Atrocities against Dalit and Tribal women

“Violations against Dalit Women’s"

Nagammal (22), hailing from the tribal Palliyar community, resides in Arunkulam, near Bodi in Theni district. Over 200 tribal people reside in this village. They work in the forest and carry security works. They are paid Rs.200 as monthly wage, and their employers provide them each with 30kg of rationed rice, and some pulses. 98% of these workers have not been educated past the 5th standard. They have no voting rights, ration cards, or houses in which to live. They cannot speak continuously in Tamil. Some of them have never traveled, even in bus. On 6.5.2008, at 11pm, Nagammal was brutally attacked and gang raped by 3 caste Hindus. This assault occurred in front of her father Sangu and mother Laxmi. One of the caste Hindu assailants threatened her parents with a knife that he would kill them if they tried to rescue their daughter. Her parents were helpless and wept bitterly. The gang left her on at 5am on 7.5.2008. When Nagammal approached police station to lodge a complaint she was threatened by police, and left the station out of fear without issuing a complaint. With the knowledge that she had approached the police, a caste Hindu gang came to her house, threatening her family members saying “How could you people approach the police opposing us? The police station and court are up to our wish.” Upon learning of this incident, our EVIDENCE research team went to Arunkulam to conduct a fact finding mission. After our intervention, Kurankani police filed FIR in Cr.No.79/2008, under IPC section 451,342,354,109,506(2), 376 r/w 3(1) (10), 3(2) (5) of the SC/ST Act. Police have arrested the accused. Similar cases of sexual assault occur regularly for dalit and tribal women. For every 100 cases of sexual assault in India, FIR is filed for not even 20 cases. The United Nations General Assembly’s Human Rights Committee insisted in a report that less than 5 for every 100 rape cases with scheduled caste or scheduled tribe women as victims have FIRs filed. Our country has enjoyed many improvements in women’s development including 33% reservations for women, thoroughly implemented punishments for family violations, women representatives leading in the fields of science, medicine, education, and management; increased levels of education for women, and women’s representation at the village level. Yet, the number of violations against women is still rising. Family violations, torture, sexual assault, rape, intimidation, and murder have seen no reduction. The number of violations against dalit women is at its peak. Apart from male dominance in economic status and society, caste serves as a catalyst for violations against dalit women. For these reasons, our Indian law under IPC section 376 insists that the accused in a sexual assault case should be punished with at least 10 years imprisonment. If the victim is a dalit woman, the accused should be given lifetime imprisonment under section 3(2) (5) of the SC/ST Act. The legal actions and rehabilitation for affected dalit women is still exists in an unstructured manner. Social activists have argued that particularly police and courts behave in a fractional manner, a claim confirmed by much research. Based on all of the above, we came to a conclusion that the report given by the UN Human Rights Committee is true. The National Crime Records Bureau released a report of incidents of sexual assault on dalit women in Tamilnadu. Their report states that during the year 2004, only 23 cases were registered; in the year 2005, 19 cases were registered; during the year 2006, 21 cases were registered; and during the year 2007, only 27 sexual assault complaints were registered by dalit women. The statistics reported is seem too low to be believe. What is the truth? What are the real statistics of sexual assaults on dalit women? Is FIR filed in these cases? If not, what is the reason behind this obstruction? What are the reasons for such frequent denial of legal action? We have few answers for all the above questions. But it is of the utmost importance to understand these atrocities. To find the answers to the above questions, our EVIDENCE team conducted a study on violations against dalit women during the month of October 2009. Research plan: This study was conducted in three districts: Madurai, Theni and Dindigul. The questionnaire form was framed with 54 questions. 6 teams from EVIDENCE carried out this research. In our findings, 115 dalit women openly described the torture, sexual assault, and caste discrimination that they have faced. These women confirmed their testimony by signing our research form. In the case of deceased victims and victims under 18 years, their parents gave testimony and signed the research form. Some women have asked us to not release their names. Some dalit women asked us what legal action they could take against the accused. They also wished to take legal action. Our EVIDENCE team decided to release the names of such affected women who wished to lead with legal actions, but to conceal the names of the other affected dalit women. Research findings: We had interviewed 115 dalit women in our research. Among these women, 64 belong to Parayar community, 11 were from Pallar community, 18 were from Arunthathiyar community, 12 were from Pulaiyar community, and 8 from Kuravar community. Two women’s castes are unknown. It is notable that age group of the affected women is between 18 and 80. We also included some cruel violations against dalit women that have taken place during the year 2008-2009. Of the 115 dalit women, 96 work as coolies, 2 work in private companies, 2 in the government sector, and others in various fields. Among these 115 affected dalit women, 17 are widows, 23 are separated from their husbands, 3 are divorced, 12 live separately, and 58 are married. Violations