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Round Table Conference on Domestic Violence Against Dalit Women

Round Table Conference (RTC) on Domestic Violence Against Dalit Women was conducted on 10 November 2017 at Madina Education Society, Nampally, Hyderabad.

Violence against women and girls continues to be epidemic that kills, tortures and maims physically, psychologically, sexually and economically.It is one of the pervasive of human rights violations denying women and girls equality, security, dignity and self-worth and their right to enjoy fundamental freedoms. In India large number of women are murdered by their husband and in-laws on suspicion of infidelity or getting rid of her so that the male can marry again for more dowry.In India, it is a common feature that most of the abused women don't report the violence and try to give the impression as if everything is fine with her husband.This is done for the sake of family honour/reputation.Domestic Violence is more prevalent among Dalit Women which has been unaddressed and no one dares to speak against it. Moreover,

, the available redressal avenues are not accessible to them. The special Act on domestic violence is not useful for the dalit women thus making their lives more vulnerable. There is lot of silence and impunity surrounding domestic violence. DSS felt that there is a need for vital interventions to change this attitude and sensitize women to challenge the inequities and social norms that perpetuate abuse. Raising awareness of the problem among the general public is also critical. DSS earnestly feels that silence on domestic violence should end and it be discussed so as to tackle its root causes. Sending an abuser to jail sends a powerful message that domestic violence is a criminal act. This RTC was organized as a step in that direction.

Eminent persons from all walks of life attended the Round Table Conference as Jury members. Prominent among those that attended were: Justice Chandra Kumar, Retd. Judge of High Court; Sri Chellappa, IAS, Chairperson, Tribal Commission, Govt of Telangana; Sri J Parimala, IPS, SP – Women Protection Cell, CID; Sri Ram Narasimha Reddy, Addl. Superintendent of Police; Sri Dileep Reddy, Editor, Sakshi; Sri Ranjitha, Associate Editor, Indian Express; Dr. Siddoji Rao, Director, SC, ST IAS/IPS Officers Forum; Dr. Sudha Rani, Professor, Ambedkar Open University; Prof. K Y Ratnam from Hyderabad Central University; Dr A Subrahmanyam, Retd Dean of Law, Acharya Nagarjuna University, Dr. Suhasini, Retd. Professor; Sri Sudha Goparaju, Social Activist; Sri Abhirami, National Coordinator, NDMJ; Sri Vimala Morthala, Advocate& Writer, Sri Shyamala, Member CWC, T Aruna, Senior Journalist,Dr Yadaiah. The Conference was presided over by Jhansi Geddam.

The cultural team presented powerful songs on violence against women and motivated the audience. Later Ambedkar photo was garlanded by Sri Dilip Reddy from Sakshi and Savitribai Phule’s photo was garlanded by Sri Chellappa IAS.

Sri Daniel Vijay Prakash, Program Manager welcomed the gathering and briefed about the program and said that the concerned officials, subject experts will be hearing the agony of the victims and the exchange of views will be done across the table. Explaining about the Domestic Violence Act he said that it is of no use to the dalit women, any Act is reviewed after a decade and it is pitiable that no one has reviewed the implementation of Domestic Violence Act. Dalit organizations have reviewed the implementation of SC, ST PoA Act and have succeeded in bringing necessary amendments. In similar fashion DV Act also needs many amendments keeping in view the dalit Adivasi women and also bring in a provision for compensation to ensure necessary support to the victims.

The session commenced with the introduction of the objectives of the RTC by the National Convener of Dalit Sthree Sakthi, Ms. Jhansi Geddam. She outlined the objectives as follows:

• To provide forum for the victims of domestic violence to ventilate their grievances and

seek help from the concerned authorities.

• To support, encourage the fight of the dalit women against domestic violence.

• To sensitize the public and concerned authorities concerning the large scale and brutal

domestic violence prevalent among the dalit communities.

• To mobilize public opinion against domestic violence and to punish those indulging in

domestic violence.

