Understanding Dalit Feminism

After reading Dr. Tamalapakula’s Understanding Dalit Feminism[1], it can be safely concluded that no straightjacked formula based on western feminism can be applied to India. When looking at Dalit women, it is important to be mindful of the intersectionality of caste, class, race and gender that exists leading to an incomparable discrimination for such Indian women. Primarily, they face a two-fold oppression, i.e., patriarchy and caste based patriarchy. Time and again, Dalit women are seen to be unworthy or incompetent of making vital decisions, even within feminist organisations, making them feel smaller and insignificant. Reservation for OBCs by the Mandal Commission was questioned by Upper-caste Hindu women as well. Therefore, Dalit Feminism as a movement needs to be separate from mainstream feminism in order to do justice to it.

In India, mainstream media plays a crucial role when highlighting significant day-to-day issues. Back in 1970s, a minor Dalit girl was raped by policemen on duty. This came to be known as the Mathura rape case[2]. Even after recovering ample evidence, the courts refused to believe the Dalit girl. The policemen were not convinced for their crime and rather questions were raised on the child’s character. It may seem like the situation has changed in the last few decades and we have progressed when it comes to making caste based discrimination however, the Hathras gang rape[3] case proves otherwise. Dalit women are seen to be “impure” and are therefore, subjected to sexual oppression. Whereas, a moral outrage is attached to the dignity of a Upper-caste Hindu women. It is unfair how the Nirbhaya rape case led to large scale protests and movements, it drew immense media attention and shook all of India. It wasn’t because it was the first or the most gruesome rape case that took place, it was simply because a girl from a privileged background was subjected to such brutality and her upper-caste status got the case to light.  The agents of the state, namely, the Judiciary as well as the police are conditioned into having a casteist view of society and justice.

 Dr. Tamalapakula contends that Dalit women face less patriarchal oppression in comparison to other women. However, I seem to believe otherwise. Cases of oppression against Dalit women either may not be lodged due to lack of resourcefulness or the casteist view of the system. Situation of lumpsum dowry may not arise however, the existence of the same proves the prevalence of patriarchy in the community. 

There barely exists any sensitivity towards the plight of the Dalits, being a Dalit women just worsens things. There grievances need representation in the society. A separate feminist organisation addressing and dealing with their issues is a necessity. Not just sexual, domestic oppression but the mental health abuse faced by them needs to be regarded. Their competence and significance would be acknowledged once their value is known and understood by the society at large. The intersectionality of discrimination needs to be kept in mind while changing the outlook of the current society. 


[1] Tamalapakula, S., 2021. Understanding Dalit Feminism. [online] Academia.edu. Available at: <https://www.academia.edu/10225419/Understanding_Dalit_Feminism&gt; [Accessed 18 January 2022].

[2] Tuka Ram And Anr vs. State of Maharashtra [1979] AIR 185 (Supreme Court of India).

[3] Pandey, G., 2021. Hathras rape case: Prisoners in their own home, lives on hold, a village divided. [online] BBC.com. Available at: <https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-58706861&gt; [Accessed 18 January 2022].

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

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