ISSN NO. 2581-9070 ONLINE



Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University

Table of contents:
1. Abstract
2. Conditions of Adivasi women
3. Role of Adivasi women in their economy
4. Education
5. Health
6. Witch hunting
7. Atrocities against Adivasi women
8. Laws and policies for the welfare of Adivasi women
9. Conclusion
10. References


            The world is becoming modern, developed and advanced in many fields. So is our country in this race. Today, we are in such an advanced stage that, 20 Satellites are been launched into space in a single mission. We’re proud to be a citizen of such a great country, but when you come to the other branch of the same plant, there are lot many problems yet to be solved.
What about the problems faced by women, especially Adivasi women in our nation? Adivasis are indigenous people and are believed to be the first inhabitants of India. Adivasis have distinct languages, religions, and forms of self-government, together with a deep bond to their land and respect for nature. There are five hundred different Adivasi groups in India. Also, 85 percent of Adivasis in our country are living in poverty. They receive little or none of the wealth extracted from their land.
Since the Adivasi girl is illiterate and helpless, she is treated like she isn’t of any importance in the society, she is not allowed to cross the boundary of her kitchen. No one is ready to listen to her needs and ideas. And the outcome is, she is not able to express herself to others.  These Adivasi women are being beaten, raped, stripped naked, paraded through their villages. Many Girl Child Protection Acts, Women Rights Organizations, NGO’s are struggling for the betterment of female citizens, especially Adivasis in our country. The emerging trend shows that there is an increase in the quantum of atrocities against Adivasis and Dalits even after the existence of these Acts.
Therefore, the author, in this paper will clearly describe all the problems faced by the women, and especially Adivasi women. The author will also describe their rights and the laws created for their welfare.


The world is becoming modern, developed and advanced in many fields. So is our country in this race. Today, we are in such an advanced stage that, 20 Satellites are been launched into space in a single mission. We’re proud to be a citizen of such a great country, but when you come to the other branch of the same plant, there are lot many problems yet to be solved.
What about the problems faced by women, especially Adivasi women in our nation? The problem of violence and atrocities against them is one of the main problems which cannot be ignored. These Adivasi women have been the victims of humiliation, torture, and exploitation for as long as we have written records of social organization and family life.
In spite of the legislative measures adopted in favor of Adivasi women in our society after independence, the spread of education and women’s gradual economic independence, countless women still continue to be victims of violence and extreme cruelty.


Adivasis are among the most deprived and oppressed sections of India. Gender bias and gender oppression have meant that Adivasi women are the worst affected. Adivasis constitute 8.4 crores of the population in India. India has the largest number of Adivasis (indigenous peoples) among the countries in the world, followed by Myanmar and Mexico. Yet, in many cases, the tribal population is decreasing, and some tribes are on the verge of extinction.
Although, the sex ratio of 972 amongst Scheduled Tribes (ST) in 1991 was much higher than that of the general population, which was 927, yet it started showing a declining trend. This adverse sex ratio and its decline from 982 in 1971 to 972 in 1991 could be attributed to higher mortality amongst females and their limited access to health services. This shows a decline in the status of Adivasi women and the need to pay much more attention to this issue.
Further, the incidence of poverty among Scheduled Tribes continues to be very high. Official statistics show 45.86 and 34.75 percent living below the poverty line in rural and urban areas respectively in 1999-2000. In comparison, the figures for the general population were 27.09 and 23.62 percent respectively. The per capita income of tribals continues to be one of the lowest in the country.


Adivasi women are central to the economy of their society. Poor Adivasi women commonly referred to as head loaders, walk miles through different conditions, collecting wood. Gathering fodder, picking leaves, brewing liquor and selling them, the typical items of work of Adivasi women are all characterized by monotony, hard physical labour, harassment, and exploitation. The activities they predominantly engage in are such as trade in ‘minor’ forest produce and manufacture and sale of products based on minor forest produce. These activities are typically low income, seasonal activities, and marginal to the economy.


