A report researched and authored by Dalit women activists and Dalit Women Human Rights Defenders using data from 13 Indian states was released at Nav Jyoti Niketan, Kurji More on Saturday, July 30, by Minister of SC/ST Welfare of Bihar, Shri Santosh Suman Manjhi. Manjula Pradeep, National Convenor of the National Council of Women Leaders (NCWL) and Adv. Savita Ali, Director of Bihar Legal Network, introduced the report and led the discussion on its findings.
“This is an important discussion because it is our social responsibility to understand this issue affecting Dalit women. We need to empower all communities to be able to come forward and report these cases. In spite of the meetings we have held and the compensations we have provided, we know that not all cases are coming forward. Building social awareness is critical; that the Constitution that Dr Ambedkar created promises everyone in the country equal rights, whether they are literate or not,” Minister of SC/ST Welfare of Bihar, Shri Santosh Suman Manjhi said at the event.
The report and the event highlighted that in spite of increased reporting of cases of sexual violence, justice is not achieved because of the complete impunity displayed by the state duty-holders, including the police and medical personnel. This not just affects the reported cases, but also the ones which remain unreported.
“It is important to understand the issue of sexual violence that affects Dalit women and girls, and how the law is failing them. This is connected to their dignity. There are very few studies looking into the violence that Dalit, Adivasi, and Muslim women in India face. We need to understand POCSO cases as well to see if our children are safe,” Manjula Pradeep of the National Council of Women Leaders (NCWL) said.
In Bihar, there was a 10.4% rise in incidents of rape and 87% rise in cases of assault on women with an intent to outrage their modesty in 2020. In this period, 628 rape cases were registered in the state under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
“Expressing the deep pain of Dalit women who have faced sexual violence is difficult. We have tried to present their stories in this report very sensitively,” Adv. Savita Ali, Director of Bihar Legal Network, said.
The event was also attended by Ex-Member of NCSC, Yogendra Paswan; Additional Adv. Gen., Patna HC, Adv. Khurshid Alam; Patna University Professor, Hulesh Manjhi; Ex-Chairperson of Mahila Ayog Bihar, Anjum Ara; Ex-Minister of Govt. of Bihar, Suresh Paswan; and Adv. Sanju Singh.
Lawyers, Dalit Human Rights Defenders (DHRDs), women’s organizations, and students from Patna, Gaya, Aurangabad, Sitamarhi, Darbhanga, and Vaishali were present at the event and presented their own experiences and suggestions on how schemes and policies related to caste-based sexual violence can be implemented better.