The recent gruesome report of the beheading of a Dalit minor girl in Tamil Nadu for rejecting the advances of an upper caste male once again throws the issue of caste discrimination into sharp focus. Women from Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) are particularly vulnerable to discrimination and violence due to the intersection of caste and gender. Despite this, we note that crimes against SC and ST women are viewed as either caste based crimes or sex based crimes.
The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reports which publishes data on crimes in India, only publishes data on crimes against SCs and STs which we have analysed in our previous posts I, II and III, and does not publish disaggregated data on crimes against SC and ST women. However, based on the sex specific nature of certain offences recorded by the NCRB reports, we can estimate the extent of atrocities committed against SC and ST women. In this final post, we undertake a cross-state comparison of crimes against women in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, between 2014 and 2016.
The report on 20 Years of the Prevention of the Atrocities Act noted that the number of registered cases of rape against SC and ST women have outnumbered other offences such as murder, kidnapping, arson, robbery and dacoity. On undertaking a similar analysis between 2014 and 2016, we find that the same holds true and in fact, the instances of rape outnumbers even the cumulative of all these offences between (Table 1). Further, while there is no discernible trend with respect to the incidence of other offences, the number of reported instances of rape has steadily increased over the three years.
Dalit women identify their gender – caste – class status to be the primary reason for the high incidence of violence, that also manifest in other socio-economic forms such as refusing access to common resources like water, public spaces etc. The gender – caste – class bias is evident from the share of crimes against SC and ST women as a percentage of the total crimes against SCs and STs. To calculate the share of crimes against SC and ST women, we have considered rape, attempt to rape, insult to modesty, assault (total) and kidnapping and abduction of women to compel her for marriage.
In 2016, nearly 16% of the total atrocities against SCs constituted offences against SC women. This figure was double, almost 30%, with respect to ST women. Of the four Southern States, the proportion of crimes against SC (29.8%) and ST (60.9%) women in the overall crimes was highest in Kerala, against the national average of 15.9% and 41.7% respectively. The proportion of offences against ST women is half the total number of offences in Kerala which has consistently recorded extremely high incidence of crimes against ST women, in keeping with the overall large number of offences against STs.
Tamil Nadu has reported the lowest proportion of offences against SC and ST women, between 5-8% among the four States between 2014 and 2016. While Andhra Pradesh also reported similar numbers as Tamil Nadu in 2014 and 2015, the crimes against SC (19%) and ST (20.4%) women as a proportion of overall crimes spiked in 2016.
If we consider the registered cases of rape alone, out of a total of 36,657 registered offences of rape committed against women in 2016 and registered under the IPC, 2,536 registered cases of rape were committed against SC women (6.9%) and 972 registered cases of rape were committed against ST women (2.6%). Kerala has consistently recorded the highest number of registered cases of rape against ST women, clocking crime rates of 8.7, 9.7 and 9.7 in 2014, 2015 and 2016 respectively. Tamil Nadu, on the other hand, has recorded better figures, with a total of 319 registered cases of rape against women in 2016, of which 40 cases were offences of rape committed against SC women and 1 case of rape against an ST woman.
With regard to the responses of police and courts to offences against SC and ST women, unfortunately the data from 2014 to 2016 could not be compared as the NCRB has used a different methodology to calculate the total cases for investigation, total cases before courts and the pendency of cases. Further, the 2014 and 2015 reports do not provide State wise data on how the police and courts have addressed crimes against SC and ST women.