In spite of the much publicized Sarva Shikshan Abhiyan, Ashram schools, mid-day meal schemes the number of Adivasi children going to school and finishing at least primary school is low. The number of Adivasi women going for higher education including professional courses is minuscule. All over India, there were one lakh 90 thousand Adivasi women who are graduates and above in 2001!
The attitude of the central and various state governments towards Adivasis can be seen from their unwillingness to start even primary education in the Adivasi languages while spending crores on Sanskrit. In spite of the population of the main Adivasi communities like Gonds, Santhals, Bhils, etc., running into lakhs up to today the state governments are not conducting teaching in the Adivasi languages forcing the already alienated people to study in the state’s official language.


Health is an important indicator of the well-being of any group. In Andhra Pradesh, for example, more than 50 percent of the tribal people do not have access to drinking water, 70 percent do not have power connections and more than 75 percent do not have access to roads. Although Rs.50 crores were allocated to private contractors for tribal education and health, thousands of tribal people were affected by malnutrition, hunger, and disease. In Orissa, Rs.680 crores allocated for tribal development had not been spent.
Poverty, deprivation and now the reduction of government expenditure on basic medical health facilities is reflected in the absolutely poor health condition of Adivasi women and children. Childbearing is in this 21st century still a risk to the life of the woman. Poverty stops them from visiting the doctor when they fall ill. The maternal mortality rate is nearly 25 percent and the infant mortality rate is around 165 for every 1,000, compared to 95 for every 1,000 at the State level. The under-five mortality rate is also very high, nearly 50 percent. Eighty percent of the children are anemic and 55 percent underweight. Almost all the tribal girls get married by the time they attain puberty and become mothers at a very young age.


Basically, witch hunting means searching out and harassment of a person with unpopular views. The real motivation for witch hunting is the desire to eliminate the woman and take away her land. Witch hunting reflects the immediate economic objective of taking away of widows rights to the land in favor of the husband’s male relatives.
The state and central governments have done next to nothing to curb this evil. Due to pressure from women and democratic organizations, “Prevention of Witch Practices Act 1999” had to be passed to outlaw the practice of witchcraft in Bihar. This itself indicates the proportions the problem had taken. In Jharkhand alone, around 200 women are killed every year. There are regular reports in A.P, Assam and other tribe dominated states.


  • For every 15 minutes, four Dalits and Adivasis are subjected to atrocities.
  • Every day three Dalit women are being raped, two Dalits are murdered and 11 Dalits are beaten up.
  • Every week thirteen Dalits are murdered, five Dalit’s houses are set on fire, six Dalits are kidnapped.
  • In the last 15 years, a total of 5,58,103 cases of atrocities were registered. Around 1.5 crores of Dalits and Adivasis have been affected.

Because of their poor economic conditions, usurpation of their land by outsider landlords, lack of employment opportunities, displacement, and poverty, many tribal girls have been sold to brothels in Delhi for sums varying between 8,000 to 20,000. The social repercussions are providing disastrous. Migrant tribal girls find it difficult to get married within tribal society, as people suspected she could be HIV positive euphemistically called “Delhi disease”. Even minor illnesses are feared to be this disease and the girl is socially boycotted and her family also faces social isolation. In some instances, the families of the tribal girl have refused to accept her as she had migrated without permission. Many kidnappings of tribal girls are also reported and the most likely place they were to end up at brothels of Delhi and Mumbai. Sundargarh district has become a wholesale market for bringing girls to send to the sex bars of urban centers.
Placement agencies have also come up. The girls lived in extremely deplorable conditions before employment. 15-20 girls were forced to stay in a small and dingy room in extremely unhygienic conditions. Exploitation continued even after employment as they were never paid the full salary and most often, half of their salary was taken by the placement agencies. These agencies are run by non-tribals and unregistered and resort o fraud and deceit often. Some tribal girls from Orissa have also been spotted working in massage parlors. Severe exploitation, sexual harassment, human degradation, trafficking, and poor health and disease are the cruel consequences of such migration.
A recent report says about two lakh Adivasi young women from Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal are presently working as house-maids in middle class houses! 61,000 in Delhi, 42,000 in Kolkata, 36,000 in Mumbai, 13,000 in Bangalore and 26,000 in Goa. Young Jharkhand men and women are lured by agents, taken out of Jharkhand like cattle to contractors and brick kiln owners. Many middle class and upper middle-class houses in Hyderabad have housemaids who are as young as 9 or 10 years old belonging to the Lambadi, Gond and other tribes from the neighboring Telangana districts. Away from homes and the love and care of the elders, they are losing their childhood in the innumerable household tasks. The newspapers time and again report incidents of cruelty (burning their bodies with hot irons, locking them up without food, beating them black and blue, etc.) by employers but these are falling on the deaf ears of the administration.


