Caste Based Sexual Violence and State Impunity (English and Hindi)

FOCUS

This report was published on March 30, 2022, by Dalit Human Rights Defenders Network, a coalition of Dalit activists from across India, in collaboration with Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, and the Ahmedabad-based National Council for Women Leaders, a network of women from marginalised communities. It was released in English as well as Hindi.

The report presents 50 case studies of sexual violence against Dalit women which illustrate the systemic barriers hindering them from obtaining justice. The research for this report was carried out by Dalit women activists from 13 states. The cases span seven years – 2015 to 2021 – and cover the states of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Kerala, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

Dalit women have suffered extreme violence and discrimination due to their marginalised position. The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns aggravated problems of unemployment and poverty, leaving them even more vulnerable to violence. As many as 32 of the report’s 50 case studies are from 2019-21 to reflect these circumstances and analyse their impact.

The 66-page report contains four chapters: Thematic analysis of cases of caste based sexual violence (chapter 1); Systemic barriers to accessing justice (chapter 2); Access to support services for victims-survivors (chapter 3); and Recommendations (chapter 4).

    FACTOIDS

  1. India recorded 3,486 cases of rape against Dalit women and girls in the year 2020 – as per data by the National Crime Records Bureau. This shows an average of around 10 cases per day and marks a 45 per cent increase from 2015. However, the report notes, many cases go reported and remain absent from official sources.

  2. The majority of rape cases against Dalit women and girls were recorded in the states of UP (604 cases), MP (509), Rajasthan (476), Maharashtra (357) and Telangana (225).

  3. The majority of perpetrators of sexual violence were from dominant castes in the 50 case studies presented in the report. In the 36 cases where the data on perpetrators was available, they belonged to communities such as the Yadavs (8), Other Backward Classes (8), Rajputs (4), Jats (3), Muslims (3), Sikhs (2), and one each from the ‘Prajapati, Maratha, Brahmin, Vaniba Chettiyar, Vanniyar, Gupta, Thakur and Gujjar communities’.

  4. A pattern of intimidation and threats by the accused towards the women and their families was noted in 37 of the 50 cases (74 per cent). Additionally, there were several instances where Dalit women and girls engaged in agricultural labour experienced sexual violence from dominant-caste men in whose fields they worked.

  5. Perpetrators targeted Dalit girls younger than 18 years old in 62 per cent of the cases.

  6. The various categories of sexual violence recorded in the case studies were stalking and sexual assault; kidnapping and sexual assault; lure of romance, threats and intimidation to indulge in sexual violence; use of technology to commit sexual violence; caste- and religion-based sexual violence; sexual abuse of children; and sexual assault by guardians.

  7. The report notes that perpetrators often used technology and social media to continually harass and silence the survivors. The assaults were recorded and used ‘to shame and name survivors in public’, as threats to curb protests from the victims, and to continue the offence over an extended period.

  8. The lack of caste and gender diversity within the justice system magnifies its systemic casteism and patriarchy – the report observes. The national average of women in the police force is 10 per cent. At the same time, only eight states and union territories meet or exceed the SC quota for constables. The report cites an American Bar Association report from 2021 to state that there have only been six judges belonging to the Dalit community appointed to the Supreme Court since Independence, and only one appointed as the Chief Justice of India.

  9. The 2013 Justice Verma Committee report recognises all kinds of sexual harassment as violating women’s right to equality as well as her right to life. Under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, assaults against women from SC and ST communities are liable for imprisonment for at least six months and up to five years, along with a fine. The report notes that these measures are not effectively implemented, and that several people in the justice delivery system have little awareness of the provisions and often “behave with impunity to let perpetrators get away”.

  10. The police did not file an FIR (first information report) against the accused in one of the case studies. In another seven, the FIR did not register rape or attempt to rape as the offence. Survivors and their families reported delays by the police – up to three months in some instances – in as many as 22 cases.

  11. The police personnel did not include provisions applicable under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in 15 per cent of cases. Further, they failed to investigate complaints and protect survivors from their abusers in a number of instances.

  12. By the end of 2020, 96.3 per cent of rape cases against Dalit girls and women were pending trial in the courts. This was a jump from the 91.4 per cent pendency rate recorded in 2019. The report attributes the Covid-19 induced lockdowns as a reason for this.

  13. The survivors and their families noted a lack of gender sensitivity among police personnel in a number of case studies. They were not given adequate medical treatment after the assaults, and some reported being subjected to the “unscientific and intrusive two-finger test” during examinations. In many cases, copies of medical examination reports or post-mortem reports were not made available to the women or their families.

  14. The National Legal Services Authority’s Compensation Scheme for Women Victims/Survivors of Sexual Assault/other Crimes, 2018, contains provisions for rape offences, including those against persons from SC and ST communities. However, 31 per cent of survivors and their families received no compensation in the report’s 50 case studies.

  15. The report notes the lack of support services for victims of sexual assault. The women are not often provided with counselling or rehabilitation aid and in many cases counsellors and health professionals are not equipped or trained to look after survivors of sexual violence.


    Focus and Factoids by Swadesha Sharma.

AUTHOR

Dalit Human Rights Defenders Network and National Council of Women Leaders, Ahmedabad

COPYRIGHT

Dalit Human Rights Defenders Network

PUBLICATION DATE

30 Mar, 2022

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