“ There is nothing new in world except the history you do not know.” – Harry Truman

Two reports on gender inequalities in Kashmir from two women writers, followed by disturbing statistics about rape crimes committed by local Kashmiris

(Ms. Zeenat Zeeshan Fazil, 28, was born in Srinagar, Kashmir. She did her schooling from King George (Mumbai) and later Cambridge (New Delhi), and received her Masters degree in English Literature from the University of Kashmir in 2008. Presently, she is also pursuing her second Masters degree in Mass Communications through the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). In 1998, she began her career as a freelance journalist with leading national newspapers and simultaneously joined ‘Fazil Kashmiri Publications’ as Editor and Publisher, and is also an editor of the ‘Focus’. Ms. Fazil has written a book on Mass Media and Linguistics (2006), and ‘Falcons of Paradise'(2009), a reference book contains 100 Eminent Personalities of J&K starting from 14th century till date. After working for ‘Daily Etaalat’- a Srinagar based Newspaper in 2007-2008; she joined ‘Daily Kashmir Images’ as a Senior Correspondent by the end of 2008. She is also currently associated with ‘Charkha’, a foundation that highlights the developmental concerns of marginalized section of Kashmiri society particularly in rural areas and to draw out perspectives on women through their writings. Ms. Fazil is also associated with ‘Interchurch Peace Council Netherlands’ which is intensely involved in several conflict areas such as in Kashmir. In 2009, she joined the South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA). She has received numerous awards for her meritorious contribution in the field of literature. Her interests are reading, writing, poetry, music, travel,and gender related topics.)

Amid Slogans of Female Empowerment, Kashmiri Women Suffer Silently

Srinagar: Notwithstanding the fact that women have borne the brunt of violence during the last two decades here, various studies have shown that uncaring authorities and societal norms have multiplied their woes, sometimes forcing them to commit suicide.

Renowned sociologist, Dr. Bashir Ahmed Dabla estimates that in the last more than two decades of conflict, 20,000 persons have committed suicide.

“My surveys have shown that number of women committing suicide is more than men. Throughout the world, suicide rates are higher among men and more intense in urban areas, but in the Valley the reverse is true”, he said.

“In the years of turmoil, Kashmiri women have suffered worst. They were dishonored – raped or molested – and in many cases, suffered at the hands of society too”, he said.

In many instances, police simply refused to entertain women’s complaints and register their cases.

Minister for Social Welfare, Sakina Itoo agrees that majority of cases of domestic violence; particularly in far-flung areas go unnoticed owing to the negligence of police in registering them.

“Hundreds of women have come to me and informed that police refuses to register complaints of domestic violence they are subjected to,” confesses Itoo, adding that the available statistics also provides evidence of the discrimination faced by women in J&K.

“If the available data is taken as a pointer, it goes without saying that women have suffered worst during past two decades,” Itoo told ‘Kashmir Images’.

Women constitute more than 60 percent of the patients visiting Kashmir’s lone mental health hospital in Srinagar for treatment, with most of them suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD).

Dr. Mushtaq Margoob, noted psychiatrist, believes hundreds of women do not turn up for medical help because of illiteracy and social taboos attached to the mental health hospitals. “They continue to suffer silently,” he told ‘Kashmir Images’.

“Social prejudices reinforce domestic violence against women. They are treated as their spouses’ property; husbands assume that this subordinate role gives them right to abuse their wives in order to keep them in their place. Against this background is the tradition of dowry, an expectation of gifts and cash from the bride’s family,” says Margoob.

“Women’s physical and mental health is often permanently damaged or impaired and in some cases violence can have fatal consequences as in the case of dowry deaths,” adds the psychiatrist.

Leading social activist and lawyer, Abdul Rashid Hanjoora says, “They (women) are often caught in a vicious circle of economic dependence, fear for their children’s lives as well as their own, ignorance about their rights, lack of confidence in themselves and social pressures.”

“These factors effectively force women to a life of recurrent mistreatment from which they often do not have the means to escape. The sanctity of privacy within the family also makes authorities reluctant to intervene, which often leads women to deny they are being abused”, Hanjoora adds.

“Each year a minimum of 100 cases of domestic violence are received by us while the majority of cases go unreported due to social stigma attached to it. Even the cases that are reported do not give complete picture of the crime scenario wherein women are the victims”, he said.