India attained independence in 1947. three years later it became a republic nation with the self-confidence of having a government of the people, for the people and by the people. But in reality a large section of its citizens the Dalits and Adivasis, having been neglected by successive governments and, therefore, were denied of the full enjoyment of all the rights of citizenship assured by the constitution. They still face subjugation, humiliation, and exclusion on a daily basis from India’s mainstream caste society.
While every Indian is equal before the law and is entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law, the reality for Dalit and Adivasi citizens who suffer atrocities is often that of the delayed justice. Hurdles exist at every stage of the process to attain justice including at the stage of registration of cases, investigation of cases, charge sheeting, and at the trial stages in the court of law. And also include the inadequate use of precautionary measures, inadequate protection, inadequate and irregular functioning of monitoring committees, inadequacy and delay in providing relief and rehabilitation, etc., many riots and struggles had taken place for attaining justice and to prevent atrocities against them even after the implementation of PCR Act 1955. It necessitated parliament, therefore, to enact, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes [prevention of atrocities] act, 1989 and The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes [prevention of atrocities] Rules, 1995.
The POA Act was meant not only to prevent but also to eliminate atrocities against Adivasis. But when we come to the question that whether the Act has lived out its promise or not, the numerical increase in atrocities has not stopped. Nor has the response from the different government agencies in the country been satisfactory. It is proposed therefore to establish a new and effective institution, that is, a National POA authority that would monitor and ensure proper and effective implementation of the act.


The appalling situation of the Adivasi women presented here points out the drastic changes that have to be made even if the least improvement in their conditions is to be achieved. They establish without a doubt that independence doesn’t mean anything if millions of Adivasis are suffering this fate in India. Though Adivasis especially women may be one of the most exploited and marginalized people in our country the situation of other poor, oppressed classes are not much different either. This shows that the exploitative, oppressive socio-economic order of the society itself has to be drastically changed if all of them have to be liberated. It has to be a joint struggle of all these classes and not separate struggles by each class or section as the root cause of their problems is the same.
It is only natural that Adivasis are at the forefront of struggles not only to fight injustices against them but also in the struggle to change society as a whole. The freedom loving, militant, sacrificing Adivasis are becoming a source of inspiration to all struggling people. On the other hand, the state is trying to repress them in the most vicious manner and Adivasi women are especially bearing the brunt. So we want to call attention to the need for all democratic forces to come out openly in support of their struggles and against the brutal state repression unleashed on them. We want to emphasize that emancipation of Adivasi women doesn’t just mean an end to patriarchal practices or prejudices in their society but also liberation from all problems faced by them. Both these struggles have to be waged jointly by men and women and women should play a leading role in both these struggles. The women’s movement in India should stand firmly with the struggling Adivasi women to the end in both these struggles because women’s liberation in India is pointless if millions of Adivasi and peasant women are not liberated.

1. http://www.bannedthought.net/India/PeoplesMarch/PM1999
2. Kalpana kannabiran, Ranbir Singh, challenging the rules of law: colonialism, criminology, and human rights sage publications India 2008
3. http://www.hrln.org/hrln/dalit-rights/the-initiative-/108-dalit-and-adivasi-rights-intiative.html
4. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/witch%20hunt
5. -/108-Dalit-and-Adivasi- http://www.hrln.org/hrln/dalit-rights/the-initiative rights-intiative.html