and tortures: All 115 dalit women respondents disclosed that they faced caste-based violations. Among them, 85 women (74%) were abused on caste basis, 53 women (46%) were abused through obscene comments, 23 women (20%) were subjected to sexual harassment, 30 women (26%) were abused with castes name and were teased, 41 women (36%) were subjected to brutal attacks, 63 women (55%) were intimidated, 10 women (9%) were raped, 6 women (5%) were inflicted with sexual attempts, 9 women (8%) were molested, 51 women (44%) were subjected to caste discrimination, and 14 women (12%) were subject to obnoxious activities by caste Hindus. Following this, 5 women (4%) attempted suicide, 2 women committed suicide, and 1 woman was murdered. Among the 115 respondents, 49 women reported that violations had occurred once, 32 reported that violations occurred multiple times and 19 women reported that they were regularly subjected to these violations. About the accused: 67 women reported that the violations were committed by some caste Hindus, 28 reported that many caste Hindus were involved in these violations. 22 women reported that more than 10 caste Hindus assailants were involved in these violations. 79 women still vividly remember the violations which occurred to them. 63 women have not even reported these violations to their family members. Place of occurrence: Of the 115 women surveyed, 43 reported that these violations occurred in their homes, 17 women reported that violations occurred in residences of caste Hindus, 15 reported that violations occurred in the workplace, 20 reported that violations occurred in places of worship, 58 reported that violations occurred in public places, 23 reported that violations occurred in places belonging to caste Hindus, and 5 reported that vioaltions occurred in government institutions. Background of the accused: Of the 115 respondents, 12 reported that the accused came from caste based organizations, 8 reported that accused come from a political background, 49 reported that the accused come from a high economic status, 5 reported that the accused are employed by the government, 6 reported that the accused are private employees, 14 reported that the accused are important persons at the village level, and 21 reported that the accused are their employers. Legal actions: Of the 115 dalit women respondents, only 34 women lodged complaints in a police station. FIR was only fired in 21 of these cases, of which the accused were arrested in only 16 cases. Among 115 affected women, only 7 were awarded compensation. Of the complaints filed, only in 1 case was the accused punished. 6 cases were canceled, 11 cases are pending in court, and 15 cases are under investigation. Reasons why victim had not taken action against accused: 54 affected women reported that they did not take legal action due to intimidation by caste Hindus. 29 women reported that legal action was not taken due to threats by police. 27 women did not take legal action for fear of further abuse by caste Hindus. 32 women reported that fear of the police deterred their legal action. Effects: Dalit women victims of sexual assault reported experiencing mental distress, fear, and suicidal thoughts or actions, as well as physical injuries sustained from their assaults. Sworn statement of some affected dalit women: 1. Tribal women kidnapped and sexually assaulted: Kalliyammal (24) and Panju (14) are daughters of Thirumal, hailing from the tribal Palliyar community and residing in Moongilpallam, Kodaikanal at Dindugal district. On 13.4.2008, both sisters were kidnapped and sexually assaulted by a caste Hindu gang. When their father tried to take legal action, he received threats from caste Hindus. After the intervention of our EVIDENCE team, on 28.5.2008, Kodaikanal police filed FIR in Cr.No.167/2008 under IPC section 366A, 376 r/w section 3(2) (5) of the SC/ST Act. The police have arrested the accused. Kalliyammal alone received Rs.50, 000 as first level compensation. 2. Attempted rape and assault of dalit women: Marimuthu (35), W/o Kaliyamoorthy, resides in Ayakaranpulam near Vedharanyam at Nagapattinam district. On 17.5.2008 at 11pm, 2 caste Hindu youths forcibly entered her home and attempted to rape her. She pleaded with them, saying “please leave me; I am at the age of your mother.” But they ignored her pleading and brutally attacked her. On 25.5.2008, Vaimedu police filed FIR in Cr.No.146/2008 under IPC section 294(b), 351,506(2) r/w 3(1) (10) of SC/ST Act. Police have still yet to arrest the accused. 3. A dalit woman assaulted by caste Hindus for standing equally with them in a fair price shop: Dalit Kasiyammal (23), w/o Duraimurugan, resides in Thachur village, near Kallakurichi at Villupuram district. On 24.9.2009, she went to a fair price shop. While standing in the queue, she accidently touched caste Hindu Virudhambal, provoking an outrage in which the caste Hindus Virudhambal, Indhumathi, Krishnaveni brutally attacked her. Virudhambal’s husband Seenivasan stripped off her saree and outraged her modesty, proceeding to attack her with a coconut log. In response to this incident, Kallakurichi police filed FIR in Cr.No.669/2009 under IPC section 294(b), 323,354 r/w 3(1) (10), 3(1) (11) of the SC/ST Act. Police have yet to arrest the accused. 4. Tribal 13 years old girl sexually assaulted: Anjalai resides in Chinnavadavadi village at Cuddalore district. Her 13 year old daughter Devi was kidnapped and sexually assaulted by two caste Hindus on 15.6.2008. Mangalampettai police filed FIR in Cr.No.77/2008 under IPC section 376,366 r/w 3(1) (12) of SC/ST Act. The accused were arrested. 5. Mentally ill dalit woman sexually assaulted: Malliga (22) D/o Alagarsami resides in Thirumangalam at Madurai District. She wis mentally ill. On 10.10.2009, the caste Hindu Narayanan attempted to rape her. Regarding this incident, Thirumangalam All Women Police filed FIR in Cr.No.8/2009 under IPC section 376 r/w 3(1) (12) of SC/ST Act. The police have not arrested the accused. 