Dalit issues

Dalit women on an average die 14.6 years younger than women from higher castes, says UN report

A woman’s caste ‘can increase her exposure to mortality as a result of factors such as poor sanitation and inadequate water supply and health care’.

Dalit women in India on an average died 14.6 years younger than those from higher castes, a United Nations Women report released on Wednesday has said. The report is titled ‘Turning promises into action: gender equality in the 2030 Agenda’.

Perceived or inherent identities of individuals and groups can make them more vulnerable to risks of discrimination, and in India a woman’s caste “can increase her exposure to mortality as a result of factors such as poor sanitation and inadequate water supply and health care”, the authors of the report noted.

Women and girls who experience multiple forms of disadvantage because of their gender and other inequalities are those who are often left furthest behind, the report stated. This is likely to result in “clustered deprivations”, according to the authors, cutting off women’s access to education, healthcare and well-being.

“In India, for example, a young woman aged 20 to 24 from a poor, rural household is 5.1 times as likely as one from a rich urban household to marry before the age of 18, 21.8 times as likely to have never attended school,” the report said. They are also more prone to becoming adolescent mothers, and have no say in how her money is spent.

“The likelihood of being poor is greater if she is landless and from a scheduled caste,” the report stated. “Her low level of education and status in the social hierarchy will almost guarantee that if she works for pay, it will be under exploitative working conditions.”

The 2030 Agenda, which was adopted in September 2015, has a commitment to “leave no one behind” and stresses on the need to address the requirements of the most disadvantaged people. The report, its authors said, emphasises the need for a multi-pronged approach to the challenges on hand, and that progress for women has to be ensured for overall development.

“Progress on some fronts may be undermined by regression or stagnation on others; potential synergies may be lost without integrated, multisectoral strategies,” it states. “This is why women’s rights advocates fought hard to achieve both a standalone goal on gender equality as well as integrating it across other goals and targets, drawing attention to the gender dimensions of poverty, hunger, health, education, water and sanitation, employment, climate change, environmental degradation, urbanisation, conflict and peace, and financing for development.”

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