“We need to ponder as to how this form of degradation of women can be stopped. It needs support from all quarters – be it government, NGOs or women themselves”, believes Hanjoora.

Kashmiri Society Desensitized Towards Crime!

Sana Altaf (Rising Kashmir)

Srinagar: How serious is our society towards curbing crime against women can be gauged from the fact that not more than 15 people turned up to protest against the acid attack incident that took place in Srinagar few days back.

The protest, organized by the Human Rights Law Network at Press Colony here on Thursday didn’t saw the response as was conceptualized. The protest was held to demand justice for the acid attack victim and bring social awareness about the rising crime against women.

Though hundreds of netizens showed willingness to join the protest on social networking site Facebook, except for few girls and men, none was seen participating in the protest.
“It is very unfortunate that people who promised to attend the protest on Facebook didn’t turn up,” said advocate Syed Junaid Sadaat from Human Rights Law Network (HRLN).
However he was quick to add that since Kashmir is a conflict zone, many things stop people from joining protests. Sadaat said female folk should have come forward as the issue concerns them.

“I request every woman to come forward and stand for justice.”
Khair-un- Nisa, a social worker associated with HRLN said participation of lesser number of people in the protest depicts insensitivity of the society towards women issues.
“We cannot blame men for not participating when women don’t turn up. People here are cold towards grave violation of human rights,” Nisa said.
HRLW had created a page by the name of “Acid Attack” on Facebook.

Over 600 invitations were sent to people from different sections of society.
“Hundreds had confirmed that they will join us in protest but it was really sad to see the response,” Nisa said.
When 28-year-old woman was attacked with acid by stalker, condemnations poured from social workers, separatists and mainstream political parties. The issue was debated on social networking sites .However when it came to come to streets to protest, no one came forward, he said.

A 15-year-old boy Azhar who was part of the protest said incidents like acid attack and rape must end in Kashmir.
“I am here to stand for the rights of women. We want men and women treated equally,” said Azhar, adding though he had invited his friends to the protest, no one turned up.

Kalida, a school teacher said crime against women is a social issue and people particularly youth have to curb it. She regretted the feeble response of people in the protest.
Tanveer, from Muslim Khawateen Marqaz said the acid attack incident is an example of ethical breakdown of our society.
“We need to revive our social system. There have been incidents of rape in Kunanposhpora, Shopian and Sopore. We have to raise our voice,” she said adding justice should be granted in time to the acid attack victim.

2,360 Rape Cases Pending Trial in Various Courts

In Jammu and Kashmir, 2,360 rape cases are pending trial in various courts. The number of such cases is highest in Baramulla district, where 416 cases are pending before the courts.

To deal with a huge backlog of rape cases, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court has written to the state government for creation of eight new courts of the rank of District and Sessions Judge as fast-track courts in eight districts, where the pendency of rape cases is high.

“In Jammu and Kashmir, 2,360 rape cases are pending trial before courts in many districts,” a senior high court official said.

He said the highest number of rape cases was pending before the courts in Baramulla district.

Baramulla is followed by Kulgam district, where 250 rape cases are pending in the courts.

In Anantnag district in south Kashmir, 247 rape cases are before the courts.

In Kupwara district in north Kashmir, 196 rape cases are pending trial.

Pulwama district has 162 such cases.

In Srinagar, the number of pending rape cases is 157.

In Jammu province, Jammu district tops the list, where 147 rape cases are pending trial before the courts.

Rajouri district has 121 rape cases which are pending trial.

“These eight districts have the highest number of rape cases pending before the courts.

In other districts, the number of such cases is low,” the official said.

Asked what measures were being taken to deal with the pendency and expeditious trail of rape cases in the state, the Registrar General of the high court Suresh Kumar Sharma said the court had taken up the matter with the state government.

“The J-K High Court has sought the creation of eight courts of the rank of District and Sessions Judge as fast-track courts in the districts where there is a huge pendency of rape cases. The matter for creation of these courts has been taken up with the state government,” the Registrar General said.

Since it would take time for new fast-track courts to be “actually” created, Sharma said it was resolved to earmark five existing courts as fast track to exclusively try rape cases to provide succour to the victims. (Tribune News Service)