Dalit women activists seek policy changes

Kathmandu, January 24:

At the time when the women’s movement and the Dalit movement have not addressed the issues of the Dalit women, the legal systems of the country must address the issues related with Dalit women who are impoverished, illiterate and largely discriminated against, speakers said at an interaction today.

The Dalit women activists said this at an interaction on exchanging sharing experiences between Dalit organisations on Dalit Women Movement in Nepal and India.

Dr Ruth Manorama, representative of National Federation of Dalit Women, India, said, “There are lots of commonalities in the issues of Dalits in Nepal and India, where the societies are both patriarchal and traditional. Despite the constitutional guarantee, Dalit women are not able to reap benefit from it.”

“There is the need for networking of the South Asian countries to build solidarity to address the issues of Dalit community in general and Dalit women in particular,” said Dr Manorama, adding: reservation rights given to scheduled castes in India in education, employment sectors have helped speed up the uplift process of Dalits. Jyoti Raj, director of Rural Education Development Society, Karnataka, said, “After visiting the Sarki and Damai community here, we recommend the government of Nepal to address the Dalit women’s issues through the ownership of land, address the issue of untouchability through legislation and highlight positive dynamic energy in the community who have been suppressed for more than three thousand years.”

Raj said: the ownership of land in the name of women will also address the gender issue. Citing the examples of Maharastra, Tamil Nadu, where Dalits’ access to land has brought change, she said, “Access to land in our context holds more than economic value, since the land has cultural connotation it supports the actual liberation.” Durga Sob, president of Feminist Dalit Organisation (FEDO), said an interaction between Dalit women activists from Nepal and India is organised to set up the network of South Asian Dalit Women.