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India’s ‘untouchable’ women &discrimination

  • Category
  • Published
    6th Jan, 2023


Despite outlawing caste-based discrimination in 1950, Dalits still get discriminated against when applying for programs such as microloan schemes which are actually established to help them.


Challenges faced by Dalit Women:

  • Plethora of issues:Dalit women continue to suffer from a high degree of poverty, gender discrimination, caste discrimination, and socioeconomic deprivation.
  • Violence: Girls face violence at a younger age and at a higher rate than women of other castes.
  • Others
    • Exploitation by dominant castes
    • Lack of justice
    • Workplace violence

How caste plays its role in occupation?

  • Caste is essentially the stratification of peopleinto a rigid occupational hierarchy.
  • Dalits who are the last in the list, often called "untouchables" are excluded from all jobs except the worst paid and most degrading — on the pretext of maintaining the spiritual purity of those in higher castes.

 An attempt to help

  • In India, microloan programs have been embraced as a poverty-reduction policy.
  • Microloans are offered by for-profit, not-for-profit and government-owned banks.
    • The Reserve Bank of India regulates the sector and acts as a guarantor of microloans given by banks under national government-sponsored poverty alleviation schemes.
    • The Reserve Bank of India underwrites incentives including interest rates about half that offered to other women.

What are the problem with microloans?

  • Poor implementation of microfinance programs
  • lack of outcomes for Dalit women entrepreneurs in India
  • Discrimination at the branch level
  • Being humiliated when applying for a microloan — of help being refused when filling in a form, of being told not to sit on the same chairs as other bank customers, and of their application being rejected for no good reason.

How caste certificates ‘too’ creates hurdle?

  • To qualify for a program to assist Dalits, they had to prove they're a Dalit by supplying a government-issued caste certificate.
  • But this certificate then became the means for them be identified as Dalits and discriminated against.

Extra information

Unsung Dalit women heroes

  • Sabari from the Ramayana: example of acceptance, selflessness, and unconditional love
  • Sant Nirmala and Soyarabai: From Mahar caste, questioning Hindu orthodoxy.
  • Naegeli: Fought against the cruel “breast tax” system.
  • Kuyili: She commanded the army of Velu Nachiyar.
  • Queen of Sivaganga in Tamil Nadu: Dalit woman who fought against the British around 1780.
  • Jhalkaribai: Most trusted companion and advisor of Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi.
  • Uda Devil: formed a battalion consisting of Dalit women under the leadership of Begum Hazrat Mahal.
  • Savitribai Phule: A pioneer in education for Dalits
  • Moovalur Ramamirtham Ammaiyar fought against the exploitative Devadasi system.
  • Dakshayani Velayudhan: first and only Dalit woman to be elected to the constituent assembly in 1946.

Initiatives Taken to Promote Transformation

  • Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY)
  • Skills Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood (SANKALP) Scheme
  • Stand Up India Scheme
  • Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana

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