By Gracy Singh
Feminist theories, in an all-embracing way, talk about equality of the sexes in all spheres; they accord importance to ‘difference’ as it is the different experiences of women with respect to the systematic domination faced by them in the patriarchal society that adds up to the feminist body of thought.
There are various streams in feminism: Black feminism, Liberal, Marxist, Post-structuralist etc.
Similarly, Dalit feminism is a stream of feminism that came into light with the rise of the Third World feminist struggles. Dalit feminists argue that women, and in particular Dalit women, are the worst sufferers of the structural domination of men over women, they are dual victims to both patriarchy and the evil of caste. Dalit feminism largely captures the individual experiences of marginalized women within the larger social structures.
The movement of Dalit feminism can be traced back to Jyotiba Phule’s writings on how the Brahmanical patriarchy oppressed women. However, it was only in the 1990s when Dalit women advocated that their concerns and ideologies were different from that of the ‘upper caste women’. All women face the brunt of the patriarchal society but the very nature of this structural violence is more extreme with respect to women belonging to the lower castes, they are oppressed not only by the men in their own caste but also by the men who belong to the ‘upper caste’.
This point is validated by the very nature of sexual violence that Dalit women are subjected to wherein most of these cases the perpetrators belong to the upper caste. In contemporary times, the infamous Hathras case reflects how even those who are responsible for the maintenance of law and order turn a blind eye towards the concerns of a woman belonging to the lower caste.