' and these class of people where originally named and considered in Hinduism1. In ancient India, the upper class of people have always neglected and prejudiced Dalits.

But Dalit women are more burdened and discriminated on the basis of caste, class and gender. Dalits were considered to be lower class people and therefore Dalit women are even further deprived not only by upper class but also by Dalit males. They had been discriminated many times on the basis of gender and were used by almost all class of people including Dalits itself.

Caste System in India

The caste system in India had been formed ages ago and traces of this caste system have been observed in various religious and literary works of ancient Indian society. According to this caste system, people were divided into mainly four castes i.e. Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra. But apart from these four castes, there was another class of people known as Dalits which was considered to be lowest caste in all. These people were those who are neglected and outcasted by all the class of people and also they tend to do impure works.

Since ancient times, this system is followed in Hinduism by all and therefore it has become an integral part of the religion not only in India but also in other countries and religions such as Christianity, Sikhism, etc.

Dalits Women and their dilemma

Since ancient times, there had been many instance recorded where women were discriminated on the basis of caste, race and gender. The ancient male dominant society is still influential in today's casted divided culture in many parts of India. Although many steps have been take to prevent discrimination against women. Earlier, through history, women have been victim of many offences such as prostitution, murder, rape, human trafficking etc. And till date, many of such offences are repeatedly committed in many parts of India. This region mostly covers rural areas where discrimination on basis of caste has been highest.

Perhaps, it is the quandary nature of women that made them suffer more as neither the higher caste including the officials in judiciary in ancient India helped them nor the public at large accepted them which made women more vulnerable and hence the present state.

But the situation of Dalit women, which earlier referred to 'untouchables', made the case worst as they were mostly neglected by the society and forced to work as prostitutes. The scenario in modern world did not made any difference to Dalit women and they are still being discriminated and forced to work as prostitutes, also involved in human trafficking etc. According to 2010 survey, every 18 minutes, Dalit women are becoming victim of forced prostitution, murder, rape etc2.

Also, not only they are abused and discriminated by upper caste of the society but also they are being abused by Dalit men also. The triangular combination, (being women, lower caste and Dalit), have made the scenario worst for Dalit women. As Dalit men are becoming victim of various crimes and socio-economic conditions, they release all their frustrations and tension on Dalit female, generally their wife, and therefore the condition is becoming more and more serious.

As Dalits are often denied entry to religious places, access to sources of water, governance and education, the scenarios is catastrophic for Dalit women as they are sufferers of injustice and oppression. National Crime records Bureau data records that more than four Dalit women are being raped every day3.

There have been many cases where Dalit women are tortured or murdered or raped just because of they belong to a caste or a class of people called Dalit. In Bihar, a woman had received money from government as part of yojna and a policeman borrowed that money for short period. When woman went to get her money back, she was raped in front of her family and burnt alive4. These types of acts in societies show the level of cruelty and arrogance in the society that just because a woman belongs to Dalit class, she becomes victim of crimes no normal prudent person can imagine.

Another case of Haryana, where the victim is just a school girl. Here, when the victim was going to school, some men came in car and forced her to get into car with them. There, she was gang raped by those man, and they threatened girl not to tell anyone otherwise accuse will kill her parents. This went along for 10-15 days when she was again gang raped as and when those men called so. After some days the victim told her mother about incidents, and so those accuse took her mother, raped her too and then killed her. When the father filled the suit, he was forced to take Rs. 70,000 and take the case back. The victim belongs to Dalit class of people5.

Another shocking case of Orissa, where a 13 year old Dalit Christian girl was gang raped and murdered by accuses. All the accuse are juvenile and are now arrested for gang rape and murder of the girl6. These type of incident rises to the question whether the person who can rape or murder or even sexually abused can be considered Juvenile or whether any person who can attempt or commit such grievous acts which a reasonable man cannot imagine of doing such acts.

In Rajasthan, when a Dalit girl was working with her mother on field, she was dragged and then raped by a nearby villager. Though the victim's brother was nearby and he tried to save her, the accused manage to escape on bike. The disturbing part is, when the family went to police for filing complaint, police beat the girl and recorded the statement that the accuse did not raped her and she had sexual relationship with her brother.7 These acts of police constantly raise questions in mind whether the law enforcement mechanism can be trusted.

