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.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

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.

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