Sexual Violence against Dalit Women in India
: Navigating discourses of honour, shame and marriage

  • Sundeep Mangat

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis uses intersectionality, Dalit feminist theory and social constructionism inquiry to explore how Dalit women’s experiences are shaped by India’s sexual violence discourses in the context of their family and community and the state. The empirical research was undertaken through multiple qualitative methods to facilitate triangulation and examination via discourse analysis. All the participants were located in Delhi, India. The research began with participant observation and four focus groups (22 participants) that provided the researcher a ‘way in’ to various Dalit communities. Dalit women’s experiences of sexual violence were then elucidated through 28 qualitative interviews with Dalit women who had been raped by men. The project draws on Foucault’s notions of resistance, regulation, governmentality, and subjectivity, with the women’s narratives revealing the different ways in which Dalit victims of rape negotiated between ‘talk’ and ‘silence’ when describing their experiences of sexual violence. Their lived experiences of such violence suggest that their subjectivities were shaped by practices of regulation that were exercised through discourses of ‘protection’, ‘honour’ and ‘shame’. Examining how the participants spoke about the ‘self’ in the context of their experiences also reveals how those experiences were shaped by socio-political institutions. The participants discussed two main social institutions in relation to their rape: caste and marriage. Being Dalit made them more vulnerable to rape, and the consequence of rape jeopardised their future marriage potential. This thesis argues that Dalit women’s experiences of sexual violence transcend their ‘spoiled identities’ (as Dalit women), consequently experiencing further exclusion, humiliation and exploitation from their own families and communities. Consequently, Dalit women are extremely vulnerable to greater exploitation and regulation of their bodies.
    Date of Award24 May 2022
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Roehampton
    SupervisorProfessor Aisha K. Gill Ph.D. CBE (Director of Studies) & Amanda Holt (Co-Supervisor)


    • Sexual violence
    • India

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