Churches challenged to commit to uphold Gender Rights of Dalit Women

The churches and its institutions should work towards ensuring the dignity and safety of Dalit women working in healthcare and care-giving sectors. There is also a need to open other available professions and ventures in order to encourage Dalit women their participation and representation. Ms. Hannah Dhanaraj, a dalit feminist professional, one of the panelists spoke thus in the webinar conducted by the NCCI Dalit and Tribal/ Adivasi Concerns and the NCCI Women’s concerns program clusters to commemorate the International Human Rights day on Thursday the 10th December 2020. She also said that the church should be aware that the Dalit women are made to work only on certain sectors of labor as in life-sustaining work and as caregivers. She also said that strategically the choice for dalit women professionals is limited and also are underpaid.

On the same note Ms. Deepthi Sukumar co-convener of the Safai Karmachari Andolan mentioned that a major effort is required to address the safety and protection to women working as sanitation and health care workers. She also mentioned that Churches should take note and involve in rebuilding, restarting and reworking strategies on eradicating and challenging caste atrocities and forcing dalit women and men to dangerous works such as manual scavenging. She also said that churches can involve in advocacy, lobbying, researching new forms of untouchability practices that have emerged during the pandemic and post-pandemic situations.

Speaking from the Human rights angle Ms. Cynthia Stephen, social activist and human rights defender spoke of the need to devote resources to uplift the dalit women in order to make them economically and socially empowered. She said that the task of the church is to bring out special provisions in the way of giving leadership to the women priests and clergy. She also said that the challenge is for the churches, its institutions and clergy particularly male clergy is to distribute and encourage the sharing of resources to the Dalit women. She also mentioned that there is a desperate need to become a part of the system that upholds the rights and dignity of Dalit women.

It is to be noted that caste system is the most heinous social structure world has ever seen. Caste-based discrimination involves massive violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Dalit women are one of the largest socially segregated groups in our country. The dominant caste groups (oppressors) use sexual abuse and other forms of violence and humiliation against Dalit women as tools to inflict “lessons” and crush dissent of labor and other movements within Dalit communities. Hathras case is one of the recent examples of such violence.

Although both Dalit men and women suffer under the same traditional taboos, Dalit women are confronted with these more often and are frequent victims of sexual abuse. They are discriminated not only by people of dominant castes, but also within their own communities, where men are dominant. In such perilous times the significance of Human Rights in the context of Caste based Gender violence constraining to the women in the margin becomes a dire need of the hour. Human Rights is the fundamental right of every human being to live, sustain and thrive on earth and betrayal of a person’s human right is a serious attempt to shatter the person’s dignity and right to life.

The theme for the international Human Rights Day 2020 suggested by the United Nations say “Recover Better – Stand Up for Human Rights.”  The theme speaks volumes towards a praxis-oriented step to rebuild, rethink, restructure and rework from the past to form a brand new present which sojourns by taking everyone together without any form of discrimination or differentiation.

The National Council of Churches in India – Dalit and Tribal/Adivasi Concerns and Women’s Concerns organized the webinar to mark the Human Rights Day and also conclude the 16 days of global activism against gender based violence. The webinar was yet another opportunity to reflect and emphasize effective and praxis-oriented activism. The Churches in the membership of the NCCI must stand with the Dalit women who are fighting for rights, fighting for justice, and together push for eradicating caste and caste based gender discrimination.


Pradip Bansrior
Executive Secretary
Dalit and Tribal/ Adivasi Concerns
National Council of Churches in India

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