Yesterday we noted that according to one survey, gender discrimination is prevalent in the British workforce. Today, we note an equally disturbing state of affairs in India – the continued existence of the caste system and its impact on employment. Caste and related discrimination is still practiced against 160 million Indians known as Dalits, especially Dalit women, who make up close to one-half of this group.
A 2007 Indian report states that: “The discrimination that Dalit women are subjected to is similar to racial discrimination, where the former is discriminated and treated as untouchable due to descent, for being born into a particular community, while the latter face discrimination due to colour. The caste system declares Dalit women as ‘impure’ and therefore untouchable and hence socially excluded. This is a complete negation and violation of women’s human rights. … Dalit women are thrice discriminated, treated as untouchables and as outcastes, due to their caste, face gender discrimination being women and finally economic impoverishment due to unequal wage disparity, with low or underpaid labour.”
The Hindustan Times has published a sad article by Pankaj Mullick on this caste discrimination, notes its existence not only in small villages, but also in cities, and states that “Atrocities against Dalit women include: Verbal abuse and sexual epithets, naked parading, pulling out of teeth, tongue and nails, and violence, including murder. Dalit women are also threatened by rape as part of collective violence by higher castes.”
Moreover, the caste system still resists change in the employment arena – an anthropologist claims that “In certain professions, especially academia and media, recruitment of lower-caste candidates is discouraged by the higher-ups. There is a fear of new opinions coming in conflict with existing thought. This resistance is also seen in art, cinema and the sciences — all influential professional spheres.”
The only positive news is that economics is forcing people of different castes to work together. As the above-quoted anthropologist joked, “Once there weren’t enough worldly goods to own and people thought more about life after death. Now, they think, ‘if I am without a good car or an AC, I am in hell’. The fear of hell within their lifetime is greater than the fear of hell after.”