by Madhuri Xalco and Harpreet Kaur Azad
‘Status’ of tribal women, the non-tribal sisters argue is much better than her counterparts within the community. It is argued that a tribal woman occupies an important place in socio-economic life of her society. Likewise, they also draw attention to the ‘better’ socio-economic positioning of dalit women. Nevertheless, we as dalit and adivasi women wonder, is that really so? Then, why do we suffer so much on all fronts? Why are we as women paraded naked, raped, abused, paid lesser wage than other sisters’ everytime the caste issues are on forefront? Our circumstances, our positioning in the society is very different from other sisters’ in an abysmal sort of way. Be it at home, in school or colleges, or at workplace. We stress that for us gender and caste are not two separate facets but one. Most of the times we are not subjected to violent verbal and physical abuses alone either because of our lower caste background or because of being a member of the female gender. It is the intersectionality of these components and more which intensifies oppression against us. The Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention Of Atrocities) Act, 1989 is probably the only law in India that appreciates the gendered aspects of caste violence and makes room for prevention of it by specifically listing a few in the definition of ‘offences of atrocities’ as assaults or use of force to any woman belonging to a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe with intent to dishonour or outrage her modesty; or being in a position to dominate the will of such women and uses that position to exploit her sexually to which she would not have otherwise agreed.
Law is an instrument of social change. We are not talking of only laws that have been laid down. We are also talking of law as a ‘discursive struggle’ wherein we seek to displace the previously dominant understandings of our identities and roles in the society. Having said that, we the female lawyers and legal scholars of dalit and adivasi communities explore the possibilities of engaging with law. Often our women suffer tremendously on account of inadequate information on rights. In this legal column we therefore hope to bring you – legal and political issues concerning us; critical information on laws affecting our community; legal strategic moves to your struggles, our struggles; legal advice to your individual issues as a dalit/adivasi woman in the society concerning wrongs against self at home or in workplace, maintenance, property, services (skilled or unskilled), remunerations, and much more.
In this context we invite you dear readers to engage with us in this legal section by sending in your queries to: email@example.com, towards resolving the dilemmas that confront not just you alone but all of us at some point as dalit and adivasi women.
Let us strive towards making law as a tool that empowers the women of our communities.