A CULTURE OF

OPPRESSION:

THE HINDU CASTE

SYSTEM

When your oppression is determined before your birth, your vulnerability will always hold you captive. 

Imagine having no control over your place in society. Before you can even speak or think for yourself, the type of person you will marry, your future job, and your rights as a young girl are predetermined. This type of oppression is a direct result of the Hindu caste system. 

The caste system is a type of social hierarchy that assigns group identity and social class to individuals at birth. Because there is very little mobility, the system creates intense vulnerability to those disadvantaged by its structure. 

While discrimination based on the caste system is now illegal, it is still widely practiced. Below the formal structure of the caste system, you will find the Dalits, also known as the “untouchables.” The Dalits are considered beneath even the lowest caste members, and they have been unable to work in particular jobs or interact with other castes because of their status.

The appropriate term for the social groupings of the Hindu caste system is “Varna.” Each Varna has an associated occupation deemed most appropriate. The Brahmins – the top caste – are to be the priests and academic leaders, and the Kshatriyas are assigned as warriors and politicians. The Vaishyas are to be merchants and farmers, and the Shudras are the servants and unskilled laborers.

Below these four recognized castes, you can find the Dalits.

THE INTENSE DISCRIMINATION OF THE DALITS AFFECTS EVERY AREA OF THEIR LIVES, INCLUDING THE BASIC HUMAN NEED FOR CLEAN DRINKING WATER.

The beliefs embedded in the caste system are powerful — if a Dalit is seen touching public drinking water, the water is immediately considered contaminated. Facing much discrimination and ostracisim, many Dalits live with great levels of fear and uncertainty. 

The caste system has a tight grasp on social structure in India and Nepal. There is no fluidity or ability to move up from your assigned Varna. The system has been especially harsh on inter-caste marriages — if a Brahmin woman marries a Sudra man, her children would be born into the lowest caste. In this scenario, the blame is placed on the family for not adhering to the cultural norms, and deadly violence has even erupted in response to inter-caste marriages. 

It is clear to see how the caste system limits opportunities for specific groups and only perpetuates their vulnerability. Because of their history of experiencing discrimination and unequal treatment, the Dalits are significantly more likely to become victims of human trafficking. 

TO TRULY SEE THE INJUSTICE OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING COME TO AN END WE HAVE TO ADDRESS THE CULTURAL VULNERABILITIES THAT THE CASTE SYSTEM IMPOSES UPON THE PEOPLE OF NEPAL AND INDIA.

Free for Life International is passionate about community empowerment and works to see individuals striving for justice and freedom, despite an oppressive system. 

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