According to 2010 statistics, in every week, 21 Dalit women are being raped and 13 Dalits are murdered. The crime against Dalits are increasing since 20008. According to survey, in 2003, there were 1089 cases of Dalit women being raped by Dalit men while it increased to 1346 in 20099. The conviction rate in case of Dalit atrocity is just 5.3% in 200610.

Legal regime and Dalit women

The Constitution of India is considered to be the lengthiest Constitution in the world and it contains legal base of everything from fundamental rights and duties to directives of states and powers and functions of Executive and Judiciary. Under Constitution of India, 1950, Right to Equality has been guaranteed under article 14 to article 18 of the Constitution. Article 14 states that 'the State shall not deny to any person equality before the law and equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.' Therefore by the virtue of article 14, it has been specified stated that every person is entitled for protection of law irrespective of caste, religion, race, sex etc.

Article 15(2) of the Constitution of India, 1950 declares no citizen shall be restricted or disabled from access to any public place or places of public resort etc on the ground of race, caste, sex, place of birth or religion. Also, Article 17 of Constitution states that 'untouchability is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden'. The enforcement of untouchability shall be punishable offence in accordance with the law. Article 17 specifically protects 'Dalits' from being discriminated and also forbids the practice of untouchability.

Initially, Untouchability (offences) act, 1955 had been passed. But in 1978 old legislation was amended and also its name was changed to Protection of Civil Rights, 1955. As, cases of atrocities on Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe were not covered under the old legislation, parliament passed a new act called Scheduled Caste and Schedule Tribe (prevention of atrocities), act, 1989.

In Asiad Project Worker’s case11, the Supreme Court held that the fundamental right under Article 17 are available against private individuals and it is the constitutional duty of the State to take necessary steps to see that these fundamental rights are not violated.

In State of Karnataka v. Appa Balu Ingale12, the Court held that the object of Article 17 and the Protection of Civil Rights, 1955 is to liberate the society from blind and ritualistic adherence and traditional belief which has lost all legal or normal bases. It seeks to establish new ideas for society-equality to the Dalits at par with general public, absence of disabilities, restrictions, or prohibitions on grounds of caste or religion.

Article 21 of Constitution of India, 1950 guarantees every person right to life and personal liberty. According to article 21, every person has right to live his/her life without any disturbance and it shall not be deprived except the procedure established by the law. It is available to the entire person living in India including minorities and Dalits but on looking at the cases, it can be said that people, whether upper cast or Dalit males, are in continuous violation of basic rights of Dalit women and despite of making law enforcement mechanisms, people still violates lawful rights and liberties of Dalit women.

International Scenario

Internationally, there have been many covenants and treaties made in order to protect women rights. Mostly covenants enacted by United Nations and resolutions passed by United Nations are been accepted by most countries including India. Initially, the United Nations have passed Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)13 which consists of basic rights of people all over the world and it has binding effect on all the nations. According to UDHR, right to life has been granted to all the individuals of the world and it is considered to be the basic and most important right of every human being for survival. Except from right to life, many other freedoms and rights such as right to movement, right to speech, right to personal liberty, right to equality, etc. Have also granted under UDHR. It has accepted that such rights and freedoms are necessary for all the human being to live life with liberty and prosperity.

After UDHR, came International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)14, came into force on March 23, 1976 consist of civil and political rights of all the individuals in human family. It includes right to life, freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment, right of detenu to be treated with humanity, freedom of movement, freedom of opinion and expression, right to take part in public affairs, etc. It has been accepted universally that, these right are given to all the human being including Dalit women. Although the enforcement of such rights are still in question. India, being a signatory, have ratified in its domestic laws and accepted almost every right as fundamental right of every citizen, as codified in Constitution of India, 1950, but the abuse and inhuman treatment to Dalit women are still continued to be in practise.

Along with ICCPR, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) have also been accepted as one of the instrument of Bill of Rights and it has been widely accepted by nations who also accepted and ratified ICCPR. ICESCR includes right to work, right to social security, right to physical and mental health, right to adequate food, clothing, housing and standard of living and freedom from hunger etc. Like ICCPR, Constitution of India, 1950 have also accepted many of the provisions of ICESCR and accordingly implementation procedures have been made. But they are still not enforced properly and Dalit women are becoming victim of vigorous crimes such as rape, murder, etc.

Both covenants lacks on specifying individual complaint system and it have become impossible to enforce such rights in certain conditions. In order to fill this gap, the United Nations have accepted optional protocol to the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women15 which will enable women victims to file individual complaints against any types of discrimination. This is also applicable to Dalit women in India but despite of such mechanism, Dalit women are still discriminated and abused due to lack of awareness.

