Women in Conflict….

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By: Mir Abass

Throughout history, women have often been targeted in wartime with violence, especially sexual violence that is usually used as a war tool in most of the conflicts around the world.  They have also been excluded from conflict prevention and resolution efforts and despite increased awareness and mobilization at the local and international levels, women in conflict continue to face multiple challenges.

Lack of high-level leadership committed to integrating women’s rights, including in Security Council negotiations and in peace talks, ensures that women are often left out and the grassroots organizations working on women’s local-level peace building and service provision struggle to get adequate and consistent funding.

Militarism everywhere is out of control, cutting a violent swath of pandemic proportions across our planet. Women and children account for almost 80% of the casualties of conflict and war as well as 80% of the 40 million people in world who are now refugees from their homes. It is one of the unspoken facts of militarism that women often become the spoils of war, their deaths are considered collateral damage and their bodies are frequently used as battlegrounds and as commodities that can be traded.

Women are not just killed, they are raped, sexually attacked, mutilated and humiliated. Custom, culture and religions have built an image of women as bearing the ‘honour’ of their communities. Disparaging a woman’s sexuality and destroying her physical integrity have become a means by which two conflicting parties to a war or a conflict tend to terrorize, demean and ‘defeat’ entire communities, as well as to punish, intimidate and humiliate women.

Sexual violence, as a tool of war, has left hundreds of thousands of women raped, brutalized, impregnated and infected with HIV/AIDS besides the tremendous psychological traumas that they suffer over their lifetimes. And hundreds of thousands of women are trafficked annually for forced labor and sexual slavery. The perpetrators of these assaults have rarely been prosecuted or punished.

In Kashmir, like in any other part of the world where conflict and war situation unfolds, women have been subjected to great sufferings since a separatist uprising broke out the region in 1989. Many of them have been widowed, displaced, tortured, raped, and jailed. These women have suffered the worst atrocities and are silent victims of this ongoing conflict.

India claims Kashmir to be an integral part, but Pakistan also lays claim over the territory and the two neighbours have already fought two wars over the territory. Because of the continuing turmoil, women in Kashmir are forced to undergo immense hardships. It is no easy life and women have braved the challenges stoically.

The two nuclear armed nations- India and Pakistan- will have to come to terms with each other and initiate a process of dialogue to resolve the issue of Kashmir not just for the people of the valley but for the safety and prosperity of entire region. Women can live a life of dignity and honour only when the conflict is over.

The writer is Assistant Professor, Department of English, Degree College Handwara and can be emailed at [email protected]

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