In India’s caste system, the Dalits are traditionally regarded as the lowest of the low. Seen as “unclean,” they are considered untouchable by the higher castes.
The country’s 2011 census, the latest available, states that just over 16 percent of India’s population are Dalits – making up roughly 200 million people. According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau, more than four Dalit women are raped every day in India. The NRCB’s 2014 statistics say crime against Dalits rose 19%. In many of the cases, these crimes are committed by upper caste perpetrators.
Last week, a young Dalit woman in the state of Haryana reported being gang raped by a group of men, including some of the same individuals accused of raping her three years ago. Police say those suspects were out on bail awaiting trial for the previous allegations. CNN went to a village close to where the alleged incident occurred and spoke to Dalit women and asked them what life was like for them.
“I wish I wasn’t born as a Dalit woman. We are the easiest targets for any sexual or physical abuse in our society.”
Rekha Devi, 33
“We are not allowed to enter the houses of upper caste people. We are untouchables. When they give us water to drink, they pour it on our palms to avoid any direct contact.”
Meera Devi, 26
“Upper caste men give us names which are both abusive and derogatory. I wish I could change this practice. We do not want to work under the upper caste people and compromise our dignity. But we are poor. What other options do we have?”
“Have you heard upper caste girls getting raped in our community? We are poor and powerless. That’s why upper caste men rape our girls. They can get away with anything because they have money and power.”
“Upper caste men make fun of us. They think our lives don’t matter because we are daughters of poor families. They always look at us with lustful eyes.”
“I am a TB (Tuberculosis) patient and because I am Dalit, the doctor will not even come close to me. But when an upper caste patient comes to the clinic, the doctor goes close to the patient and sees them properly without any hesitation.”
Khajani Devi, 60
“Our blood and body are the same, but it is the society that divides and discriminates us. Upper caste men do anything they want because they know we can’t fight back.”
Bimla Devi, 40
“We cannot send our daughters unaccompanied to the fields, to fetch water or even to school. Men from the upper caste stare at our daughters with lustful eyes.”