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Need to reflect: Why 80% Dalit girls faced sexual abuse, 90% 'considered' suicide

By Our Representative

In a major revelation, top Dalit rights leader Martin Macwan has said that between 75 and 80 per cent girls, who come to study at the Dalit Shakti Kendra (DSK), founded by Macwan about two decades ago off Ahmedabad to offer alternative training options to manual scavenging and other caste based occupations, have experienced sexual violence or harassment.
Speaking a virtual seminar organized by the Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi, Macwan said, girls particularly experience sexual abuse in their villages when go for defecating in the open. Most of the girls who come to study at DSK are Dalit and are from poor background.
Giving a specific instance of interaction with girl students at DSK, Macwan said, “During a session I raised a question to whether anyone of them had ever thought committing a suicide. To my utter surprise almost 90% of them raised their hands, which speaks volumes about the trauma that youth go through.”
Claiming that our schools have failed to fight the trauma Dalit children, especially girls, undergo, Macwan told the researchers participating in the seminar about the need to “capture the impact of caste and gender prejudices in the minds of young people, and investigate social reasons as to why suicide rates have doubled in the last decade.”
Macwan, who was speaking on “Heinousness of many Hathras amidst the Pandemic -- Voluntarism, the Way Ahead for Combating Caste and Gender-based Violence”, wondered why those at the very top of the power structure failed to condemn the manner in which the Hathras victim’s family was treated even after the gangrape incident on September 14 and her subsequent death a fortnight later.
“Her body was forcefully burnt by the power wielders knowing fully well how to destroy crucial evidence that would reveal the crimes”, he said, stating, this stood in sharp contrast to “the right of respectful burial was awarded to dreaded terrorists and the convicts of the heinous crimes as that of Nirbhaya.”
According to Macwan, very unfortunately, even the head of the Indian state, President Ramnath Kovind, though a Dalit, “hasn’t spoken a word condemning the incident.” Further, “There are 680 elected representatives at state and national levels who are Dalits, and their eerie silence to speak against the brutal incidents of caste violence including Hathras is very disturbing.”
Given this framework, said Macwan, political reservation to the scheduled castes is proving to be “futile, as it has become more of personal benefits and has not generated any equality in society or impacted the lives of the Dalits.” He wondered whether suspension of political reservation would bring about any change.

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