The Oppression Crime Triad: Caste, Patriarchy and Poverty

In the very core sense, the trends of oppression and delinquency have been aimed more towards the women; indeed, they have a certain pattern entrenched to them perceived by the social and political structure simultaneously. 

Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault and Death.

Women, in general, are a common target in the crime demography; especially in a country like India women are subjected to relatively more sexual crimes as compared to the other nation. An intrinsic pattern can be seen in these crimes, which is most often covered by the veil of ignorance in mainstream society. The fact that these crimes show a profound pattern between caste, poverty and patriarchy further reflecting the nature of crimes as a societal pattern of subjugation. Arguably, the worst sufferers in this oppression crime cycle are the triply oppressed. These are the women who are stigmatised by the comical state of poverty they live in, the caste hierarchy domination and the heavy old framework of patriarchy imposed upon them.

Article 15 of the constitution states about the right to equality, but this right to equality remains a myth when these oppressed women are systematically denied their basic right to justice, the basic right to a dignified life and the political trends focus upon the mobilization of these masses but after the elections, there’s no substantial upliftment and the promises fade away for 5 years. 

According to the 2016 National Crime Records Bureau data, the crimes committed against the members of the Scheduled Castes constitute the highest proportion against Dalit women. A huge chunk of all cases against Dalits includes assaults on SC women to outrage their modesty, rapes, attempts to commit rapes and insults to the modesty of SC women. The data also suggests that over four Dalit women are raped every day. The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, an NGO, revealed that more than 23% of Dalit women report being raped. In fact, many of them have reported multiple instances of rape.

Crime Statistics showing poor conviction rates for sexual offences. Image Credits: Times of India (NRCB)

As per a report by Swabhiman Society, an organisation led by Dalit women; and International Women’s Rights Organisation Equality, the sexual assault cases which occurred over the span of 12 years from 2009 – 2020, at least 80% of the sexual violence cases against Dalit women and girls were committed by men from dominant castes and only 10% of cases examined ended with the successful conviction of all those charged. Moreover, convictions were obtained against all accused persons involved in either rape or murder were committed against girls under the age of 6.

But why do these crimes happen? The simple logic behind these sexual crimes is very intermingled in its very sense. Firstly, the objectification of women as desirable lumps of flesh rather than human subjects leads to the trends of dehumanizing their very own identity. It further acts as a rampant psychological lubricant, dissolving one’s inhibitions and inflaming destructive thirsts. 

But now other questions arise, Why is the proportion of sexual crimes amongst the lower caste women is relatively high? This is because crimes like rape not just only enforce the patriarchal subordinate or misogyny but also, they enforce the power, control and domination patterns of the hierarchical caste order. In other words, the oppressed women are targeted because they not only lack the power and resources to seek justice but also because these crimes against Dalit women act as tools for the landowning dominant castes and the police to inflict political “lessons”; crush dissent and labour movements within Dalit communities.

In fact, men from dominant castes frequently use sexual violence as a weapon to reinforce caste and gender hierarchies. Rape is used as an implement for the political subjugation of Dalit Women, explicitly sexual violence against Dalit women is a systematic way of enforcing the status quo of these lower-ranks.

A typical Khap Panchayat, headed by the village upper caste men in the countryside scape of Haryana. Image Credits: Live-Mint

Community patterns and social pressures do play a major role in impeding these women in their virtuous access to the justice system. The extra-legal settlements or in other words the active role of Khap Panchayats interfere in the due process of justice system by using their economic, social and political power to threaten and bully the victim and her family into remaining silent. Also, the compromises are allegedly brought about by the subsequent filing of fictious spurious counter cases with the police, accompanied by the use of political mobilisation and economic retaliation.

Noting the disparity in amounts of compensation awarded under various state compensation schemes, the Supreme Court in the year 2018, ordered that all states should abide by the compensation scheme developed by the National Legal Services Authority, under which the minimum compensation payable should be Rs 4 lakh for rape victims and Rs 5 lakh for gang-rape victims. However, as per the report of the Swabhiman Society, compensation was received by the rape victims only in 38% of the cases in which a police complaint had been filed. Compensation was not received in 62% of the cases.

Effective victim and witness protection is another challenge to it further fuelled up by the lack of local policing authorities. This laxity leaves the rape survivors and their families vulnerable to coercion from the perpetrators and as a fallout, the survivors are pushed into changing their testimonies further refusing to cooperate with the judicial officers.

These trends point us to a certain direction that not only these women are denied the right to justice covertly or overtly due to the prevalent culture of impunity, particularly when the upper caste perpetrators are involved but also that the women are specifically targeted for rape in a continuous cyclic manner by the dominant caste men who can rely on such impunity trends. These impunity trends act as a barrier to the upliftment of these women and hold them down as shackles.

The education of the victim is interrupted, sometimes permanently. Families withdraw girls from the school in the aftermath of such cases fearing reprisals, which means their daughters are kept confined to the home. Thus, the tool of empowerment is again taken away from the women leading to further degradation and exploitation by the dominant trends.

Incidents like Hathras or Unnao are just the ones who got enough media attention, in the reality aspect these crimes happen on a daily basis, even if there are reported they go unnoticed and subsequently are crushed by the overriding patterns. Only a fraction of these cases makes it to the media and judicial mainstream.

Unnao Rape Survivor Accident: Women activists protest demanding a fast-track probe into the case (July 30, 2019). Image Credits: Outlook India

Though the legal framework does justice to a certain extent but in the absence of all collective responsibility towards these crimes; particularly the absence of an appropriate environmental support system, continues this chained cycle of crimes. In fact, we are equally responsible in making it an alien environment to the victim and guilt-free for the perpetrators by choosing to stay mute.

The main fact of cynicality on our part is that we hail incidents such as The Hyderabad Encounter, which points us to the fact that we seek temporary solutions rather than long term aids benefitting each victim, each impunity person. We avoid the long-term changes because we simply fear society, we fear challenging its set framework, we fear that what if everybody is equal situation. 

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Feature Image Credits: The Print

Nirmanyu Chouhan

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