Manual scavenging: The banality of an everyday crime

March 16, 2021

By Shiva Shankar and Kanthi Swaroop

Abstract. Manual scavenging is the practice of `manually cleaning, carrying, disposing of, or otherwise handling, human excreta in an insanitary latrine or in an open drain or pit’, and its existence is a crime of genocidal proportions. The vast majority of people forced into this degrading occupation are women from Dalit castes. The Government of India has outlawed the practice through two Acts of 1993 and 2013, yet it continues everywhere in the country. This essay argues that the persistence of this crime is a consequence of the criminal indifference of a casteist society, and that resistance to it has largely been the heroic effort of the victims alone.

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