Proposal: Solving burning issues

Perhaps this is not quandary of Dalit women, that they can get protection from law enforcement nor can any help from other caste or class of the society as they are not aware of their rights and they are constantly abused by other sections of society. In order to help Dalit women, there are many steps which have to be taken in order to protect them such as:-

  1. Effective implementation of government policies made specifically for the protection of Dalits: In number of debates that had been held, it was agreed though there has been policies made by the government, dalits are not getting benefit of all of them and therefore proper implementation mechanism is necessarty.

  2. Government should take effective policies to remove caste based conflicts and discriminations: there is necessicity to make such policies which removes caste based conflicts. Although some of them are present in current legislation, but it is necessary to enact strict rules.

  3. Mass campaign programme which will spread knowledge about rights and freedoms of Dalit women: Apart from government, mass campaign programmes by media and NGOs will add to the efforts of government to remove caste based violence.

  4. Limited use or prohibition on alcoholic drinks as they work as catalyst in increasing violence: more strict rules should be made for consumption and use of alcoholic drinks are they tend to make people more violent.

  5. Making effectiveness policies to increase literacy rate in Dalit women: Although rules have been made for free education to children in India, special rules should be made in order to spread literacy in dalit women.

  6. Witness protection programme: In many cases, witnesses are murdered in order to drop cases against other class of people, in such cases it is necessary to introduce witness protection programme.

  7. Implementing fast track case disposal system for cases relating to caste based violence: many caste based discrimination cases are delayed for years and due to delayed judgment by the court, dalits women are not getting justice therefore fast tract disposal of such cases should bbe made necessary.

  8. Availability of psycho-socio counsellor in Dalit settlement cases: as caste based violence and crime against dalit women are very sensitive in nature, it is necessary to employ psycho-socio counsellor for dealing with such issues.

  9. Co-ordination between Non-governmental Organisations and Government: there should be co-operation and co-ordination between governmental departments and non-governmental organisations.

  10. Coordination among law enforcement agencies: Due to clash of jurisdictions among law enforcement agencies, many times, justice had been delayed therefore coordination among them is very important.

  11. Government should ensure rehabilitation of the victims or survivors of the crime: Rehabilitation of victims of crime is very important as the psychological after-effects of crimes on dalit women are very dangerous and therefore government should ensure rehabilitation of victims of crime..


The situation of Dalit women in India is becoming worse day by day and it needs immediate attention of Government of India so that to form and implement such policies specifically dealing with problems of Dalit women. Since ancient times, the violence against Dalits especially Dalit women are carried and after many ages, the eco of pains and problems can be heard in modern times also. These ancient practices needs to be stopped or banned immediately which force Dalit women to indulge in prostitution or other immoral acts.

There are many policies being made for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe people but there is no such policy among at solving problems of Dalit women and therefore it has become necessary to enact such policies. According to convents and other international treaties, the government is at obligation to make such policies which will ensure the protection of women in the country and accordingly the rules are being made in Constitution of India, 1950 and other enactments. But perhaps it is the implementation procedures which are not as effectiveness as they should. In future, it has been expected that India may become superpower, therefore it is necessary to protect all its citizens in order to succeed.



1 Information available on http://wikipedia.org/wiki/Dalit

2 . 2010 Lenten Study compiled by the World Council of Churches, World Student Christian Federation and World YWCA, http://www.overcomingviolence.org/fileadmin/dov/images/women_campain/Dalit%2520Fact%2520Sheet.pdf

3 . Thenmozhi Soundararajan, 'India's caste culture is rape culture', June 9, 2014, article on http://www.thedailybeast.com/witw/articles/2014/06/09/india-s-caste-culture-is-a-rape-culture.html

4 Report of First day at National Tribunal- Violance against Dalit women in India, October 13, 2013, information on http://www.Dalitweb.org/?p=2277

5 Ibid

6 Ibid

7 Ibid

8 Ibid 2

9 All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Munch (AIDMAM), 'Violence against Dalit Women', article available on http://idsn.org/fileadmin/user_folder/pdf/New_files/Key_Issues/Dalit_Women/NCDHRSubmission2012_VAW_Dalitwomen_India.pdf

10 Ibid 2

11 People's Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India, AIR 1982 SC 1473

12 AIR 1993 SC 1126

13 Universal Declaration of Human Rights available on http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

14 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights available on http://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.aspx

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