A Culture of Oppression: The Hindu Caste System

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

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

Imagine having no control on where you are placed in society. Before you can even speak or think for yourself, determine what type of person you marry, or dream of your future job, your rights as a young girl are taken away. This oppression is a direct result of the Hindu Caste System. According to Manusmriti, the oldest text in Hinduism, “the caste system is a set of prescribed unequal laws for different castes based upon their status in society and it justifies the caste system as the basis of order and regularity of society.” To fully understand the intense vulnerability of these girls, you must first understand the structure behind this religious and cultural hierarchy.

While discrimination is illegal within the caste system it is still widely practiced. The bottom of the caste system is home to the Dalits, also known as untouchables. Individuals in this lowest caste cannot work in certain places or marry certain people due to the tyranny that has been imposed upon them. In order to understand this fully, we must understand the caste system itself and how it’s structured.


Above is a diagram explaining the caste system and its components. The appropriate term for these categories is Varna… each Varna has it’s own occupation. The Bhramins are priests/academics, The Kshatriyas are Warriors/Kings, the Vaishya are Merchants and Landowners, and the Sudras are Commoners, peasants, and servants. Those are the four Varna’s that are recognized as castes and even within each caste are thousands of sub castes. Then below the “lowest caste” (Sudras) live the untouchables.

The intense discrimination of the untouchables affects every area of their lives, including the basic human need of clean drinking water.

If a Dalit is seen touching public drinking water, that water is immediately considered contaminated. Being discriminated against as a Dalit is an everyday occurrence and these members are fearful for what may come next within their day-to-day lives.

This system holds a tight grasp, that offers no fluidity of change from your Varna. The caste system in marriage even deals with discrimination between genders. For example, If a Brahmin woman married a Sudra man her children would be in the lowest caste of the untouchables. Unfortunately the children have no say in their future and the blame is placed entirely on the woman although she has no control over her caste.

The strict hold the caste system has on the people limits their opportunities and perpetuates their vulnerabilities. This system is so embedded within the culture that unfortunately there is no upward mobility. Due to the discrimination and the unfair treatment of the Untouchables they are significantly more likely to be victims of sex 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 enable individuals to strive for justice for themselves despite the oppressive system.

Free for Life
Free for Life Team
Free for Life is fighting human trafficking around the world in the areas of prevention, intervention and restoration. Together with our partners, we are working every day for our vision statement: freedom for all. View more posts by Free for Life.