By Shenali Waduge
The question is very simple. While rape in any form is abhorred and should be severely punished by all nations what needs to be answered is what makes the recent gangrape by 6 men of a 23 year old on a bus in Delhi any different from the gangrape of a 16 year old Dalit women by 8 men who having taken photos of the crime had circulated it amongst the village leading to her father committing suicide out of shame? This Dalit girl was raped in 2011 and questions why there were no mass protests, no media attention for her or calls to arrest the perpetrators but the recent rape has turned into a national demonstration? In a country where Dalits are considered the “Untouchables” 10million Dalit girls are raped annually and questions why non-Dalits have cared little for their justice – they may be Dalits but they are women as well!
Statistics revealed by the Government of India declares that every 20 minutes a woman is raped in India. India’s Union Home Ministry says India is ranked third in rape after US and Africa.
India’s national crime records show that 228,650 of the 256,329 violent crimes recorded in 2011 were against women. The conviction rate for rape cases is just 26%.
According to the NCRB records for registered rape cases Delhi tops the chart followed by Mumbai, Bhopal, Pune and Jaipur.
In term of states Madhya Pradesh tops list with 15,275 registered rapes following by Bengal (11,427), Uttar Pradesh (8834), Assam (8060) and Maharashtra (7703) – Times of India report.
National Crime Records Bureau – http://ncrb.nic.in/
Crime Statistics Against Women in India – http://www.indiastat.com/crimeandlaw/6/crimeagainstwomen/17911/rapevictimscases/477185/stats.aspx
There are 80 million Dalit women in India.
Sexual violence is suffered by Dalit women systematically as a means of punishment, control and dominance by men of higher castes. Rape is an especially difficult situation to be dealt with. In addition to shame, women also face a stigma associated with that type of physical assault. A large number of rapes go unreported due to fear of ostracism and victims being threatened with further attacks if they come forward.
Most women do not report any form of violence because less than 1% cases actually filed end in convictions. If you are a poor woman who is raped, you cannot expect justice. If you are a poor woman and a Dalit the chances of justice are even slimmer. This is the sad fate for Dalit women in India.
Every 18minutes a crime is committed against a Dalit. Every day 3 Dalit women at least are raped. Every day 2 Dalits at least are murdered, 11 Dalits are beaten or 2 Dalit houses are burnt in India.
37% of Dalits live far below the poverty line. More than 54% of Dalit children are undernourished, 83 per 1000 live birth children born to Dalits dye before their first birthday. 45% of Dalits cannot read or write. 1/3 of Dalit households do not have basic facilities. Public health workers refuse to visit Dalit homes. In 27.6% of villages Dalits are prevented from entering police stations. In 37.8% of Government schools Dalit children have to sit separately even while eating. In 23.5% of villages in India, Dalits do not even get mail delivered. In 48.4% of villages Dalits were denied access to water resources because they were “untouchables”.
The treatment towards Dalits are horrifying – more than 1.3 million Dalits – mostly women – are employed as manual scavengers to clear human waste from dry pit latrines.
Haryana the state where the 16 year old Dalit girl was raped is a state famous for illegal practice of female infanticide and foeticide where there are 861 girls per 1000 boys. The preference for sons has created unprecedented problems. According to the most recent estimates, China and India account for nearly 80 per cent of all ‘missing women’ in the world.”
Indian government reports reveal that between 1999 and 2001 as many as 89 percent of trials involving offenses against Dalits resulted in acquittals.
Sadly 96.6% Dalits are Buddhists. There are 165million Dalits in India and 260m Dalits the world over.
2009 report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Dalit Women
Rape, female foeticide, violence against women, gender discrimination, physical abuse are all problems that women in India have to go through and to this list honor killings have to also be added. Every year there are more than 1000 honor killings in India and now these murders are taking place abroad as well.
The Davadasi system is still practiced in some parts of India where girls as young as 6 years old become “brides of Gods” and are raped by men of higher castes in temples. Young women are also later forced into prostitution through this system. Violent atrocities occur regularly in the names of tradition and religion.
Where is the HUMAN RIGHTS for these DALITS and what are UN /INGOs/NGOs doing to help Dalits live with some means of dignity and respect?
Why are journalists and media silent about featuring these atrocities against Dalits nationally and forcing policy makers to change their attitude with stringent laws? Why do they not highlight the daily rapes and humiliations Dalits – men, women and children suffer from on a daily basis…. Are these people not Indian citizens worthy of protection by Indian laws and Indian society?
While all these crimes are certainly appalling there is little nationwide concern to change the manner Indians treat the Dalits and that looked forward to justice is unlikely to happen whatever position India gains globally. The problem lies in the lack of political will while the Delhi gangrape has seen thousands congregate in protest demanding statements and actions from India’s PM, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Delhi Chief Minister – not a single voice was raised for the 16year old Dalit girl or for any of the thousands of Dalits who have been daily raped by Indian men over the years.
A rape is a rape and all women deserve the same justice – the same mass protests – the same media attention and the same political will….even the Dalits.
The views expressed are the author’s own.