Frequently Asked Questions about Dalit Women in Nepal


Who are Dalits?

How are Dalits treated?

How are Dalit women treated?

What are current statistics for Nepali Dalits?

Who are Dalits?


  • Formerly called “Untouchables,” “Pariahs,” or Harijan (“Children of God”), Dalits are members of the lowest castes in traditional Hindu societies.


  • Dalits chose the term “Dalit” for themselves because it means “oppressed” in Hindi; historically the upper castes have oppressed and mistreated them.


  • Caste circumscribes one’s occupation and is handed down through generations. This means that Dalits have performed the least valued and most degrading occupational roles for thousands of years.


  • Dalits make up 20% of the population of Nepal.


How are Dalits treated?


  • Dalits suffer from caste discrimination and practices of untouchability. Historically they are deemed impure and lacking in humanity.


  • Forms of discrimination may include physical abuse, denied entry into Hindu temples, exclusion from upper-caste homes, lack of access to water, unfair hiring practices, prohibitions against inter-caste marriage, and forced labor.


  • Dalits encounter discrimination across all spheres of life, including social, cultural, political, economic, educational, health, and religious.


  • The human rights of Dalits are denied in terms of economic livelihood and educational opportunities as well as social and political empowerment.


How are Dalit women treated?


  • Dalit women must endure not only the above humiliations but also gender discrimination and traditional misogynistic practices.


  • Dalit women and girls are not only treated unfairly outside the home but endure discrimination inside the home as well.


  • Historically, Dalit women and girls have been denied access to economic opportunities, property ownership, and education.


What are current statistics for Nepali Dalits?


  • In a country where 4 out of 5 people live in rural areas, only 10% of Dalits own land compared to 76% of the general population.


  • The average Dalit earns 41% of the income of the average high-caste member.


  • Almost half of Dalits live below the poverty line.


  • The enrollment rate of Dalit children in primary school is only 20% (in sharp contrast to the national average of 94%).


  • Only 4% of Dalits pass the School Leaving Certificate (SLC) exam required to graduate high school (compared to 18% of students nationally).


  • The literacy rate for Dalits is 33% (exactly half the literacy rate for the general population of 66%).


  • In terms of higher education, only 0.4% of Dalits have a Bachelor’s degree or above (while 3% is the national average).