At the 38th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Dalit women rights activists tabled a report on caste-based violence faced by women and girls in India. The ‘Voices Against Caste Impunity: Narratives of Dalit Women in India’ report seeks to find recommendations for policy and implementation, within the UN and beyond and ‘forge new alliances and partnerships and agree on international level strategies to help fight caste based violence and impunity in India’.

It shows how Dalit women activists are demonstrating against exemption from punishment to offenders of rapes and other crimes against Dalit women in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa and Maharashtra. It also states how the state police aligns itself to protect such perpetrators.

“The girls, their families and people from their community have been camping out and protesting in New Delhi for months – demanding justice. They are afraid to return to their village in fear of violent reprisals from the dominant castes,” the report states.

“Caste makes a difference. We have seen during trainings, if there is even one non-Dalit woman, she will not let the Dalit women speak. She will speak non-stop in English to prove that she is superior. We Dalit women tend to push our sisters to speak up, but non-Dalit women reinforce the weaknesses of Dalit women.”

The activists presented the report to an UNHRC panel consisting of Rita lzsak-Ndiaye, member of UN CERD Committee, Dubravka Simonovic, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, and Vrinda Grover, Senior Advocate Supreme Court of India.

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The report also delves into the occupations that Dalit women are pushed into like modern slavery. They are key targets for trafficking into slave labour and prostitution. Also, dehumanising work of manual scavenging includes at least 98% Dalit women, according to the report.

It refers to National Family Health Survey, that states that by the age of 15, 33.2% SC women experience physical violence. It also documents perspectives from several Dalit women activists, who have worked with the National Dalit Movement for Justice, and presents the pattern of discrimination that starts early in the life of a Dalit woman, slowly graduating from the education system to access to healthcare or an infant’s access to nutrition, in India.

“Caste makes a difference. We have seen during trainings, if there is even one non-Dalit woman, she will not let the Dalit women speak. She will speak non-stop in English to prove that she is superior. We Dalit women tend to push our sisters to speak up, but non-Dalit women reinforce the weaknesses of Dalit women,” Savita, one of the respondents in the report, says, reported The Citizen.

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