Fellow: Panchshila Rajesh Kumbharkar
Grant Year: 2019
Location: Maharashtra, India
Organization: Swadhikar – National Dalit Movement for Justice
Project title: Promoting and Strengthening Dalit and Adivasi (Women and Men) Human Rights Defenders Towards Gender Justice and Equality in the State of Maharashtra
Project summary: Swadhikar – National Dalit Movement for Justice aims to improve the criminal justice system to effectively address human rights violations that are based on caste and gender. In India, when violence has its basis in caste and ethnic hatred, victims are protected under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act. Of the relevant 2,286 cases in the courts in 2015 and the 2,153 cases in 2016 in Maharashtra, 90% of the cases’ victims were Dalit, Adivasi, or religious minority women. Swadhikar – National Dalit Movement for Justice will build the advocacy capacity of 100 ‘human rights defenders’ among Dalit and Adivasi women and men, who will act as watch groups and legal defenders in the community to prevent, monitor, and defend against unjust violations. They will advocate with authorities at multiple levels (villages, block, district, and state), facilitate survivors’ access to legal aid, criminal, and financial justice, and intervene in cases of violence against Dalit women to help them with psychological, social, and legal support. These new Dalit-Adivasi Women and Men Defenders will work with public institutions (legal and human rights institutions) to create an effective criminal justice administration that operates with a gender justice and rights lens. Effective administration of criminal justice at the village, block, district, and state level will improve protection and justice for all Dalit and Adivasi women and girls in Maharashtra State.