Today, India celebrates its 70th Republic Day. But has the Indian Republic served its Dalit women citizens well? By all development indices, Dalit women continue to have some of the least access to land, livelihood, education, healthcare or justice redressal.

Asha Kowtal, the General Secretary of All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch (AIDMAM) speaks about how the Indian government, right from independence, but even more so right now, has failed Dalit women.

In a post about the Interim Budget 2019, Asha Kowtal writes, “It is clearly visible that even if any programme is aimed at Dalit women, its approach and reach is unclear, simply because it is incorporated under initiatives meant for all Dalits or for all women. There exists a serious lack of understanding that women bearing the brunt of caste and patriarchy are a distinct category that requires specific structural interventions to set right the history of oppression that continues to push back any efforts to move ahead.”

It is time that our policies and activism foregrounded Dalit women’s concerns as a specific category, due to the intersectional nature of their oppressions. A UN report that revealed that Dalit women were dying 14.6 years earlier than upper caste women. The lack of developmental progress for Dalit women in indices such as access to health, education, land, policymaking and legal redressal is telling of the lack of attention given to them from a structural policy perspective.

All India Dalit Adhikar Manch (AIDMAM) is an organisation committed to ending caste apartheid and fights against the caste-based violence that Dalit women face. Their team of Dalit women human rights defenders, spread across seven states, help survivors of caste-based sexual violence receive justice. AIDMAM’s engagement is with law and governance and operates on the grassroots level, as well as working on leadership and capacity building for Dalit women at the national level.

Read our interview with the Anju Singh, the National Coordinator of AIDMAM here.

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