Despite stringent laws in place, the system and administration are constantly failing to prevent rape and sexual assaults against Dalit women in India. Recently, two minor Dalit sisters were raped and found hanging from a tree in the Nighasan area of Lakhimpur Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh. The girls were abducted in front of their mother from the house in broad daylight.
Can someone be so courageous as to abduct a girl in front of her family? It could be if the family is Dalit. Dalits fall at the bottom of the complex caste hierarchy in India. They still face discrimination and persecution. Among them, Dalit women are the most vulnerable and closest to oppression at the hands of men. Lakhimpur Kheri rape case indicates men are not scared of the law while committing the heinous crime of rape on Dalit women. Even the Hathras Case, which caused a public outcry, could change nothing in society. The deceased’s family allegedly blame the administration for vilifying the case. The law lacks a visionary approach to preventing such crimes at the root. Instead, it only focuses on the subjective punishment of the accused. That is why numbers keep adding.
Lakhimpur Kheri Rape Case, Numbers Are Increasing
Cases of Rape against SC women accounted for 256 in 2021. Uttar Pradesh registered 604 rape cases of Dalit women in 2022. Among them, 122 survivors were minors, as per the National Crime Records Bureau Data. 2019 witnessed 545 rape cases and 526 cases reported in 2018. There was a 45 percent upsurge in reported rapes of Dalit women from 2015 to 2020. The data stated – on average every day, 10 rapes of Dalit women and girls were reported in India.
“Every day there is a new rape incident of Dalit women. Numbers are increasing that’s it. We are protesting now and then for justice, but the outcomes are unfruitful. It is disappointing nowadays protests are staged in favour of the accused,” said Vandana Sonekar, a UP-based Dalit activist associated with Bhim Army told SheThePeople.
Can protest alone extirpate the rape issue from its roots? One needs to start thinking, about why numbers are increasing. Why Dalit women are targeted? In the first place, are Dalits even considered equal? Why does justice take so long? Should the Dalit community really trust the system? Because the problem is not only in crimes committed against them. Dalit women struggle to receive justice. They struggle to navigate the justice system, casteist slurs, animosity from the accused’s families, and pressure to settle cases.
Sonekar further added, “People from the Dalit community are scared to send their daughters out. The restriction on mobility is the cost other women are paying for the evils of rapists and the norms given by patriarchal society.”
It is true also! An upper caste man raped an 11-year-old Dalit girl in July 2021, and her body was cut into pieces were found in the dump. In February, this year, I visited the deceased girl’s mother at Chakiya village, Saso in Allahabad. The girl’s mother, a daily wage labourer, demanded the death penalty for the accused, who belongs to the Thakur community. The incident occurred six months back from the day of the visit, but the tensions in the village had the same intensity. Village folks were terrified about being witnesses in the case, citing the threat from the accused family. Villagers were concerned for their teenage daughters.
The Dalit community is not able to strongly oppose these caste-gender-based atrocities, noting their financial condition and dependency on the other upper caste community in the village. Most of them earn their livelihood by working for upper caste people as Dalits barely own any land. It practically precludes their ability to seek justice. In such a scenario, only our social justice system could help in the upliftment of the community. Focus on Dalit women and their upliftment, so they are strengthened enough to fight the social evils in society. Till that time, a narrative of submissive caste and gender remains unchanged. The gravity of law will not be understood, and things will remain mundane.
The views are the author’s own.