Origin and Background of AIDMAM

All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch (AIDMAM) is a movement initiated and promoted by NCDHR (National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights) at the national level to focus exclusively on Dalit women. Its genesis is rooted in an attempt to address severe vulnerabilities faced by the 80 million Dalit women and girls who are socially excluded and lie at the bottom of India’s caste, class and gender hierarchies.

Our Aims

AIDMAM aims to support and strengthen Dalit women to address violence and access justice and rights through networking, enhancing skills and leadership at district and state level. AIDMAM’s objective is to Empower Dalit Women to challenge against Caste, Class and Patriarchal Norms. Support Dalit Women to liberate Dalit Women from their multi-dimensional issues.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Rajasthan Case Study

Case Study of Banuda Panchayat
(Sikar, Rajasthan)

Manju Devi, 37 years old, is from an educated and economically strengthened family. She is a dalit woman Sarpanch from Banuda panchayat and belongs to the Meghwal community. She has three children, two girls and one boy and they are all studying. Her husband is a government teacher and her father in law is secretary in the Panchayat. She does not have any pressure from her family and she is quite free to do her work independently.

She had a first experience of contesting Ward Panchayat election but she was defeated by 12 votes. However, she contested for Sarpanch election and won by 837 votes. Political Parties BJP and Communist also supported her during the campaign. Now, she is working independently and has started to take decisions on her own.

Initially, in the first meetings she used to sit keep quite, as her father in law used to go with her. He used to address meetings, but later with the motivation and support from her husband, she unveils and started to talk.

She experienced discrimination and humiliation during her sittings in Panchyat Bhawan. She said people thought because she was from lower caste she would not dare threaten them and would do whatever they want.

She faced a lot of pressure from dominant caste people who used to come in Panchayat Bhawan in crowd for their work and used to fall over her. They were trying to touch her from one way or other way. She handled this situation by using her authority and asked them to come one by one and give their complaint to her assistant.

Beside the fact that she was nominated for her good work in her panchayat, the dominant caste people wrote bad reports about her, so she has not been able to get the President award.

Haryana Case Study

Case Study of Bhilpura Panchayat
(Ambala, Haryana)

I am Jaino Devi (54 years old) and I am a Sarpanch of Bhilpura Panchayat. I belong to the Chamar community. Bhilapura and Kapuri villages come under this panchayat. This is a reserved panchayat. The total population of Bhilpura village is 400, in which only 4 houses belong to upper caste people. The Kapoori village has 200 houses with upper caste-Gujjars only. There are no schedule tribe people in this panchayat. I contested the election from the reserved seats and I won.

This panchayat has seven panchayat members, including one Dalit Women and two general women. The Panchayat meetings are going on in my house because we don’t have a Panchayat Bhawan in the village. The Gram Sabha meetings are held in the school once every three months.

For the development work I have passed a resolution in the panchayat meeting, so it has to go to the Block Development Officer and to the Additional District Commissioner for the further process. I have completed the following work in my panchayat:
 Indira Awas Yojna (IAY)
 Streets and drains in SC colony

I also have received Rs. 9, 80,000/- for the development work in my panchayat. I demanded Rs. 10 Lakhs for doing development work for schedule caste people, but I did not receive any funds and grants from the M.L.A.

Dalits are living separately in Harijan Basti, within the village. Only two Dalits possesses the land. Neither untouchability practice nor violence against Dalit exists in this village. However, during the quarrel between us and Jamindars, the police came and supported them. The Jamindars also filed a case against us. Now the case is in the court. The Gurjjars also tried to cancel my reserved seat, but I did not left the sarpanch seat and I keep on doing my work myself.

Orissa Case Study

Case Study of Sagarpasi Panchayat
(Sadar Block, Dhenkanal, Orissa)

I am Kaushalya Nayak, 27 years old. I am a dalit woman sarpanch from Sagarpasi panchayat (Nathua village), Sadar block-Dhenkanal and I belong to the Pana community. I am a metric pass and a housewife. I was inspired by the village people and my husband to contest the election. I attend by myself the gram sabha, palli sabha and different committee meetings in the Panchayat. Untouchability and discriminations still exist in my panchayat.