• To invite analytical views from everyone to find out the root causes of domestic

violence and to motivate all concerned to give suitable suggestions to end domestic


• To mobilize opinions for review of the implementation and usefulness of 'Protection of

Women from Domestic Violence Act' and suggest for amendments of the Act.

The selected victims of domestic violence who have been struggling for justice attended the RTC with courage and determination. After the introduction, one after the other, the victims of domestic violence recited their ordeals in facing the violence and further in their unending fight for justice. Everyone in the RTC were moved not only by the agony the victims are facing but also by their determination and courage to see that the culprit partner be punished. Their long, arduous and untiring efforts at getting justice exposed the lopsided functioning of the police, justice and other departments and also the gaps in the special Act. The real-life narrations of these women were revealing and educative to all that assembled at the RTC. Their chronicles of vicious cycle of violence in the families exposed the explosive situation of the society and was eye-opening to all concerned. In about 5 instances of domestic violence, the perpetrators were from the police department. There was caste based violence also in cases of inter-caste marriages, where the women were dalit and the husband was from a non-dalit caste, thereby exposing the deep-rooted caste prejudices, even after marriage.

Responses from the Jury:

Sri J Parimala, IPS, SP – Women Protection Cell, CID, keenly heard each of the case presentation and intervened by giving suggestions, collecting missing details and noting

down the case position. She assured then and there that she would pursue the matter from her department. She appreciated DSS for organizing the event and inspired the victims to continue their legal fight with determination and assured her support. She enthused the victims to stand up and never to compromise the case or withdraw the case. She highlighted the importance of spreading awareness on the Domestic Violence Act by campaigning in the villages. She insisted that women should be motivated to break the silence and speak up and cited her experience where women slowly took the initiative to give complaints after they were educated.

She stressed the importance of sensitizing the dalit communities about the criminality of domestic violence and felt that the women get routinely cheated with an unrealistic hope that the husband will change, which never happens. At times he may pretend and assure that he will change, but the core of male authority in him never goes. Hence the women should be strong and never live in false hopes.

Sri Jhansi, pointed out the unfair and discriminatory perceptions of the community in fervently reacting against the violence if it is by the dominant castes while closing their eyes if it is violence by the husband. The existing DV Act is more suited for families with properties and houses but not for dalit families. There is no provision for rehabilitation and compensation for dalit women who are tortured and abandoned by their husbands. She bemoaned at the dalit male attitude in perceiving the struggle against domestic violence.

Sri Sudha Rani, appreciated DSS for organizing this RTC which is a way forward towards realizing the equality of dalit women in the family.She stressed the need for family support

and advised the young women to be careful in assessing a person. She emphasized the need for proper child rearing and socialisation in an atmosphere of treating girl and boy equally. She pointed the need for rehabilitation centres for victims of domestic violence akin to the domestic violence centres in Europe, where the women could be protected, counselled and capacitated for leading an independent life.

Sri Justice Chandra Kumar, Retired High Court justice, appreciated DSS for organizing RTC.He told that everything changes over a time and that change is the law of life.He advised women to try to be liberated economically, mentally and physically.Capacitation of women to lead

independent life is important. He felt that women should be daring in affirming their rights without being hindered by the thought of family reputation or hang-ups. He called upon the women not to be worried about what others would think of her if she complains. He recommended that F.I.R. should never be changed and counselled the women never to make any false implications. He emphasized the need for sensitization of the society and media on the subject of domestic violence. He felt that money value is ruling the relations and it should be changed.

Sri Ranjitha, Editor, Indian Express:She expressed anguish at the distressing stories of the

of domestic violence and appreciated their courage in standing up for their rights. She condemned the attitude of taking domestic violence lightly and called upon the police and State to seriously tackle the issue by understanding the case and incorporating relevant legal provisions. She advocated that media should track all cases of domestic violence and report with right perspectives and exhorted the women to stand up for justice and equality.