6. An elder dalit woman sexually harassed: Dalit Muniyammal (48), w/o Karrupaiah, resides in Bomminayakanpatti Village near Periyakulam at Theni district. On 15.4.2009, Jhangir (23) stopped her on her way, tore at her clothes and attempted to rape her. When Munniyammal tried to escape from him, he brutally attacked her. Jeyamangalam police filed FIR in Cr.No.54/2009 under IPC section 341,354,323 r/w 3(1) (11) of SC/ST Act. The police arrested the accused. Our EVIDENCE team provided legal intervention in all the above 7 incidents. Many such incidents continuing in Tamilnadu– only a sample has been recorded here. In our research on atrocities against dalit women, we interviewed 115 affected women who gave signed statements. Our EVIDENCE organization considers these statements to be important proof. Most of these atrocities, tortures, and sexual assaults have not had FIRs filed. Many women are threatened by caste Hindu gangs before they can even approach a police station. We have only interviewed 115 affected women in a few villages; there are still many victims facing these kinds of atrocities all over Tamilnadu. All of these recorded incidents had occurred just in some villages under 6 panchayats. If we were to analyze violations all over Tamilnadu during the year 2008-2009, we estimate we could find over 50,000 violations. Among all 115 cases reported here, only in 1 case was an accused person punished. Still there are many cases which are under investigation, but it would be perhaps be overly optimistic to believe all of these cases will receive proper judgment. The National Crime Records Bureau released a report for 2007 stating that there are about 4,518 cases currently pending in court. Among these, only in 321 cases was judgment given. 1,157 sexual assault incidents occurred in India in 2004. In 2005, 1,172 incidents occurred. In 2006, 1,217 incidents occurred. In 2007, 1,349 incidents occurred. Madhya Pradesh ranks the highest in number of sexual assaults reported each year followed by, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Andhra Pradesh. These numbers apply only to incidents filed as FIR. There are still many such incidents for which we have not done any research. Not even 5% of atrocity cases are filed. It is distressing that among the few cases which are filed, roughly 95% of these cases are dismissed in court. Apart from sexual assault, dalit women are subjected to brutal attacks, torture and kidnapping. Yet they are not provided with proper justice. The fear of dalits is cites as a main reason for the lack of FIRs filed in sexual assault cases. But we cannot accept this as the sole reason. Other reasons for the lack of justice include the influence and economic leverage of caste Hindus in the justice system obstructing the few who overcome their fear to lodge complaints. When affected women file cases, they are subjected to various purposeful denials as well as threats, causing many to feel that they may be better off without pursuing legal action. Only our government can take responsibility to get rid of this problem. The basic reason for atrocities against dalit women is caste discrimination. It is dalit women who are subjected to brutal attacks, wherever violence occurs. We would like to express on behalf of civil society that the government must take severe action to reduce atrocities and violations against dalit women. Recommendations • The sections 3(1) (11), 3(1) (12) and 3(2)(5) of the SC/ST Act are considered as fundamental to the protection of dalit women victimized by atrocities. Government should make sure cases are appropriately filed under these sections. • Cases are most often filed only when the complaint is issued by an affected woman. The government should frame laws which require the district police departments to themselves file cases of sexual assault. • The Goondas Act should be filed against any person who intervenes or obstructs dalit women from taking legal action in sexual assault cases. • Dalit women who are victims of sexual assault should be provided with a compensation amount of Rs.5 lakhs. For other assaults, the compensation amount should be increased to Rs.2 lakhs. This provision should be included in SC/ST Act 1989 • A group should be formed consisting of human rights activists, media people, women activists, and lawyers. This group should monitor atrocities against dalit women at the district level. • A women police in the cadre of SP should be appointed as enquiry officers in district levels. This practice should be framed and implemented by our government. Special training should be given to police on how to collect proper evidence against those accused of sexual assault, as well as finding witnesses. Continuous training on social untouchablity and understanding human rights should be provided to police as well as to employees of government departments. • Government should issue an order to implement section 4 of SC/ST Act on any police who purposely deny complaints given by dalit women. • Government should frame a grievance committee at the Taluk level. This committee should include dalit women lawyers, social activists. This committee should receive complaints against higher officials who have not taken proper action in sexual assault cases. • The Adi-dravidar welfare department and local administration departments should frame a social and equal scheme. The highest reservations should be given to dalit women in the village employment scheme and leases given at village level. • The subjects on untouchability and women’s equality should be included in school curriculum. These subjects should be valued with great importance. (A.Kathir @ Vincentraj) Executive Director