Dalit women are treated poorly regardless of the outlawed caste system.
Maya Devi, a 28-year-old Dalit (“Untouchable”) woman, writhed in labor pains outside the maternity wing of a medical college as her sister and neighbor looked on helplessly April 23. Seven hours after doctors denied her treatment at the hospital in Uttar Pradesh, India, she gave birth to a baby boy. The baby died minutes after being born due to a lack of medical help.
According to a report by the Press Trust of India, because of her caste, the hospital’s chief superintendent and other doctors refused to touch Devi or provide her with medical treatment while she was in labor.Because Devi was a Dalit, most of the hospital staff considered her unsuitable to receive medical treatment.
But Dr. Kiran Pandey, head of gynecology at the hospital, refused to let the social stigma of the caste system get in the way of caring for this “untouchable” mother.
Dr. Pandey was an hour away from the hospital when she found out about Devi’s situation. She rushed back as quickly as she could and brought the unconscious mother into the intensive care unit. But for all Dr. Pandey’s efforts, Devi died the following day after a series of heart attacks.
Because Devi was a Dalit, most of the hospital staff considered her unsuitable to receive medical treatment. Dalits belong to the lowest group on the caste social ladder and are seen as less than human in Indian society. Because of their position, people belonging to the upper castes fear making contact with them. Despite the fact that the caste system was outlawed more than 50 years ago, it continues to have a strong hold on much of Indian life. Throughout the country, Dalits are still systematically abused and work as virtual slaves. They are constantly told they have no value.
Very often, those who abuse the Dalits get away with their crimes. Fortunately in Devi’s case, nine doctors have been suspended for refusing to offer treatment in her time of need.
The state’s chief minister, Mayawati, expressed deep sorrow over the infant’s death by announcing financial assistance to Devi’s family, but no amount of money could ease the pain of Devi’s death.
Now, thanks to Gospel for Asia’s missionaries, Dalits are experiencing a sense of hope and a renewed awakening that they are worthy of love. They are amazed to find out from the missionaries that Jesus Christ loves them and died for them.
GFA missionaries in Uttar Pradesh ask for continued prayers for their work among the Dalit people and throughout India.