Sri. Dilip Reddy, Executive Editor, Sakshi:He stated that in the ultimate analysis, it is domestic violence that lies at the root of all violence in the society.He felt that the violence in varied

forms and the cases presented only are tip of the iceberg. According to him, two aspects encourage a male to indulge in domestic violence. They are: Firstly, that it is common and acceptable to hit, blow or torture one's own wife. Secondly, the guarantee that nothing will happen if he indulges in domestic violence. It is necessary to erase these two aspects for a domestic violence free society. He appreciated the courage of the victims and recommended that all the 25 cases be studied and analysed deeply and assured of the media support and felt that it is their responsibility.

Sri. Chellappa: He cited the recent self-immolation of a poor family who were victims of money

lenders and pointed out the insensitiveness of the police in not registering the cases of the poor and exploited. He felt that the dalit men need gender sensitization and ensure that they give equal space to the dalit Adivasi women as desired by Dr B R Ambedkar. Similarly,media also should be sensitized to cover domestic violence cases.

Sri Suhasini, appreciated DSS for arranging face to face with the victims, so that the reality of domestic violence is objectively exposed.She said that it is the perspective of viewing woman as a thing and a feeling of ownership of her body is the reason that leads to domestic

violence. She analysed that by keeping quiet on domestic violence in the name of family honour, women are actually getting steeped into the normative order of patriarchy as propounded in Manu Dharma Sastra and Hindutva.She criticized the dalit males who internalized the Manu ideology and practicing cruelty towards women. She advised that the upbringing and socialization of children should be equal without gender inequalities and gender stereo types.

Sri Abhirami, thanked DSS for inviting her to such a well-organized RTC on domestic violence.She urged to break silence on domestic violence among dalit community.She felt that the proper legal provision for domestic violence should be Attempt to murder (307) and not 498, as the real nature of the violence is kill her.She felt that constant counselling is needed.It is necessary for the women to come out of the legacy that she should behave like a good wife, thereby surrendering to and internalizing the norms of Manu dharma.Women

should first purge the Manu dharma from their heads. Women should not think that she was born to serve the man and bear male children for him, so that he attains heaven. Women should shed the idea that it is shameful to live as a single woman in the name of honour/reputation. She should look for future and struggle for rights and equality. She said that in many incidents there was no change in the men and the women have been suffering continuously. Narrating about the neem tree she said we may water it with milk or the water from Ganga, the bitterness remains same. Similarly, however the situation maybe we can’t expect the change in men.

Sri. Siddoji:He lamented that the society looks down the victims while accepting the exploiter

due to his power, money and authority. He condemned the hypocrisy of men in treating his wife in one way and his sister in another way. He felt that domestic violence has become a way of life and many dalit men are torturing their wives on the suspicion of infidelity.

Prof. Ratnam, appreciated DSS for organizing RTC for the victims of domestic violence and felt

that it is like the RTC of 1930s in which Dr.B.R. Ambedkar participated to ventilate the grievances of the depressed castes and fought for their rights. He said in inter-caste marriages, dalit women are facing all types of violence like, economic, mental, physical, sexual in addition to caste humiliation and discrimination. In the mainstream politics dalit men are questioning the caste domination, while the dalit women are questioning the dalit men for their equality. Only when the dalit women are freed from oppression and domestic violence, they can participate and play their role in the economic development of the nation. He appreciated that DSS efforts in organizing this RTC pay way for the participation of dalit women in the national economic development.

Sri Sudha Goparaju:She felt that it is erroneous to believe that brother/father look upon their sister/daughter with affection and equality.They may not themselves beat or torture their sister/daughter, but they recognize the right of her husband to beat her.Usually they don't condemn or oppose the domestic violence on their daughter/sister and counsel and prod her to behave and adjust.Patriarchy has many facets and forms and it should be deeply studied and analyse for launching appropriate struggles.She opined that globalization didn't bring any liberation for women as believed by many.