From Hathras to Banda, When Will Violence Against Dalit Women Stop?

A horrifying incident in Banda, UP, involved the rape, murder, and dismemberment of a Dalit woman. Despite her daughter's distressing discovery, the alleged perpetrators remain at large, highlighting a systemic issue of violence against Dalit women.

Ishika Thanvi
New Update
Dalit Women Protest, Source: Refinery29

Dalit Women Protest, Source: Refinery29

In Uttar Pradesh's Banda district, a disturbing incident emerged, involving the purported rape and murder of a 40-year-old Dalit woman, followed by the gruesome dismemberment of her body. According to Station House Officer (Girwan) police station Sandeep Tiwari, the victim had visited Rajkumar Shukla's residence to clean his flour mill. Her daughter, upon arriving at the scene, reportedly heard her mother's cries from a locked room. The alleged perpetrators are currently at large, with no arrests having been made in connection with the case. 


The distressing incident of rape and murder of a Dalit woman in Uttar Pradesh's Banda district is not an isolated occurrence but rather emblematic of a broader systemic issue prevalent in India. Among the 200 million Dalits in India, half are women, who bear a disproportionate burden of caste-based discrimination and gender-based violence. Cases of sexual violence against Dalit women, tragically, often remain unreported and unrecognized, forming a dark undercurrent in the country's social fabric. 

The Hathras Rape Case, which shook the nation on September 14, 2020, served as a stark reminder of the systemic failures in addressing the plight of Dalit women. Fast forward to 2023, and it is disheartening to note that little has changed. Dalit women continue to grapple with the triple burden of caste, gender, and class discrimination, finding themselves at the very bottom of our socio-cultural hierarchy.

Harrowing Statistics of Violence Against Dalit Women

The National Crime Record Bureau has reported a harrowing statistic: at least ten Dalit women are raped daily in India. Shockingly, between 2009 and 2019, rape cases targeting Dalit women surged by almost 159%. Yet, these figures likely represent only a fraction of the actual incidents due to underreporting, driven by factors like social stigma, political pressure, fear of retaliation, and the culture of impunity. 

Historically and culturally, Dalit women have been subjected to inhumane treatment, in the form of sexual exploitation, abuse, and harassment. These offences are committed not only by individuals from oppressor (dominant) castes but also by members of their own communities. However, it is the interplay of caste, patriarchy, and power dynamics that makes Dalit women and girls more vulnerable to abuse at the hands of men from oppressor castes. These caste-driven atrocities serve as a means to dehumanise Dalit women and, often, as a message to ‘teach them a lesson’.

Human development indicators in India, including factors like literacy, poverty, and occupation, highlight a stark reality: Dalit women face more adverse conditions than Dalit men or non-Dalit women. While laws aimed at protecting their rights exist, the gap between legal provisions and their practical implementation remains a glaring issue. Persistent discrimination against Dalits further reinforces these inequities, and it is Dalit women who bear the burden of this injustice.


A Call To Action for India

In order to provide both individual and collective support to Dalit women and girls, it is imperative to establish a comprehensive framework that addresses the intersecting inequalities Dalit women face. This framework must specifically cater to the unique challenges they encounter due to their gender, caste, and class. To accomplish this, the first step is to acknowledge the deeply ingrained systemic and institutional gender dynamics that reinforce patriarchy and caste-based norms in Indian society. Additionally, making healthcare, education, and employment accessible and equitable for Dalit women is crucial, as it contributes to strengthening their self-identity, and agency. 

This must be a call to action; the safety of all Indian women hinges on the security and empowerment of Dalit women. Their protection is not just a matter of justice but a test for our collective commitment to a more equitable and inclusive society. True progress will only be achieved when every woman in India can live without fear, and that starts with ensuring the safety and well-being of the Dalit woman.

Views expressed by the author are their own

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