People do meet each other but no dalit can enter the kitchen of upper caste people. However, government officials always help me in taking decisions related to panchayat work and in organizing the panchayat meetings.

In my panchayat, schemes are being run properly but there are no specific development projects for dalit people, students and dalit women. My husband and the panchayat officer-executive give me information about the schemes and programs running in the panchayat. BDO, Gram Sachiv gives me information about schemes. My community and my husband help me in the panchayat work, and I do get money from the government.

However, there has been a case of using abusive language by dominant caste people against Anganwadi workers. I raised the issue but upper caste people fought with me and used abusive language.
I lodged a FIR at the police station but till this date the accused is not arrested. So I am unable to go to panchayat office. I am now facing this problem for last one and half year. There is no separate institution for the dalit women sarpanches.

I am interested to work for the empowerment of Dalit women and open an institution of self-development for them. I will fight the next election and try to make money for the panchayat by planting cashew nut trees. Do the panchayat work with confidence!

Punjab Case Study

Case Study of Rangad Pindi Panchayat
(Dina Nagar, Gurudaspur, Punjab)

I am Surista Devi, 44 years old. I am a house wife and a Dalit woman sarpanch from Rangad Pindi panchayat, Dina Nagar, Gurudaspur and I belong to the Ramdasiya community. I have been to school and passed my 10th degree. I have been inspired to contest the election from my father and my family who have been participating in the political life for the last 40 years. My husband, Khajan Chandra is working as a government employee and he always guided me. I also have the support of my son in my Panchayat work.

Whenever any scheme is coming, I know about it because I am taking the information from my father and the other Sarpanches. Until now I got 50,000 Rs under NREGA and 6.50 lakhs from the state government which were spent for the building of streets and drains, 1.50 lakh is left. I also got TSC fund of 51000 Rs.

Dominant caste people (the Rajputs) are raising the problem of land; they want to hire the SC land and have already built a temple on this land. I never raised any Dalit issues but I want to work to solve this problem. All the funds coming for the development work are spent only for the Dalit community. Panchayat members are supporting me because I am doing my work timidly.

However, I am not finding the budget according to the proposals because the money is in the hands of the MLA. Moreover the government officials are not supportive, and to try to get something I have to meet them again and again. For example, when we are receiving a cheque, it becomes invalid after 6 months.

I will fight the next election. After 30 years of non development work in the Panchayat, I want to make a good cremation ground. I want to create a Community hall, a Panchayat hall and toilets and homes for all Dalit people. But to succeed, we all have to work with our full energy and strength without being influenced by anyone.

Bihar Case Study

Case Study of Bindadeyara Panchayat
(Bariyarpur, Munger Bihar)

Baby Kumari, 36 years, is an active Mukhiya in her Panchayat, she is the only lady (Mukhiya) who is highly educated having the qualification of M.A, B.Ed. Baby Kumari contested and won the election from general seat of Mukhiya in 2006 election. Her husband (Advt. Arvind Kumar) is a former Mukhiya, who always supported and motivated her wife in performing her tasks as a Mukhiya in panchayat.

Before getting elected as Mukhiya, she was not fully aware of the duties and tasks of a Mukhiya. But once she has been elected as Mukhiya, she fulfilled her duties well and was really concerned about her community. Though she does not visit the panchayat samiti or block office quite often on her own, her mobility is not restricted by any means. Whenever required, she can go to these offices on her own. The government officials are also cooperative towards her and help her get all the information she requires, listen to her problems, and give necessary guidance whenever it is necessary.

