A life in fear

Silent suffering: women in the Valley.  

Every evening, Saima (name changed) of Pulwama district forces her nine-year-old son and five-year-old daughter to sleep early. Then she shuts all the doors and windows and braces herself for her husband's return. As he beats her up yet again, Saima tries in vain to suffocate her voice behind the walls. And still her greatest fear, she says between sobs, is, “he threatens to leave me.”

Saima's tears, unfortunately, are a repetition of countless women in Kashmir who have been subjected to domestic violence and, worse, have accepted it as their fate. Over the years, despite having a strong backing of law against discriminatory practices, violence against women has not only continued but has steadily increased — by a whopping 22.1 per cent in 2011 as compared to 2010.

Data compiled by the Jammu & Kashmir Police Crime Branch reveals that in the past two years, it has registered 4,066 cases of crimes against women. This includes 1,797 cases of molestation, 187 rape cases, 1 gang rape, 1,279 cases of kidnapping and abduction, 426 eve-teasing cases, one case of dowry death, 177 cases of cruelty at the hands of husbands, 195 suicide cases, 4 cases under the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, and two cases of immoral trafficking. In comparison, only 1,832 such incidents were recorded in the women police station.

As the number of silent sufferers goes up, it becomes increasingly difficult to track the problem. “We come to know of cases of domestic violence through surveys. This is because women are reluctant to lodge complaints owing to the social stigma attached to it,” says Gulshan Akhtar, Station House Officer (SHO), Women Police Station, Rambagh, Srinagar, who also feels that a sizeable chunk of these women do not want to register complaints to avoid legal hassles and other cumbersome procedures.

Talking to women who face cruelty at the hands of their lawfully-wedded husbands is almost like waking them up from a nightmare, forcing them to recall it and then leaving them to live that nightmare again, every day. Statements like “My husband asks me to bring dowry” and “Yesterday my husband slapped me for not bringing dowry...I cannot hear properly as my ear drum has been damaged” come from women who, despite the torture, have survived.

Yet many are either killed or forced to commit suicide for similar reasons.

But cases are not just cases; they are a blot on a State already bathed in a history of violence and conflict. Abdul Rashid Hanjura, social activist and lawyer says, “Human rights violations in Kashmir are in flagrant violation of the principles of international human rights and humanitarian law and no attention has been paid to women who have been victims of such crimes.”

During the past two decades, Kashmir has witnessed unprecedented crimes against women which many attribute to the ongoing political turmoil.

Of the few steps taken by the J&K government to curb crime against women, the most important is setting up of women police stations. Three (Srinagar, Jammu, and Udhampur) have been set up, with the intention of having more of them in the districts. This, according to officials, would provide greater ease to women to register grievances. Officials also hint at amendments in certain laws that could be in the offing.

Today, women in Kashmir constitute 55 per cent of the patients visiting the State's lone mental health hospital in Srinagar, with most suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD). “And this is just the tip of the iceberg,” says psychiatrist Dr. Mushtaq Margoob. (Charkha Features)

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Printable version | Jun 15, 2021 12:20:35 AM |

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