Now We Are Fearless: Facts about Dalit Women

Peter Williams/WCC

There are 260 million Dalit people around the world, 166,635,700 of whom live in India. Dalit people are at the bottom of a hierarchical caste system determined  by birth.

Although Indian law prohibits discrimination and violence against Dalit people, in reality atrocities are a daily occurrence.

  • 13 Dalits are murdered each week. 
  • 5 Dalit homes are burnt each week.
  • 6 Dalit people are kidnapped or abducted each week. 
  • 21 Dalit women raped each week.   

It is estimated that a crime is committed against a Dalit person every 18 minutes. The problem not the law but the lack of political will, at local and national levels, to apply these laws. In 2006, the official conviction rate for Dalit atrocity cases was just 5.3%.

Social discrimination is also a major problem. Dalit people are considered ‘untouchable’; most higher caste people would not marry a Dalit, invite them into their home or share food with them.

  • Dalit children sit separately from other children in schools.  Almost 1 out of every 3 government school in rural areas prohibit children from sitting together.
  • Dalits are prevented from entering police stations in 27.6% of rural villages,
  • Public health workers refuse to enter Dalit homes in 1 out of 3 rural villages,
  • Almost half of Dalit villages are denied access to water sources,
  • Dalit and non-Dalit people cannot eat together in 70% of rural villages

Dalit women experience triple discrimination based on their caste, their economic situation and their gender.

  • 70% of Dalit women are illiterate in rural India
  • Thousands of girls are forced into prostitution before they reach puberty. .

The International Dalit Solidarity Network states “ Violence, including sexual assault, is used by dominant castes as a social mechanism for humiliating entire Dalit communities.”

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