Some of the major development jobs, carried out by Baby Kumari in her Panchayat:

• Distribution of Smart Cards (Medical Insurance Cards)
• Opening Bank accounts in several committees
• Opening of Anganwadi in Panchyat
• Allotment of 150 Indira Awas
• Old age Pension to 26 members belonging to SC and 29 belonging to general category.
• Submission of the forms in blocks for widow pensions
• Provided Scholarships to 86 Mushers children
• Provided 2000 job cards
• Repair of 6 bridges in village
• 300 hand pumps
• 35 village streets

The panchayat members appreciate her for her good work and her decision making abilities. People have high regard for her because of her work. She expressed with confidence that for the next election definitely she will win, but she believes that she would be able to perform in a more effective manner if more information and understanding regarding the roles and responsibilities of a panchayat are given to her without her husband’s support.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Dalits in Decision Making

Half a century of freedom from foreign rule and self-government was not able to reduce poverty and social in-equalities in the society and particularly in Dalit communities. Instead through the state and non-state mechanisms hitherto exploitative and oppressive forces have enhanced their power and even gained legitimacy through the democratic process. A positive process has been the enactment of the 73rd and 74th amendments giving mandatory representation of Dalit women and men at the panchayats and urban local governance. Even though constitutional amendments provided reservations for Dalits in Panchayat Raj System, generally dominant castes don’t conduct Panchayat meetings, but force elected Dalit ward members to sign the minute’s books. There are cases where elected Panchayat Sarpanch will not be handed over the keys and the records of Panchayat office. Even though she/he is the head of the Panchayat, Dalit Sarpanch or ward members are forced to stand in the meetings. Dalit ward member or Sarpanch may even have to lose their lives when they raise issue or try to exercise their rights/authority.

In such a complex situation, Dalit women face the multiple disabilities of gender, caste and poverty. Studies reveal that many of the positions occupied by them are actually managed by dominant community members or even male members of the family. When they assert their rights they are forced to resign and even lose their seats. Despite these many limitations, the reservation policy in the panchayats has brought a number of Dalit elected representatives into leadership and decision making positions. While the majorities are forced to compromise on various counts or are not able to carve out a path for themselves a few of them make a mark and try to fulfill their duties. Dominant communities use many measures both inside and outside the Panchayat body to prevent Dalit women encouraging a few role models and bringing together Dalit elected representatives provide another aspect by which we can strengthen the process of Dalit empowerment.

Dalit Communities - Violence and Access to Justice

Despite the articles of the Constitution of India, the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 and the SC/ST (PoA) Act 1989, the rights of Dalits still continue to be violated by dominant caste with impunity. Analysis of existing legal system and the policies revealed the following problems, which are responsible for the above dismal functioning of system:

 Refusal to register cases
 Correct sections are not used in First Information Report (FIR)
 Charge sheet filing is delayed
 Trial period is delayed inordinately
 Most of the victims don’t get compensation
 Legal aid/advice is not available for the victims
 Inadequacy of Government Administration in taking decisions
 Absence of state level monitoring structure of civil society
 Absence of follow up of State level Monitoring and Vigilance Committee

Analysis of the present human rights organizations and mechanisms revealed the following problems:

 No mechanisms to speedup delayed legal processes
 Inadequate strategies to work in legal system
 Absence of legal aid/advisory services for DHR
 Lack of skills and knowledge for Dalit advocates

Police officials have primary role in protecting Dalit rights by taking complaints from the victims, register cases. As majority of police officers who are non-dalits and believe that Dalits are inferior, use all sorts of methods, to deter Dalits from filing a complaint. They threaten Dalits not to file complaint; force them to compromise with human rights violators. When Dalits insist on registering the case, they delay preparing First Information Report (FIR) or prepare FIR with improper sections of laws. Further they not complete the investigation on time and fail to file the Charge sheet in the court. In most cases they will not arrest the non-Dalit perpetrators either under political pressure or bribes. The Police also have primary responsibility to protect Dalits through enforcing atrocity prevention measures. But, the police are found not doing their duties willfully in many cases and supporting the non-Dalit perpetrators to violate Dalit rights and protecting their interests. As a result, the Dalit victims report hardly 15% of rights violations. Out of the 15% reported cases, only for 30% are investigated and charge sheet filed in the court, which means about 75% rights violations do not come up to accessing formal mechanisms of justice.

