India's caste system enables a social hierarchy that allows upper caste members to brutalise members of lower castes. A horrific part of this lived reality includes terrifying sexual violence against women.
In India, the caste system is enforced in multiple ways, including emotional, mental, physical, and sexual violence perpetrated by people in upper castes onto people from lower castes, like the Dalit community. This is enmeshed in all aspects of society to create systemic oppression for persons subjected to lower caste labels, including within the legal system. In fact, according to an article published in November 2020 on Reuters, “only 10% of 40 rape cases involving Dalit women and girls in Haryana state ended with the conviction of all those charged, and these involved murder or victims under the age of six.” Unsurprisingly, the road to justice includes even more obstacles, including further re-victimisation of women seeking justice by various misogynistic and patriarchal systems – such as religious circles, village councils, and the policing system.
Further to this, because Indian culture puts the onus of honour on women within its toxic patriarchal systems, in many of these cases victims are forced to marry their assailants to avoid bringing further shame to their families. In other cases, sensationalised headlines of lower caste women being subjected to horrific and fatal sexual assault, or murdered after being stalked and sexually assaulted to receive no justice are normalised. In this way, gender hierarchies and caste hierarchies are strictly enforced through a system that massively advantages people of upper castes, while people of lower castes and their families suffer immense sexual violence and further mistreatment at the hands of people who exploit under the guise of a repressive social order.