END CASTE-BASED SEXUAL VIOLENCE: A SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGN (19 JULY – 31 AUGUST 2021)
Vulnerably positioned at the bottom of India’s caste, class and gender hierarchies, Dalit women experience endemic gender-and-caste discrimination and violence as the outcome of severely imbalanced social, economic and political power equations. Their socio-economic vulnerability and lack of political voice, when combined with the dominant risk factors of being Dalit and female, increase their exposure to potentially violent situations while simultaneously reducing their ability to escape.
This situation exists in India today despite constitutional guarantees of non-discrimination on the basis of caste and gender (Article 15(1)), the right to life and security of life (Article 21) and the constitutional directive to specifically protect Dalits from social injustice and all forms of exploitation (Article 46). Moreover, the Indian State has enacted a series of laws protecting the rights of Dalits and women, acknowledging the prevalence of discrimination and violence against these sections of society. A key law in this regard is the Scheduled Castes/ Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act 2015.
However, data shows that the number of grave incidents of rape and caste-based sexual violence against Dalit women has increased manifold. The National Crimes Records Bureau (NCRB) data for 2019 shows that 10 Dalit women and girls are raped every day across the country. Despite an increasing number of rape cases being reported every day, survivors of sexual violence, particularly those from marginalized communities, struggle to obtain justice within the Indian legal system. There is a culture of impunity for the perpetrators in such cases rendering the laws ineffective. The horrific rape of the young Dalit girl in Hathras and the shoddy and insensitive ways in which it was dealth with has demonstrated this impunity at all levels.
Therefore there is an urgent need for interventions which are grounded in Dalit women’s subjective experiences, which explain how these women are made instruments through which the oppressive social system replicates itself and systemic inequality is maintained. Violence against Dalit women is systematically utilised to deny them opportunities, choices and freedoms at multiple levels, undermining not only Dalit women’s dignity and self-respect, but also their right to development. Using an intersectional caste-class-gender analysis a public campaign fulfils the need to make Dalit women visible to the public eye by exposing this reality of violence and disempowerment intrinsically related to their social position and promotes the need to recognise of their selfhood and human dignity. The National Council of Women Leaders (NCWL) plans to launch a social media campaign to highlight and bring to the forefront this reality of everyday practice of sexual violence against Dalit women as a tool for denying them access to their social and economic rights and the systemic impunity practised by the concerned duty holders.
1) To raise awareness amongst the public on the rising incidence of caste-based sexual violence in the country, and the barriers to accessing justice faced by Dalit womxn and girls
2) To ensure that state and national governments are held to account to take action on incidents of caste-based sexual violence and improve access to justice for Dalit womxn and girls.
The online national campaign will be undertaken for one and half months to highlight the issue of caste-based sexual violence in 15-16 states across the India. The campaign is to commence on 19th July 2021 and run till 31st August 2021. During the campaign, landmark cases of sexual violence against Dalit women and girls from 1985 to 2020 will be highlighted to show the historic timeline of such atrocities and to track the changes (or lack thereof) in systemic response to these cases. For every state, information will be provided on the background of caste-based sexual violence in the state (including official data), highlighting important cases which have taken place over the last 5 years and noting the specific barriers which sexual violence survivors in these states face. Our campaign will show videos of activists working to support survivors/victims’ families from marginalised communities, graphics and visuals on the data and specific cases and other creative tools to communicate the issue to a broader audience, including by engaging with artists. It will also provide recommendations for policy makers, government authorities and civil society to improve responses to cases of caste-based sexual violence.
Reference: Dalit Women Speak Out, Violence against Dalit Women in India Overview Report of Study in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Tamil Nadu/Pondicherry and Uttar Pradesh Aloysius Irudayam s.j., Jayshree P. Mangubhai, Joel G. Lee