Public Prosecutors and Special Courts are to play major role in presenting and arguing the case on behalf of Dalit victims. But, majority of Public Prosecutors are non-dalits who also feel that Dalits are destined not to have rights and non-dalits have privilege to attack Dalits. In most of the cases, the judgment is given in favour of non-Dalit perpetrators because the Public Prosecutors willfully don’t argue the case properly and fault on technical grounds.

Hence, there is need for increasing awareness among Dalits about human rights, laws/acts and organize them. There is further need to facilitate evolution of people’s organization at different levels, which can spearhead the campaign for promoting, and protection of Dalit rights through mass awareness and advocacy interventions. There is need for setting up strong advocacy bodies at different levels.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dalit Women in the Panchayati Raj

The direct political participation of Dalit Women in the local Governance (or Panchayati Raj) is a Human Right in itself. But this political participation demands accountability from the State and the non-State actors to guarantee and respect these women’s equal political voice and development.

An analysis was made to determine how Dalit Women are enabled to claim their rights to political participation in local governance and the extent to which this participation is an effective tool for empowerment and realization of Human Right for excluded social groups. The research has been carried out in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu on 200 Dalit Women, and it was aimed at answering 3 main questions:

1. Are Dalit Women able to access panchayat posts, exercise political power and authority?
2. What factors and structures facilitate or inhibit Dalit Women’s access participation and impact in Panchayati Raj?
3. What is the role of the various State institutions in preventing and responding to obstructions against Dalit women in Panchayati Raj?

Access to the Panchayati Raj

Only 1/3 of 200 Dalit Women are able to act with dependence and freedom to win Panchayat elections. On the one hand, 85% are pushed by their husbands or the dominant castes, they become proxy politics.
This method is aimed at creating a legitimate political space for primarily dominant caste men and dalit men to exploit Dalit Women, and at getting the control through them. Dominant caste and dalit men help them to be elected and then take the control, menacing and threatening them. Moreover since these women have a livelihood dependency and a lack of sufficient financial resources for the election expenses, they accept the situation.

On the other hand, 12, 5% are discouraged from filing nominations (allegations, property destructions) and 14, 5% are forced or pushed to withdraw their nominations.

Finally, during the election process, Dalit women regularly face illegal practices: threatening, harassing or preventing the candidates or other Dalit from voting or entering the election booths.

 Participation of Dalit Women in the Panchayat

3/4 of Dalit Women in the Panchayat are proxies (mostly for their husband) and they faced strong oppositions while attempting to work for the benefit of their community. Only 1/3 of 119 Dalit women elected president are able to discharge official responsibilities with freedom and independence.
Dalit Women are either not taken seriously. Indeed, when women are raising issues during the Panchayat meetings, it is rarely discussed or approved.

• Active obstruction and disabling factors for participation

There is a clear obstruction to Dalit Development. The Panchayat does not prioritize Dalit development needs and the dominant castes refuse to share the knowledge that could enhance women’s responsibilities and capabilities.
- 23% of Dalit Women are restricted by others from active participation in Panchayat council meetings.
Examples: Blocking the approval of development projects, delaying release, misappropriating development funds.
- Less than 1/3 of the women came from families with prior experience in Panchayat governance
- 37% of women president reported direct obstruction while undertaking their responsibilities.
- 90% of the Dalit Women elected representatives felt as treated differently from others, even when it deals with the utensil to eat, or glass and cups.

Only 18, 5% of Dalit Women president felt that they had a significant say in the distribution of development schemes. However they are most of the time only in charge of small projects for basic amenities (roads for example).

Moreover, another factor which disables Dalit Women to participate in the Panchayat is the influence of dominant caste people. Indeed, they are everywhere, they have contacts in the police, banks, district Panchayat, state assembly… And when women are chased away, no actions are taken, everyone refuse to provide them assistance. Often the Government officials are complicit in reinforcing dominant caste male power by adopting the role of neutral facilitators regarding Dalit Women’s political participation.

• A social impact on Dalit Women

Hopefully, some changes are happening, mostly at personal and family levels (more self confidence, improvement of leadership skills, more shared responsibilities for children, greater decision making power in family affairs), and overall they gain a greater freedom of speech.
However Dalit low status in the society doesn’t change, they are respected as president but not as Dalit Women.

