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Sexual violence: In 62% cases dominant caste groups 'target' Dalit girls under 18 yrs

By Rajiv Shah 

A new report, based on research carried out by Dalit women human rights defenders (WHRDs) in 13 Indian States, where they have been handling cases of caste-based sexual violence, has said that that in most of the cases, the perpetrators of sexual violence against Dalit women and girls belong to dominant castes.
Titled "Caste-Based Sexual Violence and State Impunity", the report says, "Of the 50 cases studied, details of the caste of 36 perpetrators are available: eight perpetrators each were from Yadav and OBC communities; four from the Rajput community; three each from the Jat and Muslim communities; two from the Sikh community; and one each from the Prajapati, Maratha, Brahmin, Vaniba Chettiyar, Vanniyar, Gupta, Thakur and Gujjar castes."
"An alarming finding is that in over half the cases (62%) men and boys of dominant caste groups have targeted Dalit girls under the age of 18 years", the report, which covers the States of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Kerala, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, says.
The 50 cases examined in the report are based on incidents of sexual violence that took place over a span of seven years, between 2015 and 2021. Of these, 32 are from the last three years – between 2019 and 2021 – to assess the impact of the pandemic on access to justice by Dalit women survivors of sexual violence.
Citing the Hathras rape and murder case of Uttar Pradesh of 2020 and the Delhi Cantonment rape case of the nine-year-old Dalit girl of 2021, the report says, "Sexual violence is being used by those in dominant positions as a weapon to assert power and reinforce existing hierarchies."
Contesting the 2020 National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), which says that around 10 Dalit women and girls are raped every day in the country, the report says, "This is merely tip of the iceberg. Official data represents only cases where the victims were able to file a First Information Report (FIR)."
It adds, "Data from the National Family Health Survey-4 shows that rates of sexual violence are highest amongst Scheduled Tribes (7.8%) and Scheduled Castes (7.3%) women, followed by Other Backward Castes (5.7%) and Others, i.e. groups not marginalised based on caste or tribe (4.5%)."
Citing a study titled Dalit Women Speak Out, conducted in 2006 by the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), covering 500 Dalit women’s experiences of violence in four Indian states, the report says, the study found that there were convictions in only three cases, i.e. less than 1% of the total instances of violence.
Fifteen years after the study, the report says, legal and policy environment has gone through dramatic changes as a result of widespread public protests, changes in penal laws on rape, expansion of the definition of rape, setting up of the Nirbhaya Fund, NCRB starting publication of disaggregated data on violence against Dalit women and girls, and amendment of the Scheduled Caste & Scheduled Tribe Prevention of Atrocities (PoA) Act.
Despite this progress, the report regrets, issues which impede access to justice are still being reported by survivors. The 50 cases analysed in the report, in fact, suggest that "caste-based nature of atrocities continues to be invisibilised by the public, government authorities and courts now, as it was before."
It underlines, "The systemic casteism and patriarchy inherent in the criminal justice system is also not adequately acknowledged and addressed. Caste-based attitudes and discrimination from the community, police, medical officials, prosecutors and judges all contribute towards impeding access to justice for Dalit women and girls."
Thus, "nationally, on an average, only 10% of the police force is made up of women... With respect to caste diversity, all states and union territories have a reserved quota in the police force for Scheduled Caste (SC) candidates. However, only eight states and UTs meet or exceed their SC constable quota."
Further, of the 13 States covered in the report, "Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh are doing the worst, having filled only 56% and 59% of reserved posts respectively. With respect to the judiciary, only 13% of judges in the High Courts across the country are women, while only 30% of judges in subordinate courts are women. Since Independence, there have been only six Dalit Judges appointed to the Supreme Court, with only one Dalit having held the office of Chief Justice thus far."
Acute lack of caste diversity in the criminal justice system, the report notes, has led to a situation where in one case out of the 50 cases studied, no FIR was filed due to constant pressure and threats from the accused, with the the police suspected to be colluding with the accused.
In another seven cases, according to the report, despite an FIR being registered, it did not include the offence of rape or attempt to rape, despite the survivor’s insistence. And in cases where the victim is dead, the family’s belief that a rape had taken place based on injuries to the genital areas of the victim indicating rape was disregarded.
The police failed to include provisions of the PoA Act in the FIR in 7 out of 46 for which the Act was applicable, the report says. In cases when FIR was registered under the PoA Act, this was done only based on the insistence of the victim-survivor or her family; or due to pressure by Dalit WHRDs. In some cases, the police appeared to be unaware of PoA Act provisions, particularly of the 2015 amendments which strengthened the Act.
Then, the report says, there were delays in filing FIR in as many as 22 out of 50 cases. "Such delays ranged from half a day to three months. The most common length of delay found was between two and five days."
Pointing out that NCRB data also prove this, the report says, "At the end of 2020, the pendency percentage in cases of rape against Dalit women and girls was 25.5%. This means that more than one-fourth of reported cases were pending police investigation at the end of 2020, despite the two-month limit to complete the investigation and file the charge sheet."
NCRB data also show on an avarage around 8.51% of cases in 2020 of atrocities against Dalits were ended by the police as ‘false’. "However, in Haryana and Rajasthan, 37.2% and 36.9% of cases of atrocities against Dalits, were designated false by the police. These figures show that in Haryana and Rajasthan, a large number of cases are dropping out", the report says.
Pointing towards long delays in the trial process, the report says, "In all 40 cases which have not been closed yet, the trial has been pending for more than two months – the stipulated time according to law for the completion of rape trials. The trials in three cases have been pending for over six years, and for over three years in seven others."
Nationally, too, a large number of cases remain pending trial. NCRB data shows 1,59,660 cases of rape pending trial at the end of 2020, the report says. The pendency for cases of rape against Dalit women and girls (cases pending before courts at the end of the year) was 96.3%.
Stating that the Covid-19 pandemic, lockdowns and other associated measures have caused further delays in trials, report says, pendency percentage rose from 91.4% in 2019 to 96.3% in 2020. Almost all cases studied in which the trial started in 2019 or later remain pending before courts.
In 37 out of the 50 cases studied, the report says, the survivors or families of victims received threats from the accused, their family or other members of the community and were pressured either not to complain or to withdraw or compromise the case. In two other cases, survivors noted that they received indirect pressure to compromise.
Of these 39 cases, in five the survivor or family of the victim agreed to change their statement before the police or court and stop co-operating in the criminal case, it adds.
Referring to the Nirbhaya Fund set up by the Government of India for the implementation of initiatives aimed at enhancing the safety and security of women in the country, the report says, "Only 46.21% of the total money allocated to the Nirbhaya Fund until July 2021 has been spent."
It adds, As per data released by Union Minister for Women and Child Development, in a written reply in the Lok Sabha in August 2021, around Rs 445.63 crore has been released to States from 2018 to 2021 for setting up centres across the country. However, only Rs 89.79 crore have been utilised by states so far – around 20% of the released funds."
The report regrets, "Bihar has only used 0.48% of these funds, while a few States have failed to utilise any of it. For instance, though West Bengal has been allocated Rs 2.94 crore, the State has not used any of this money."
The victims-survivors of sexual violence or their families are entitled to the right to compensation, both for the offence of rape as well as for offences registered under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Prevention of Atrocities (PoA) Act.
The a minimum compensation is to the tune of Rs 5,00,000 to victims-survivors of rape and Rs 8,25,000 to victims-survivors of gang rape. Of this 50% is payable after medical examination and confirmatory medical report, 25% after filing of a charge sheet, and 25% upon conclusion of the trial by a lower court.
However, the report says, a number of survivors and WHRDs have noted that "most of the money is often used to pay private lawyers to support the prosecution and to cover costs of travel for the victim or her family to attend court proceedings. In some instances, the money has been used to pay for the medical treatment of the survivor."
Thus, "Despite its importance and legal entitlement, compensation was not received in 31% of cases for which the information is available (14 out of 44). In a few others, compensation was not paid due to the lack of registration of an FIR, or only a part of it was received due to failure of the police to file a charge sheet."
"Even in the cases where compensation was received, it required repeated follow-up with government authorities from Dalit WHRDs and CSOs supporting the survivor. Where there is no support from WHRDs, survivors are often unaware of the entitlement to compensation or relief and the steps to do so", the report regrets.
"Further", says the report, "Despite the PoA Rules mandating the provision of the relief amount within seven days , the payment was delayed significantly in most cases. The period of delay ranged between two months and a year. Delays were more commonly reported in the payment of interim compensation (due after filing the charge sheet). In one case, it was received three years after the charge sheet was filed."

