Crime & Justice

Indian justice system failing Dalit women facing sexual violence, report says

New Delhi, Nov 25 (efe-epa).- Indian justice system is failing the survivors of sexual violence from the Dalit communities – the marginalized “lower castes” of the Hindu society – by often letting the perpetrators go unpunished, according to a report published on Wednesday by rights groups.

“Men from dominant castes frequently use sexual violence as a weapon to reinforce repressive caste and gender hierarchies, relying on a culture of impunity whereby perpetrators go unpunished and survivors and the families of victims struggle to access justice,” nonprofits Swabhiman Society and Equality India said in a joint report.

The document, titled “Justice Denied: Sexual Violence & Intersectional Discrimination – Barriers to Accessing Justice for Dalit Women,” is based on 40 cases of rape involving women of the Dalit community in the northern Indian state of Haryana.

According to official data cited by the report, on average around 10 Dalit women are raped every day in the country, although the researchers claim that the real number could be much higher as only a tiny proportion of the crimes are reported.

The Dalit community is placed at the lowest rung of the Hindu caste hierarchy, which imposes a rigid social control on mobility, occupation and practices based on birth.

Although the law bans discrimination based on caste and gender, the report flags serious systemic problems of prejudice, patriarchy and corruption.

Of the total cases studied, just 10 percent ended in the accused being punished, generally limited to cases where the rape victim had been killed or was under the age of six.

In around 90 percent of the cases, at least one of the accused belonged to a dominant caste.

Moreover, the researchers said that systemic negligence resulted in refusal to register complaints, investigations being diluted and occasionally even abuse or pressure being exerted on survivors to drop the charges.

“In almost 60% of cases, the survivor or her family was pressured into withdrawing from pursuing a legal case and had to accept a ‘compromise’ settlement outside the legal system,” the report claimed.

Equality Now’s Eurasia Director Jacqui Hunt said that “Dalit women’s bodies are being used to assert caste supremacy and keep women ‘in their place,’ perpetrators from dominant castes know they are likely to go unpunished.”

Dalit rights group Swabhiman Society claimed that social pressure is one of the biggest challenges in the survivors’ quest for justice.

“Community and social pressure plays a major role in impeding access to justice in such cases” as families face community pressure for withdrawing the case, said Manisha Mashaal, the founder of Swabhiman Society.

According to the latest data released by the National Crime Records Bureau, 33,977 cases of rape were reported in India in 2018, out of which 2,957 targeted Dalit women. EFE-EPA


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