 Recommendations

The government of India should:

- Devolve greater functions funds and functionaries to Panchayat, institute quotas of Dalit in the local and district police forces and establish a specific office in each district acting as a support mechanism for Dalit

Give Gram Sabhas a greater power to monitor the functioning of Panchayat and decide on budgets and allocations of funds and other resources.

Concerning the economic development:
- Develop national perspective plans with explicit short and long term goals for the overall development of Dalit Women within fixed time bound targets and allocate separate funding for these plans
- Enforce land reforms
- Establish small fund to provide limited basic financial support for election costs
- Establish a minimum salary system for all Panchayat President posts and members’ post at the higher tiers.

Monitoring and accountability mechanism:
- Government official in charge of the Panchayati Raj should follow the work progress and check the accounts
- District collectors should organize monthly meetings with all the village panchayat president
- Organization of training programs for women
- Implementation of strict government rules to eradicate the presence of proxy candidates
- Every 5 years, evaluate the performance of the Panchayat institutions

Capacitation and support measures:
- Trainings for Dalit Women, form and strengthen the actual networks of Dalit Women Panchayat
- Widespread social education campaign through media

There are major weaknesses in the current interpretations and implementation of reservation in Panchayat Raj which reduce the ability of panchayat to fulfill core objectives of equitable development and social justice.
So, reforms must recognize that the political participation of Dalit Women can’t be viewed in isolation.
Creative ways must be explored, with Dalit Women and non Dalit Women, Dalit men, to capitalize on the success stories of Dalit women’s political leadership.
Efforts must lead to a supportive environment for these women’s political participation in order to transform access and control to and over resources and benefits in the society, promote human rights culture that itself demands a responsible governance and equality for all.

Violence against Dalit Women in India

Dalit Women suffer an endemic gender and caste discrimination and violence. Their socio-economic vulnerability and a lack of political voice increase their exposure to potentially violent situations, while reducing their ability to escape. The violence against Dalit women is a clear evidence of the widespread exploitation and discrimination despite the existence of Constitutional guaranties and the “SC/ST (PoA) Act 1989”. There are still not enough concerted efforts.
Indian Government has acknowledged that the institutional forces against women’s equal rights are powerful and shape people mindset to accept this pervasive gender inequality.

A study initiated in 2004 which selected 500 Dalit Women willing to speak about their experience, has been carried out in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Uttar Pradesh. It examined the forms, manifestations, frequency, caste and social status of perpetrators, causes, effects and response to violence against Dalit Women between 1999 and 2004.
The study reveals the violence faced by Dalit Women in the general community and in their family as well as the failure of the Indian society to respect, protect and fulfill Dalit Women Rights.

No media coverage

The cases of violence have never been reported in the media, and it is not spoken out in public, not even registered. Everything is hidden by the Dalit families, because they are scared of reprisal.
But this silence has the effect of creating a culture of violence, silence and Impunity. It also exacerbates the denial of their rights to security of life and their basic Human Rights.

Forms and frequency of violence

12 main forms have been identified:
- 312 women have faced several times verbal abuses through hate speech, and 1/3 of them face this violence regularly.
- Physical assault
- Sexual harassment and/or sexual assault, until rape or gang rape, mostly perpetrated by employers or superior castes. Sometimes it develops into regular sexual exploitation.
- Kidnapping or abduction: it is mainly committed on Dalit Women who attain puberty. It can explain why girls are married at the age of 5 years old, this prevents that they became “unmarriageable”.
- Forced prostitution
- Forced incarceration: women are involved in false cases or incarcerated in the perpetrator’s home.
- Medical negligence: through careless operations
- Domestic violence: through verbal abuse, physical assault, and sexual abuse (marital rape). The alcoholism among Dalit husbands is strong contributing factor.
- Female foeticide and infanticide exists but it is not recorded as widespread among Dalit Women.
- Child sexual abuse: the early child marriage and sexual relation with minor Dalit Grils bellow 16 years old is more common. 72,2% of total women were married below 18 years old of which 39,7% below 15.

