Sunday, March 17, 2013

Dalit Women and Untouchability in India

All available data on the status of Dalit women’s rights to education, health and work participation, indicates that they are subjected to lower levels of enjoyment of these rights as compared both to non-Dalit women and men, and Dalit men. There exists, however, very little current data regarding women’s experiences of descent-based violence and discrimination – the available data is classified either by gender or caste, but does not include both factors and the relations between them. Caste based untouchability, discrimination and violence is extensively researched and documented, but mostly with referring to Dalits as one single group, not illuminating the specific intersection between descent, occupation-based identity and gender identity in the experiences of Dalit women.

Dalit women are, like their male counterparts, subordinated by poverty and caste, but at the same time they are also subjected to the patriarchal power that makes them vulnerable to exploitation and domination not only by upper castes, but also by Dalit men. These women suffer from double disability in the Indian society. The first disability of being female is doubled with the caste tag over their head. In all states, an overwhelming majority of Dalit women work outside of their homes – mostly with labour connected to agriculture, which is known for exceptionally low wages.

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