Dalit Voices is a video series that seeks to keep the discussion of caste-based gender violence alive after the Hathras gang rape and murder of September 2020. We bring you Dalit womxn activists from India and around the world to talk about what is urgently required in the work towards ending caste atrocties in India.
EPISODE 1: In this episode, Thenmozhi Soundararajan, Dalit rights activist and Executive Director of Equality Labs talks about why India's caste culture is a culture of rape, what dominant caste people including womxn can and must do and how India should hold itself accountable before the International community.
EPISODE 2 : In Episode#2, Disha Wadekar, Advocate, Supreme Court, talks about how the Indian justice system serves as a tool to entrench the caste system and why it is still important to keep questioning the system. She talks about what immediate measures can be taken under the already existing Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act). Disha talks about the role she'd like civil society and feminists to play in the eradication of caste. [PS: Disha identifies herself as a Vimukta(de notified)-Adivasi-Bahujan woman.]
EPISODE 3: In Episode#3, Grace Banu, India’s first trans*engineer and Dalit activist talks about how dominant caste oppressors consider Dalit bodies untouchable but not when assaulting them sexually. She talks about how they treat land and womxn’s bodies in the same way. Grace puts emphasis on the fact that the onus of bringing change and anti-caste education lies with people who are Savarna or people with caste privilege.
EPISODE 4: In Episode #4, Savita Ali, Lawyer & Core Member of Dalit Womxn Fight explains why there's a problem with dominant caste feminist saying, "Rape is rape, whether the survivor is dominant caste or Dalit." She talks of witch-hunts in Bihar and the distressing challenges Dalit womxn survivors and their supporters face. Savita says it's very common for survivors, their families and supporters to be locked up while the perpetrators roam free.
EPISODE 5: In Episode #5, Christina Dhanaraj, Dalit Rights Activist and Smashboard advisor cautions against boxing and stereotyping Dalit womxn in victimhood, limiting the way they want to imagine themselves as independent, successful, and happy womxn. She talks about how the perception of Dalit womxn as individuals needs to change and calls for an alternative vision where Dalit womxn can thrive. Reminding us that the Hathras case is not an isolated incident, Christina points out that it's critical that people understand the magnitude of caste based sexual violence in India.
EPISODE 6: In Episode #6, Riya Singh, PhD Scholar (research expertise: Special Laws, Atrocity and Gender) and Core Member of Dalit Womxn Fight stresses the need for a government order to disband the caste panchayats which have defended and valourised the upper caste perpetrators in the Hathras rape case. She talks about how we should focus on convicting not just the perpetrators, but the District Magistrate for willful neglect of his duty. She also reminds us of the importance of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, and how it is crucial in preventing atrocities against Dalit groups. Riya says that a larger change in the mainstream discourse on reservation is crucial for creating conditions that prevent atrocities such as Hathras.
EPISODE 7: In Episode #7, writer Vijeta Kumar talks about how we have been overlooking rampant caste-based sexual violence that Dalit womxn have been documenting for more than 15 years. Citing the example of #MeToo, Vijeta reminds us that the domestic worker's union in Bangalore had been talking about sexual harassment several years before English-speaking feminists brought it to light. According to Vijeta, while it's a relief that caste-based sexual violence is finally being acknowledged more, it is also disappointing that it has taken so long.