Location of violence

Acts of violence are perpetrated both in public and in private spaces
- Outside the home ( bus stands, fields…), and it is perceived as an additional humiliation of public violence that they face fro; the dominant castes
- Within the home: from non-family members who attack them in heir own house.
- In their workplace, but there are not clear data; Dalit women do not report these violence because of their economic dependence of superior castes.
- In Government spaces: within government hospitals they are subjected to verbal abuses most of the time.

Social Status of perpetrators of violence in the General Community
- The most prominent group is the dominant caste landlords.
- The police and forest officials, and business people; they are failing to enforce law when violence against Dalit Women is taking place.
- Thugs who are also supporting other perpetrators
- Professional category: hospital nurses, doctors and teachers
- Political category: local political party leaders
- Other dominant caste persons: active perpetrators or colluders in violence.

Caste background of perpetrators of violence
- Both forward castes (FC’s) and backward castes (BC’s)
- Dalit perpetrators: they represent 10% of all violence against Dalit Women in the study
- FCs and BCs draw in the Scheduled Caste to engage in violence to thwart applicability of the SC/ST (PoA) Act 1989 which only applies to atrocities committed by persons who are not belonging to the SC or ST community.
Perpetrators of violence in family
- Husbands, relatives
- Pressures fro; the natal and the marital families lead to female foeticide and infanticide
- Sometimes child abuse
- Husbands are the key perpetrators with the mother and father in law

Causal factors of violence
- In the general community:
• Reproduction of the patriarchal norms
• Dominant caste perpetrators of sexual violence against Dalit Women expect their victims to be grateful from the sexual attention they are receiving from “higher” caste men.
• Gender inequality an the “natural” caste hierarchy
• Landlessness and dependence on dominant castes for livelihood.
• Evocation of political rights and relationship issues
• When Dalit Women are seeking justice and protection of the law for violence committed against them.

- In family
• Norms of female subordination, women unable to bear sons
• Economic: women earning more than the man, refusal to sell their jewels
• Civil rights: women’s insecurity due to their husband unemployment or alcoholism
• Family relationship and sexual integrity

Remedial Actions for Justice

On the 500 women of the study, in 40% of instances of violence, the women have been unable to obtain legal or community remedies for the violence because of:
- Their fear of perpetrators
- Dishonor
- Ignorance that violence was an illegal act
- Lack of ;money to approach police
- Lack of family or community support for the justice-seeking attempt
This has the effect of reinforcing the culture of impunity by perpetrators.
Besides Panchayat justice, the perpetrators and the dominant caste members arrange “compromises” by taking advantage of their socio political power and status instead of dispensing true justice.

So of all the instances of violence in this study, only 1,6% of Dalit Women have been able to obtain an informal justice rulings in their favor ( financial compensation, public apology, promise for improved behavior in the future). A further 17% of all instances of violence reached the notice of the police but the justice attempts were blocked by the police themselves.

Only 13, 8% of instances of violence in this study had a judicial action underway, but the majority is pending, and only 3, 6% reached the Court.
Dalit Women Rights requires not only building structures of protection, but also a rigorous implementation of laws and policies designed to facilitate the enjoyment of equal citizenship rights for the 80 million Dalit women in the country.

Effects of violence
- Deep psychological Impact
• Futility of legal justice and fatalism about positive changes to address such violence
71% of Dalit Women were feeling helplessness to stop violence
60% indicated an atmosphere of constant fear
60% were depressed or were feeling shame

 24 of 500 Dalit Women tried to commit suicide
- Physical disfigurement or disability, sexual health complication and pregnancy
- Social effects
• Loss of employment
• Inability to get married
• Ostracized from their families and the community
• Deserted by their husband or forced to leave home.

Despite all the violence that Dalit Women are experiencing, they evidence their courage, strength and resilience to assert their right to live a life with dignity.
There is clearly a culture of impunity; impunity for violence which reinforces the fact that caste based notions of injustice prevails over democratic rights and the rule of law in the country.