300 million

people in India belong to Scheduled Castes or Tribes, the lowest social strata in India

19%

rise in crimes against SCs/STs in India in 2014

40,000

crimes were reported against lower castes in India in 2016

DALIT WOMEN

In 2014, crimes against Scheduled Castes or ‘Dalits’ — the lowest hereditary Hindu social class in India — rose by 19% (NCRB 2015). Of crimes against Dalits, sexual assault and rape account for the top two crimes. Violence against Dalit women is borne from intersectional discrimination — in terms of gender, poverty and caste — and has become a social mechanism to maintain Dalit women’s subordination and reduce their capacity to participate in society or realise their rights. Sisters For Change considers it a form of ‘political’ violence against women.

 

The discrimination that helps perpetuate violence against Dalit women and impedes Dalit women’s constitutional rights to equality and access to justice is manifest in multiple state institutions. Ingrained caste and gender stereotyping in police officers is a significant barrier to reporting and investigating crime. In court, prosecutors and lawyers provide poor legal representation to Dalit women whom they consider part of a “branded community.” Judges fail to issue verdicts or impose punishments in Dalit cases that are required by law. The result is falling conviction rates for rape and abysmal conviction rates under the Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act (amended 2016). The Indian Supreme Court has itself criticised India’s criminal justice system for the fact that 90% of rape cases end in acquittal.

 

From 2016-2018 Sisters For Change worked across five States in India (Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra) and Delhi to legally empower Dalit women to challenge social and institutional discrimination and hold public authorities to account. We worked with multiple partners, including networks of activists and Human Rights Defenders working with the National Dalit Movement for Justice and the National Dalit Campaign for Human Rights, and independent Mahila Samakhya Federations with State-wide networks comprising tens of thousands of Dalit and Tribal women. Read more about our campaign here

40%

of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic women live in poverty

8 years

is the average length of domestic abuse for BME women in the UK

1 in 4

BME women in the UK have no recourse to public funds

BME Women

Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BME) women experience higher rates of domestic homicide, are three times more likely to commit suicide, are more likely to be living in a deprived area or in poverty, and have more experience of the State care system than any other women in the UK. Of BME women who experience violence, on average only 9% make an application for a non-molestation order despite 56% suffering from post-separation harassment, only 37% make a formal report to the police, and over 1 in 4 BME women have no recourse to public funds. The majority of BME victims of violence lack knowledge and information about the UK “mainstream” justice system and often refer instead (some out of choice, many under pressure) to Shari ‘a Councils that often discriminate against women. Even those who seek legal help experience huge difficulty accessing specialist legal advice given cuts to legal aid, ‘no recourse to public funds’ rules, and a lack of regional lawyers with understanding of BME women’s issues.

 

The way BME women experience violence and abuse — physical, sexual, psychological and emotional — is in many aspects different from other women. This is due to many factors: language, family structures, culture, racism and social isolation/exclusion, and, in some instances, insecure immigration status.  Each of these factors has a direct bearing on how women cope with abuse and the kind of support they seek — from a tendency to stay longer in abusive relationships to fear of racist backlash from the community if they do report; from apprehension in contacting local authorities to lack of confidence in knowing how to navigate the social care and criminal justice systems.

 

From 2015-2017, Sisters For Change worked in partnership with BME Violence Against Women Frontline service providers from five areas across England to analyse criminal justice and local authority responses to BME women victims of violence, distil best practice and assess whether the UK is meeting its equality and human rights obligations to victims. Since 2018, we have been working to build legal capacity and advocacy capability in frontline services in Manchester, Coventry and Rotherham. Read more about our campaign here

50%+

of the worlds LBT women are not protected from discrimination under labour laws

8 countries

in the world still permit the death penalty for same-sex intimacy

1 in 4

LBT women report being discriminated against at work

LBT Women

Lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LBT) women across the globe suffer discrimination, persecution, violence and violations of their human rights. LBT women face multiple forms of discrimination, which results in marginalisation and social exclusion based on their gender and sexual orientation, in addition to other grounds of discrimination such as ethnicity, religion, class and immigration status. Women who do not conform to patriarchal gender norms are often the target of sexual harassment and gender-based violence, such as the practice of ‘curative rape.’

 

There is still a long way to go for LBT women to live their lives free from discrimination and violence. The absence of legal redress mechanisms for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity exacerbates circumstances of violence or discrimination.

 

Sisters For Change is a founding member of The Equality & Justice Alliance, a consortium dedicated to advancing equality and promoting equal protection through the law for all Commonwealth citizens, regardless of gender, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. The Equality & Justice Alliance Initiative provides support to Commonwealth Governments seeking to reform laws that discriminate against women and girls, and LGBT people. Find out more about the EJA initiative here

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