Comments

Bipin Bhatt said…
Sorry to differ. Sexual violence is related to haves n have nots. A poor brahmin or poor vania woman is also a victim. Wrong doers see an opportunity in this situation. They exploit it. The poor oppressed will obey to their desires, they believe. One can study it like statistics. I think, categorisation will lead in any direction we want it to. The lakh rupee question is, it is exploitation. It is also seen in jobs, business, where a woman wants wants job, to continue job, get promotion or a favour. This should not happen is an ideal condition. It happens. A few resist or overcome the temptation.
Such studies may lead us resulting conclusions we want. It can be seen through caste angle too
Unemployment leaves youngsters with time on their hands and movies, videos, and porn sites take over as guides. They are not taught to respect women who are treated like doormats by their elders. These form the perfect recipe for the moral degradation.
Unknown said…
Dalits and Adivasi women suffer the most, not only they are the most vulnerable but they are always denied justice. In reality Oppressor (upper) caste male prey on my Dalit and Tribal sisters, from Hathras, Alwar, desaiganj, Badanu to Ariyalur gangrape, there's is a pattern, in which Dalit and Adivasi girls are targeted and raped till death by Oppressor (upper) caste males. In India most of the cases of Rape and honor-killings are somehow related to caste oppression and Dalit Adivasi women are always raped and denied justice. Looking at Custodial Gangrape of Adivasi sister Mathura, even supreme court denied justice to sister Mathura. We Dalit Adivasi must organize ourselves so that we can protect our Dalit Adivasi sisters from Rape murder and oppression from the hands of Oppressor (upper) caste.

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