Domestic Violence and Remedial Legal Measure: From Dalit Women Perspective

In rural India, Dalit women suffer multiple oppressions of gender, caste, class and rural deprivations. Dalit women feel the burns of the patriarchal suppression in the society. They are trampled down by the caste identity. They constitute a major portion of ultra poor. As they live in remote rural areas they are denied basic amenities and connectivities. Dalit women are considered ‘untouchable’ and are outside of the four varna systems and considered below of all in the pyramidal structure of Indian society.

In rural India, Dalit women suffer multiple oppressions of gender, caste, class and rural deprivations. Dalit women feel the burns of the patriarchal suppression in the society. They are trampled down by the caste identity. They constitute a major portion of ultra poor. As they live in remote rural areas they are denied basic amenities and connectivities. Dalit women are considered ‘untouchable’ and are outside of the four varna systems and considered below of all in the pyramidal structure of Indian society.

Devastating Discrimination

Though the Indian constitution guarantees equality, justice, and human dignity for all and bans discrimination the basis of caste, seldom it is actualized in rural India. Slavery and oppression is very much alive even in distant small villages. Denial of human rights and practice of untouchability are manifested in the forms of discrimination such as exclusion from Hindu temples, homes, and rituals; prohibitions against using the village well or studying in the village school; and a prohibition against touching any caste person or any material or food. In most of the areas, untouchables could not own land, although in other areas some castes held some land as part of their village contract.

Domestic Violence against Dalit Women

Realizing the pathetic plight of Dalits, Indian constitution had initiated to safe guard the rights of Dalits i.e. education (article 15/4), reservation in employment (art. 16/4), the abolition of untouchability (art. 17), and reservation in Assemblies and Parliament (art. 330&332). In addition, Untouchability Act, 955, Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 and free aid cells were enacted. In education, reservation and relaxed age and qualification are being followed.

Besides the Indian Government has enacted amendments to protect the rights and dignity of women namely Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, Suppression of Immoral Traffic Act, 1956 amended in 1986, Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 amended in 1982 & 1986, Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1976, Medical Termination of pregnancy Act, 1971, National Commission for Women Act, 1990, 73 & 74 Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992, Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and prevention of misuse) Act, 1994 etc. Often none of these legal enactments neither related to Dalits nor related to women come to the rescue of Dalit women.

Problems in Implementation

To effectively implement the act there are numerous hurdles. Some of them are:

a) Registering a complaint

Non-registration of crimes is a general problem in India. Political influence over the police and caste, class, religious and gender biases mean that it is extremely difficult for members of disadvantaged groups to file complaints, particularly against powerful individuals. A case cannot continue and a victim cannot receive justice if a First Information Report (FIR) is not completed and registered by police on the basis of a person’s complaint.b) Problems of Evidence

b) Problems of Evidence

Police are also accused of withholding and destroying evidence in many cases, often at the behest of the alleged perpetrators who might have caste or other community links with the police officers. Police also have the ability to delay the recording of medical evidence. It is not a legal requirement for police to send women who allege that they have been raped for an immediate medical examination. Much medical evidence is lost because this simple procedure is not followed.c) Time and Money

c) Time and Money

Lawyers are reluctant to file cases because of the time and money involved. There are often significant distances between the village where a victim lives and the block [administrative unit within a district] court where a case is being heard. Money is lost in attending hearings, not just on travel expenses but lost working hours for those women in employment and their male relatives who accompany them to the hearings.d) Discrimination within the Criminal Justice System

d) Discrimination within the Criminal Justice System

Police officers have their own caste and gender biases and often behave towards Dalits and Didivasis in a discriminatory way — acting within the norms of their social surroundings. The presence of caste biases within the police force was prominent among many activists, government officials and police alike. Officials have acknowledged that gender sensitivity is not institutionalised within the police force.c) Threats and Harassment

e) Threats and Harassment

This report focuses on domestic violence against Dalit groups, much of it perpetrated by those in powerful social, economic or political positions and able to exert enormous influence over victims and their communities as well as state institutions if threatened by criminal action. Despite this, there is no protection program for victims or witnesses in India leading generally to a very high number of acquittals in criminal cases due to victims or witnesses withdrawing testimony and the resulting lack of evidence. In the case of women victims from Dalit communities, the odds are stacked against them and without some form of protection or removing them from the context in which they might be receiving threats it is not surprisingly rare for women to pursue complaints through the courts.

f) Justice or Impunity

One of the main factors in assessing whether governments have shown due diligence in addressing domestic violence by non-state actors is whether those responsible for such domestic violence are brought to justice. A very high percentage of crimes against women go unpunished because cases are not filed, end in compromise and/or complaints are withdrawn. This is clearly so in cases where the victims are from Dalit communities and particularly vulnerable to discrimination, threats and pressure.g) The Role of the Community

g) The Role of the Community

Members of the victim’s caste community or their family members can place enormous pressure on women victims of domestic violence to either compromise or not pursue justice at all through formal justice systems. Dominated by men, caste groups often consider that women victims of domestic violence should suffer their ordeal in silence. In many cases, women who insist on pursuing justice are punished in some way — often by social ostracisation, but also by being abandoned by their husbands and his family — for what is seen as bringing further dishonour to the community.

 

Domestic Violence and Remedial Legal Measure: From Dalit Women Perspective
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