Caste in India is the unfettering basis of a multitude of processes that take place in the country. Be it cultural, economic, social or political sphere, caste dictates the grounds and norms that are to be followed by the members of the society. The castes at the top of the social order have access to far more privileges and rights at the expense of those located at the bottom who are at the mercy of the upper caste.

Key Takeaways:

  • Dalit women have been the most exceedingly terrible sufferers in the exploitative social request.
  • One of the major demands of Dalit Women is access to decent education at the elementary level.
  • The rural Dalit women have the highest poverty levels, are landless and are dependent for employment, wages and loans on the dominant caste.
  • The structural violence and lack of access to resources perpetuate their poverty and undermine their dignity.

The caste system is a hierarchical setting in which the privileges and freedom accrue to the top strata of the system and which successively dies down, leaving the bottom strata (the untouchables) with hardly anything to go by. The status of communities as ‘untouchables‘ in the Hindu rank framework was the most serious obstruction for the empowerment of Dalit Women. While stringent social taboos conscribed their conduct, serious structures were set down to limit their entrance to information. Dalit women have been the most exceedingly terrible sufferers in the exploitative social request. No circle of life is such where fairness is concurred to them in connection with bosses in the rank hierarchy. Discrimination against Dalit Women in the instructive framework is an across the board issue in this station influenced nation. Distance, social avoidance, and physical manhandling rise above all levels of training, from essential instruction to college.

Discrimination against Dalit Women in the instructive framework is an across the board issue in this station influenced nation.

Access to Decent Education

One of the major demands of Dalit Women is access to decent education at the elementary level. While one may comprehend the battles of first-age school-and school goers, even second-age Dalit, under studies, couldn’t shake off their station character in instructive foundations. This was the situation in the mid-twentieth century, when a minority of Dalit women first began going to class (when there were relatively few schools around) and has proceeded since the development of school arrangement in the 1980s; even today it remains a putrefying wound.

Today, in light of Government initiatives like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan although girls from marginalised sections are incorporated to go to schools but the difficulties that they face are disproportionately higher. They have to face casteist treatment from teachers, the school administration, etc and there are also instances of separate seating for them outside the classroom. Thus, in order to check such instances, there should be a thrust on the promotion of inclusive strategies by the state. Dalit girls in school also face severe discrimination and are relatively more vulnerable to be exploited both physically and sexually. So there should be provisions for adequate facilities in schools for them, such as protection from exploitation, amenities like clean water supply, nutritional food, and sanitary napkins.

They have to face casteist treatment from teachers, the school administration, etc and there are also instances of separate seating for them outside the classroom.

At the primary instructional level, however, enrolment mirrors the decent variety in the structure of understudy populace, it doesn’t give any equivalence between the Dalits and non-dalits. There are variations among Dalits in all regards – whether as far as gender or urban and rural or territorial foundations. It is very shameful to take note of that, even today, Dalit women are at the base of the instructive pyramid, notwithstanding the rehashed claims and counterclaims of the administration and the political foundation on their endeavours to inspire this distraught their poor status in the society. Caste hierarchies are profoundly installed and impact quite a bit of India’s social financial and political life.

Social Problems

Despite a few steps taken by the government for the rights of Dalits, much more needs to be done, especially for Dalit women. To assess the different social problems associated with Dalit women and particularly in relation to their education should be the priority of the governments. The government needs to also look into:

  • Issues related to Dalit women education like the status of sanitation and hygiene among the Dalit women;
  • raising awareness in the society about the economic contributions of the Dalit women in the unorganised sector;
  • exploring different possibilities for the empowerment of the Dalit women by improving their traditional occupational skills and strategising their inclusion in the formal sector through the promotion of handloom and handicraft;
  • And suggesting pragmatic measures for the holistic improvement of the conditions of the Dalit women.

Problems In Rural Settings

Rural scenario differs when it comes to Dalit women who are mostly involved in the agricultural sector. They have the highest poverty levels, are landless and are dependent for employment, wages and loans on the dominant caste. Their access to resources or even their efforts to access them are often met with violence. In here, they fight for access to and control over land and their wages to be remunerative. Recognition as farmers and land titles must be settled in their name. Their right to land must be protected. Redistribution of government-owned land resources to the landless, targeting Dalit women residing in rural areas should be incorporated in land reform programs to increase agriculture-based income. Special subsidies and relaxation should be made available for women from marginalised communities on agriculture loans, land ownership and other levied taxes. There should also be measures taken to strengthen the functioning of Dalit SHGs under NRLM.

Recognition as farmers and land titles must be settled in their name. Their right to land must be protected.

Political Marginalisation

Rural women are politically marginalised, but rural Dalit women are given even less of a voice in the decision-making process. Under the 73rd amendment act 1992, there are seats reserved for women (also Dalit women) in Panchayati Raj Institutions. However, on the ground, Dalit women are only titular heads of the village, as their male counterparts called Sarpanch Pati fulfill their role. Dalit women who attempt to utilise their power in the Panchayat are met with backlash from males from their own community and from that of the upper caste. There should be initiatives taken to promote the ‘real’ participation of Dalit women in the political arena. Even after the end of the tenure as a member of Panchayat, there should be ample job opportunities for growth.

Dalit women who attempt to utilise their power in the Panchayat are met with backlash from males from their own community and from that of the upper caste.

Triple Oppression

Due to the intersection of caste, class and gender, Dalit women are subjected to triple oppression. The nature of violence may vary from direct to structural violence. Specifically, the structural violence and lack of access to resources perpetuate their poverty and undermine their dignity. Women and girls affected by caste-based discrimination are particularly vulnerable to various forms of sexual violence, forced prostitution, trafficking, domestic violence and punitive violence when they seek justice for crimes committed.

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To tackle gender-based discrimination within caste, programs of dialogue and sensitization of men should be organized. Dalit women are asking for equality whether it’s in political arena or access to land to lead a dignified life. They are not merely  appeased by tokenism or charity. Dalit woman’s struggle is for liberty, dignity and parity. Skill development is another sector wherein intervention is required in order to make them more employable.

Dalit Women are asking for equality, whether it’s in the political arena or access to land to lead a dignified life.

Employability is what they need to create their own position in society. Social security is needed, as Dalit women are more likely to face the collective and public threat of rape, sexual assault and physical violence at the workplace. Raising the issue of unorganised sector, Dalit women primarily work as domestic help, street vendors, daily-wage labourers, wherein there should be the implementation of minimum wage for women and availability of social protection in the form of guaranteed employment. In the light of recent cases of honour killings, there is a need for a law protecting inter-caste marriages.

The spread of education has infused Dalit women with a new and ambitious culture. A genuine literary culture has developed which talks about the Dalit protest through writings. Thus, we see a transition in the nature of demands and expectation of Dalit women as they are just not fighting for sustenance and livelihood strategies but have become aspirational.

Aditi Narayani is a Research Scholar at the Centre for the Study of Discrimination and Exclusion, Jawaharlal Nehru University. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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