New York Times, June 4, 2014 - Amana Fontanella-Khan
'India's Feudal Rapists'
"...For much of India's history, the lower castes, especially the Dalits (once known as
untouchables), have been routinely raped by the landowning upper castes. Better
legal protections, urbanization and social mobility have helped reduce caste-based discrimination, but not enough. Dalit women are still the most likely to be victims of gang rapes. An analysis of Uttar Pradesh's crime statistics for 2007 by the People's Union
for Civil Liberties showed that 90 percent of rape victims in 2007 were Dalit women.
Since December 2012, when a 23 year old woman from the Kurma caste, another low caste, died after being gang-raped and attacked with an iron rod by five men in a mo-
ving bus, India has been undergoing a process of soul-searching. Yet the caste system
has not been mentioned enough in the debate...
It is no surprise that the caste system, and the unequal society it produces, leads to
moral blind spots that hide rape from public view. Caste has historically determined where you lived, what you did, whom you married, even what you ate. In many vil-
lages, those rules are still in place, decades after caste discrimination was banned.
Much of the caste-based sexual violence emerges out of a feudal sense of entitlement among some upper-caste men. "You have not really experienced the land until you have
experienced the Dalit women" is a popular saying among the landowning Jats, a politic-
ally powerful group that, despite being relatively low caste themselves, are above the
Though upper-caste men are rarely imprisoned for raping Dalits, they have a widely
accepted defense at their disposal, should they ever need one: They would never touch
a lower-caste woman for fear of being "polluted." In one famous 1995 case, a Dalit woman's allegations of gang rape were dismissed by a judge who claimed that " an
upper-caste man could not have defiled himself by raping a lower-caste voman."..."