India’s #Dalit Women Fight Against Systematic, Caste Based #Sexual #Violence
Manisha Mashaal was five years old when her schoolteacher first called her an “untouchable” in front of the rest of her class. Mashaal, now 27, said she faced harassment from students and teachers alike in her village of Badarpur because of her background. She said teachers threw her schoolbag out of class and refused to check her homework, while students sang rhymes taunting her and other Dalit children.
But as she grew up, the rhymes increasingly turned into threats of sexual violence. By the age of 16, she began attending Dalit-community solidarity meetings to examine how she could protect herself. For Dalit victims of sexual violence response from police officers is often “How can you have been raped? You’re a Dalit — touching you would make anyone spiritually impure.” A study by the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights found that more than 50% of Dalit women had suffered physical assault. More than 46% have suffered sexual harassment. 23% have said they had been raped.
In August 2013, Kaafee, a 22-year-old Dalit woman who was studying to be a teacher, was abducted on her way to take an examination. The next day, Kaafee was found dead. She had been raped, and had cigarette burn marks all over her body. “We sat outside the government hospital for four days with her body. Our pledge was that we would not move until the police registers [the fact] that she had been raped, tortured, and murdered,” Mashaal said. But the police maintained that Kaafee had committed suicide, and refused to even allow a medical autopsy, Mashaal said. “I don’t think Kaafee or thousands of other Dalit girls like her, will ever receive justice.”
Mashaal and other women decided to mobilize and create Dalit Women Fight. The group has been traveling across North America to raise awareness to the issues Dalit women face, finding allies in the Black Lives Matter and Say Her Name movements. The group is speaking out against what they see as the systemic failures of the Indian government to break the silence of caste apartheid and caste-based rape. Dalit Women Fight was the brainchild of the All India Dalit Women’s Rights Forum.
Read the full article here: http://www.refinery29.com/2015/10/95759/dalit-untouchable-women-india-sexual-violence