A new report documents the situation of Pakistan’s Dalit women; one of the most socially excluded and impoverished sections of the population. The shadow report for a UN CEDAW review of Pakistan in February calls on the Government to focus on education, access to basic services, and laws and special programmes to protect the rights of Dalit women.
For the first time, a report to a UN treaty body committee specifically addresses the situation of Dalit women in Pakistan. The report finds that these women are triple victims of discrimination – due to caste, gender and religion.
The report ‘SCHEDULED CASTE WOMEN IN PAKISTAN – Denied a life in dignity and respect’ has been prepared by the Pakistan Dalit Solidarity Network in association with IDSN for the examination of Pakistan by the UN Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The review is scheduled to take place in Geneva on 12 February 2013.
In Pakistan, Dalits (officially known as ‘scheduled castes’) experience multiple forms of discrimination among the country’s 180 million people. Already considered a religious minority in an Islamic society, Dalit Hindus and Christians are further victimized as ‘untouchable’ by the rest of the society and their own communities.
The situation of Dalit women is even worse due to the discrimination they face on the basis of caste and gender. They are extremely vulnerable to social exclusion, and are often subject to severe discrimination and physical assaults.
Dalit women are marginalised due to their weak socio-economic status, low education levels, and their location in harsh conditions of work – such as bonded labour, cotton picking and working in brick kilns. In the rural provinces of Pakistan, the majority of bonded labourers come from a scheduled caste background. Rape of female bonded labourers is widespread, and there is little legal recourse to address the problem.
Sexual abuse and kidnappings are some of the worst problems for Dalit women and girls in Pakistan. Ms. Radha Bhil, a Dalit woman working as a social mobilizer, says: “Women and girls from the lower caste or religious minority are easy targets for harassment, because the majority knows that they are weak and cannot take any action.”
Continue reading Dalit women in Pakistan – denied a life in dignity and respect