Grassroots level action is critical to address violence against Dalit Women

NEW DELHI, March 4, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Breakthrough India’s Pan-Asian Summit “Reframe” brought an important conversation on the need for collaborating and co-creating collective actions to support women suffering gender-based violence and discrimination. Eminent speakers and experts in intersectional feminism highlighted the best practices from regional, national and local collaborations for interventions and advocacy efforts to shape the way forward for addressing GBV and upholding sexual and reproductive health and rights through inter-country and sub-regional partnerships and foreign alliances.

Talking about the plight of Dalit women in India, Abirami Jotheeswaran, General Secretary, All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch, said, “Every day, as per official reports, 9 Dalit women across India are raped. To create advocacy spaces for Dalit women, we should extensively monitor the incidents of caste and gender violence and intervene in the cases. In heinous cases of human rights violation, a nation-wide fact finding mission should be launched. Despite several efforts from organisations across India, we still witness a lack of empathy among stakeholders regarding Dalit women. Unfortunately, many Dalit women are still unaware of their rights and entitlements. To tackle the same, it is important to identify and work with different human rights groups and allies at the grassroots level to promote community led advocacy.”

Despite national laws and international human rights standards prohibiting any physical, sexual or  psychological violence against women, varying forms of violent acts specifically targeting Dalit women are occurring on a large scale across India today. Dalit women constitute 9.79 crore, i.e. 8% of the total Indian population. Dalit women face more violence and oppression, and exclusion based on their caste identity.

Biplabi Shrestra, Programme Director, ARROW, said, “There was an assessment done in Asia-Pacific regions in the spectrum of civic space that shows that 94% of people live in countries with closed, repressed or obstructed civic spaces and even in some developed countries, civic spaces are being narrowed. We have experienced this even more in COVID where the pandemic has been used as an excuse for the shrinkage of civic spaces and to repress our voices at all levels. This has led to suffering of human rights of marginalized people leading to gender based violence, and violation of their sexual reproductive health and rights.”

The transgender community, on the other hand, suffer from a lack of legal recognition, equality and protection, and fundamental citizenship rights. These include the right to a legal identity based on the gender of their choosing, and the right to gender equality and equity, that is, non-discrimination in  all spheres of life based on their gender identity or gender expression. In many contexts trans women are legally identified as male and are unable to change their gender on identification cards and passports. The violation of the fundamental right to personhood perpetuates serious disadvantages in everyday life.

As challenges vary in marginalized sub-sections, indigenous people suffer differently. There are 54 million indigenous people across the globe, including 28 million women with disabilities, out of which 80% live in Asia Pacific. Violence related to indigenous women especially women with disabilities is complex and intense because of the multiple identities that they hold, but their stories are undocumented.

Pratima Gurung, Academic Activist, Nepal, talked about coming together for indigenous women, “Most of the narratives about crimes against indigenous people are descriptive and presented in a linear pattern of gender-based violence. Global data suggests that 33% of indigenous women are raped in their lifetime, and 80% of disabled women have faced violence. There is a huge gap between the disabled and the non-disabled counterparts and there are differences in the lived experiences of these women. When it comes to indigenous women, their collective rights are very important. The debate around SRHR is yet to reach disabled indigenous women. There is a need to hear the marginalized voices and civic spaces’ frames should be broadened.” 

Adding to the discussion, Sai Jyothirmai Rarcherla, Deputy Executive Director, ARROW, said, “Young people face intersecting challenges such as lack of access to quality medicines, displacement and forced migration, unsafe abortions, high prevalence of HIV and AIDS and lack of youth led policies at the national level. Young people have voiced their recommendations to end gender based violence, which includes having more agency, a comprehensive sexuality education, and creation of community networks and programmes that address gender based violence. The best practice that we have adopted at ARROW is to provide an allowance to young marginalized people.”

About Breakthrough:

Breakthrough works towards making violence and discrimination against women and girls unacceptable. We change gender norms by working with adolescents and youth, their families, and their communities, as well as by using media campaigns, the arts and popular culture to build a more equal world around us and create a more enabling environment.

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