In India and the Indian subcontinent (and also as in other countries in South Asia), people have been systematically discriminated against on the basis of their work and descent for centuries. Over 200 million people are Dalits, also known as untouchables or outcastes. Dalit women constitute 16.3% of the total Indian female population. The traditional taboos are the same for Dalit men and Dalit women. However, Dalit women have to deal with them more often. Dalit women are discriminated against not only by people of higher castes, but also within their own communities. They experience violence, discrimination, and social exclusion on a daily basis. Though economic growth in India has been strong over the past decade, the caste disparities are however increasing. As Dr B.R. Ambedkar has thought, the progress of a community is measured by the degree of progress which women have achieved. Dalit women face caste discrimination in addition to gender discrimination ingrained in our society. .
Scheduled Castes, once untouchables (even now the system prevails, revives), now popularly termed Dalits because of their general oppressed nature are in the lower rungs of the social ladder. The word 'Dalit' comes from the Sanskrit language, and means 'ground', 'suppressed', 'crushed', or 'broken to pieces'. Jyotirao Phule used the term for the first time in the nineteenth century, in the context of the oppression faced by the erstwhile 'untouchable' castes from the twice-born Hindus.2 Gandhi's coinage, the word Harijan, translated roughly as 'Children of God', is to identify the former Untouchables. Now Dalits object to this term. The term 'Scheduled caste' (SC) is the official term used in Indian government documents to identify former 'untouchables'. However, in 2008 the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, noticing that 'Dalit' was used interchangeably with the official term 'scheduled castes', called the term 'unconstitutional' and asked state governments to end its use.