CHALLENGES FOR WOMEN IN KASHMIR
By: SHAHZAD HUSSAIN
The word ‘Woman’ immediately connotes the meaning of love, sympathy, solidarity and integrity. