We believe that sexual violence is being used by those from dominant castes and positions as a weapon to assert power and reinforce existing caste hierarchies. Dalit women and girls are often subjected to more severe or aggravated forms of sexual violence, such as gang rapes or rape with murder, and there is commonly a collective nature to these crimes, with offenders from dominant castes acting in groups to commit offenses.
Survivors of sexual violence struggle to obtain justice within India’s legal system. And perpetrators of sexual violence and abuse know that they are less likely to face punishment if they commit a crime against members of the Dalit community because such attacks are rarely investigated or prosecuted. Police often refuse to register cases, coerce survivors into compromises, or declare cases false. For the small proportion of sexual violence crimes that India’s criminal court system does prosecute, the conviction rate in rape cases against Dalit women and girls is 32.2%, which is abysmally low. Survivors and their families who seek legal justice are often subjected to extreme pressure to stay silent, and cases that do result in conviction mostly involve the most egregious crimes, such as when the victim has been killed, or those which lead to a great deal of media publicity and action by Dalit women activists.
We believe that the Central Government and the State Governments must do more to fulfill their responsibility to protect Dalit women and girls from sexual violence. Together, we are putting forward the following recommendations.