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Dalit women in India

24 July 2002

Lakkineni Jaya, representative from a South Indian Dalit women’s organization, is in London to help raise international awareness about the situation of Dalit women in India. Dalits (India’s so-called ‘untouchables’) experience systematic caste discrimination – or discrimination based on descent. They are marginalized socially, economically and politically, and suffer violence and abuse. Many are condemned to a life of poverty. Lakkineni Jaya is in London prior to making a statement at the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Geneva, when discrimination based on descent will be addressed in detail by this UN body for the first time.

A recent study in which many women spoke to Jaya, demonstrates that Dalit women experience low levels of literacy, forced labour, landlessness and limited access to government development schemes. Girl-child labour and child marriage also persist. Women told Jaya how they are forced to keep their lunch boxes apart from those of non-Dalits at work, and they must eat separately. They spoke of ‘bowing with reverence’ when dominant castes appeared, and of the verbal abuse they regularly experience. One woman described how her six year old son was beaten by a member of a dominant caste who objected to the boy’s presence in his ‘locality’.

Notes for editors

  • Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is hosting Lakkineni Jaya’s visit to London from 29 July – 4 August. If you would like to interview her, or if you would like more information on caste discrimination, please contact the MRG Press Office on [email protected].
  • MRG works to secure the rights of minorities and indigenous peoples, and to promote cooperation between communities.