Activist Ruth Manorama has sought creation of a separate category for Dalit women in official documents and in planning to provide the much needed extra attention to the group that remains at the bottom of the social structure. She has suggested compilation of segregated data on Dalit women in the census and progress-reports, and mandatory inclusion of reports on the status of SC women in the annual reports of both State and national-level commissions for Scheduled Castes and women.
Ms. Manorama, convener of National Federation of Dalit Women (NFDW) and recipient of Right to Livelihood Award, said basic human rights and opportunities are still denied to Dalit women in the country. She was speaking at the launch of training programme for Dalit women in capacity building and leadership in Jaipur. Ms. Manorama pointed that SC women continue to be at the receiving end of the most brutal and oppressive form of discrimination, exclusion and segregation.
The condition of Dalit women was worst in the States of Rajasthan, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh, she noted. In Rajasthan out of the 97 lakh Dalits, 46 lakhs are women. Against a national average of 39 per cent literacy the Dalit women literacy in the State stands at 32 per cent. Among Dalit men, the literacy is 62 per cent in Rajasthan.
Reiterating points in the charter of demands announced by NFDW at its recent national convention in Delhi , Ms. Manorama said Dalit women in India suffered from all gender, class and caste-based discrimination. She added that laws meant to protect SC women’s rights –Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 and Protection of Civil Rights Act 1995 – are yet to be implemented in true spirit of the legislations. She also stressed upon the need for evolving special protection mechanism for the SC women who have filed police complaints.
Pointing towards the immediate need for a land-reforms commission to look into the status of land allocated to the Scheduled Castes Ms. Manorama said, “Every Dalit family should be made the owners of five acres of cultivable land and ownership of the land should be in the name of women.” The Government should pursue all possible methods on this front including distribution of surplus land, revenue land and temple land and if need, it should purchase land for such distribution, she asserted.
Ms.Manorama said the heinous practice of manual scavenging continued in many parts of the country despite the 1993 Act, which prohibits manual scavenging and calls for alternative employment and construction of dry latrines. She also stressed upon the need for proper implementation of the newly introduced Self Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of manual Scavengers that targets 3.42 lakh of the total 7.73 lakh scavengers.