“Dalit women’s bodies are being used to assert caste supremacy and keep women ‘in their place’,” Jacqui Hunt, Eurasia Director of women’s rights group, Equality Now.
According to Equality Now, there is such a thing as intersectional discrimination which makes it more difficult for girls across India and around the world to access justice for sexual violence. Every sixteen minutes, a woman or a girl In India reports a rape. But, with the majority of rapes unreported, even this is a gross underestimation of the problem.
Exactly one year ago in Hathras, a 19-year-old Dalit woman was gang-raped by four dominant caste men. She died from the injuries which she sustained during the attack. Her horrific attack and death highlighted the ugly reality of the sexual violence faced many Dalit women and girls like her in India and this outrage sparked widespread protests across the country.
Dalit women are raped to keep them in their place. This is the perverted excuse or motive for committing these heinous crimes. What about the nine year old girl who was gang-raped and murdered when she went out to fill water from a crematorium near her home. The perpetrators were a priest and three other men. Even though they have been arrested and charged, the girl’s neighbors and family believe that the police initially tried to cover up the rape.
Was this girl raped to keep her in her place? She was an innocent child and she was robbed of everything, including her life. The criminals responsible and the police who try to cover up these crimes should be charged.
It is high time for this outrage against Dalit women and girls to end and those who deny them protection and justice be held accountable. Justice should be for everyone, regardless of their caste. The police are supposed to uphold and defend the law and protect all citizens. As the sign says, every human life matters, even that of a Dalit. The “untouchables” deserve to be treated fairly and their rights defended.
It’s time for the men from dominant castes frequently who use sexual violence as a weapon to reinforce caste and gender hierarchies to be treated to be brought to justice. There should be a “zero tolerance” policy to crimes against women in the state. Men need to teach their sons to respect women. Rape is a crime and those who commit it are criminals.
It’s time for the police to stop failing to record or investigate crimes when they are initially reported and being abusive or putting pressure on survivors to drop cases. Instead, they should do their jobs and help the survivors, giving them the advice they need for their legal rights. Protect the survivors and their families. One survivor reported that her family was harassed by the man who raped her in 2018 after she rejected his advances.
“Even before I could recover from the trauma of what had happened, his family and other upper caste men were at our doorstep,” she said. “I was forced to marry my rapist and then tortured by the family. I ran away and decided to fight my case. But every day they show up to threaten us and my mother cries in fear. I hope I get justice and all this trauma will finally end.” Let’s hope that this woman finally got her justice and that others like her will get theirs too.
To mark one year since the Hathras case, Equality Now has released a timeline of landmark cases of caste-based sexual violence. I encourage you to read these cases and then, share the timeline. It’s time to stand up and cry out for justice for Dalit women and girls. It’s time to end these crimes against humanity. It’s time that rapists are no longer allowed to marry their victims but are sentenced for their crimes instead.