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Adivasi Women And Intersectionality

Author Quanisha Saboo, in the following article, delves into the idea of intersectionality affecting the position of Adivasi women, who are placed at the bottom of the social hierarchy, basing her arguments largely on the narrations of 'The Adivasi Will Not Dance.'

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To every human being, freedom and independence remain governing factors of their experiences and interaction with others and their own mental well-being. This freedom, independence and autonomy is severely lacking among Adivasi women, as they fall under the lower and thereby "powerless" strata of society. Women from Adivasi backgrounds, historically, have had to play a role different from that of Adivasi men. Understanding the difference in experiences of the two genders, the paramountcy of being able to factor in the adversities encountered by them increases. The book, ‘The Adivasi will not dance’ is a compilation of short stories by Souvendra Shekhar Hansda. It probes the stories of Adivasi people and caters to the reality of the condition of women in Adivasi groups. The author, in an interview with the Telegraph, stated that the stories were all drawn from real life. We shall thus be given a deeper insight into the lives of these while factoring in the grievances of Adivasi people as well as looking at their circumstances with a past-considered perspective.

The infringement of a positive open space is a product of the continuous barriers that lay as speed breakers in the life of women. These are not just problems with the general population, but with highly acclaimed people as well. There have been many cases where people in good governmental positions and men who encounter Adivasi women, take advantage of them. Adivasi women tend to be the ones that can easily be suppressed and left unheard. This is because many lack good education facilities, are paid low wages, have bad work conditions, and suffer malnutrition with unhygienic sanitation. Men that hold a lot of power and position or even can afford to act dominant without being caught, view Adivasi women as objects to seek pleasure from. Thus, men maltreat and misuse them without paying heed to the effect of their actions on someone's life.

The story of Talamai in ‘November is the month of migrations’ (The Adivasi will not dance 39) highlights the same as it depicts how women, in order to eat food and fulfil their basic needs had to get themselves raped by men. They had to sacrifice their comfort, dignity, and integrity for something as basic as food. Not just one but many such instances of exploitation of people of a tribe, especially women, are portrayed in this book by Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar. Basanti, an old widow, was identified as a 'dahni' (witch). It was believed that her arrival led to the death of someone in the village, regardless of whether the ones that died were old or had any physical ailment. Even some cultures of certain tribal groups do not provide women with the appropriate respect and position that they deserve in society. Women not only get devoid of mental but also emotional satisfaction and pleasure even within the social group that they belong to.

Adivasi women are prone to poverty due to the lack of educational and employment opportunities; Image Source: Source: PTI Photography:

Debasree De, (A History of Adivasi women in post-independence Eastern India 32, 33) mentions the relationship between women and the environment. Since tribal women workers act as food providers and sustain livelihood security, they tend to be closely connected. During the Chipko Movement, when people hugged trees to avert deforestation, most men were against the movement, as they wanted the development of roads to facilitate their travel into nearby cities and towns, even at the cost of deforestation. It was usually the men in the families who travelled to towns and cities; while women lead the movement as they acknowledged the value of forests in sustaining all forms of lives, including them. A few lines before the end, Shekhar laments over the conditions of Santhal girls and adolescents who are not making any progress at all. He calls a halt to all these terrible activities going on in Santhal people groups and outside Santhal people groups. Like in the previous stories, the Santhal ladies were additionally regarded as some gadgets of real delight and not as individuals. As a result of unemployment, neediness, hunger, and vagrancy, the Santhals are forced to turn to prostitution and human trafficking as a means of subsistence. These problems build up and escalate when it comes to talking about women, especially tribal. Along with these, tribal women are one of the major categories facing substantial disabilities in inheritance and the customs of tribal communities discriminate against women by providing them with limited customary land rights historically, which are also eroding (Bina Agrawal XV).

Historically, women have been impacted in a multitude of areas including occupation, objectification, ownership of property, food-related activities, accessibility to sanitary products, etc. Women are subjected to a lot of problems as well as brutalities that infringe on their freedom as well as affect their say in society. The social and political concerns pertaining to women aggravate the interplay of their direct dependence on the environment in the current modern world. As gender and various categories intersect; Adivasi women, turn out to be in miserable conditions because they end up having to face the shortcomings of all intersecting identities and variables. In the midst of the struggle of Adivasi women, who are trapped in intersectionality, the idea of freedom and home establishes its pertinence. Having gone through the historical context of Adivasi women as well as the context of real-life stories brings us to ponder upon how piling up of belonging to a lot of categories at lower levels of the various ladders, which exist in society leads to the aggravation of problems.


The Adivasi Will Not Dance: Stories, by Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar, Speaking Tiger, 2015. “Nirmala Putul.” The Johar Journal, Accessed 15 November 2022.

De, Debasree. A History of Adivasi Women in Post-Independence Eastern India: The Margins of the Marginals. SAGE Publications, 2018.

About the Author: Quanisha Saboo is an undergraduate student, at Ashoka University intending to major in psychology and minor in sociology. Her areas of interest include social issues, journalism, media studies, and social and organizational psychology.


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