Simon de Beauvoir had said in her book The Second Sex that “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” If we think about this statement, then we shall understand that a woman is not born with her gender norms, but she is bound with such norms, so that she can be placed at a position where her body is controlled by the society. However, a dalit woman is subjected to such norms which positions her at the bottom most place in the power hierarchy, a position where she is subjected to oppression in the forms of caste, patriarchy and class. This article shall explain about the social position of dalit-women and how different movements have tried to acknowledge it.
Caste uses gender to form caste status, power relation and cultural position of a woman.
(Tomar 2013). The caste status of a dalit family creates an appalling living condition and dalit-women are the victim since their gender keeps them at a position lower than the men in the community. at the place where she works by people who take advantage of her financial condition. Hence, Ruth Manorama had said that dalit women are dalit among dalits.
Social Position of upper caste women and dalit-women has been compared by a lot of writers. This comparison helps us differentiate the situation of upper caste women and dalit-women. Sharmila Rege pointed out that an upper-caste woman is more prone to domestic violence and other forms of oppression from her family whereas a dalit-woman is subject to sexual oppression and caste oppression not just from her family but also from the society. (Rege 1998) However, Gabriele Dietrich explains that dalit-women go through softer version of patriarchy by explaining dowry and other organised form of family violence which are more common among the upper-caste families and that dalit-women do not face these problems. Kancha Illahi claims that patriarchy among dalits is “democratic” by stating facts that dalit women do not worship their husband’s feet or address their husbands as superior. Their claim has been challenged by a lot of scholars as they did not consider the social status of dalit-women which keeps her open to all forms of oppression that a dalit faces, economic oppression, forms of violence within the family which includes wife battering, torture and sexual assault by husbands and in-laws. This suggests that the social position of dalit-women is lower than that of upper-caste women. (Sowjanya 2011)
Economic oppression is usually observed at the workplace of dalit-women. Dalit-Women are because they are the ones who have no other choice but to do informal and unorganized labour work such as manual scavenging, leather works, agricultural works which makes them dependent on the upper caste land-owners. (Sowjanya 2011) In such work places dalit-women are paid less than dalit-men though both do the same works
Things are more problematic for dalit-women because of the inadequacy of lawful authorities to get them justice. A study conducted by International Dalit Solidarity Network found after studying violence related case of 500 dalit -women that less than 1% of the perpetrators were convicted, in 17.4% cases, police obstructed women from getting justice and in 40.2% of instances, the women did not attempt to obtain legal or community remedies primarily out of fear of the perpetrators or social dishonor if sexual violence was revealed, or ignorance of the law, or the belief that they would not get justice.
Very less dalit movements and feminist movements have represented dalit women’s social situation. Gopal Guru in “Dalit Women talk Differently” mentioned the inadequacy of various dalit movements and dalit writers to speak of dalit-women’s position in the society. He wrote that dalit movement are patriarchal as they are reproducing same mechanism against their women that the upper caste men use against women. Political assertion made by women are in such movements are often suppressed. Dalit writers are often dismissive about the opinion of dalit-women writers. (Guru 1995) Feminism was criticized for not representing the position of dalit-women in their movements. In the 1990s during the anti-mandal campaigns, feminist women were against the reservation policies to save the nation from “unmeritorious groups”. This is precisely because feminist groups have upper-caste women participating in their social movements and their social experience as a woman is considered as the issues that women need to fight for. Lack of representation of dalit-women in feminist movements and dalit movements is the reason why they were not able to cater the needs of dalit-women. Hence a lot of dalit-women do not want to be represented by feminists. Dalit-women have started to “talk differently” by directly organizing and participating in social movements and by writing their own books which portrays the type of life a dalit women lives because of the society.
The main point here is that the condition of dalit women is more complex than that of upper-caste women and dalits because they are made to go through the different forms of oppression: Caste, class and patriarchy. We must understand that a dalit-women by talking differently, is leading a war against these three predators of humanity. We must appreciate the efforts which are made by our dalit-mothers and dalit-sisters and support them in this war.
Guru, Gopal. 1995. "Dalit Women talk Dfferently." Economic and Political Weekly.
ISDN. n.d. "Violence Against Dalit Women."
Kundan Welfare Society. n.d. Violence Against Dalit Women in Rajasthan. Research Study, National Commison for Women.
Rege, Sharmila. 1998. "Dalit Women Talk Differently: A Critique of 'Difference' and Towards a Dalit FeministStandpoint Position." Economic and Political Weekly.
Shivkumar, Vaishali. 2013. "A Dalit Woman under a Strong Clutch of Patriarchy." Language in India.
Sowjanya. 2011. Caste Violence in Dalit Women s Writing A Dalit Feminist Critique. Hyderabad: The English and Foreign Languages University.
Tomar, Ruchi. 2013. "Dalit Feminism: A Transformation of Rejection into Resistance." The Criterion 2.
Picture reference: https://feminisminindia.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/dalit-feminism.jpg
 She is a dalit activist who founded The National Federation of Dalit Women in 1993.
 This system is prevalent in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Karnataka.
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