The issue of atrocities against Dalit women in Gujarat came to the fore at a programme organised for women belonging to the Valmiki community on Sunday,in Gandhinagar.
Around 200 women who attended the programme spoke on the issues of gender bias,domestic violence and sexual exploitation at work and sought protection from the government.
The programme was organised by the Kamdar Swasthya Seva Mandal (KSSM) and the participants had come from Mehsana,Kheda,
Kalol,Nadiad,Surat,Kheda and Gandhinagar.
Ramila,a resident of Ramol village near Nadiad,said,I remove carcasses from roads and forest areas. When we go to work,people use abusive language and order us to clean their places.
Likewise,women in Balasinor area of Kheda said they are not allowed to drink water unless they bring their own glasses.
A woman from Vadodara said,Once,when I had gone to sweep a street,a man called me inside saying he would like to give me some old saris. When I stepped in,he said he would wrap the sari around me,and then tried to pull my clothes off.
Sexual exploitation of Dalit women is very common,said the participants.
Another woman from Surat said once she was beaten up by shopkeepers as they were not happy with the way she swept the road.
Bina Jadhav,an NGO worker,said: Rural women need to be taught first to identify exploitation and then fight it back.
She said 464 rape cases and 736 molestation cases have been reported from 2006 to 2008. Jadhav also spoke on the issue of female foeticide and appealed to the participants to take a strong stand on sex determination tests.
H P Mishra from KSSM,said,Most women in Valmiki community are illiterate. They should stop tolerating violence and raise their voice against it. People take advantage of the situation as these women are from a backward community.
The representatives of NGO present at the meet said they will make a representation to the secretary of the Social Justice and Empowerment department of the state government on the issues.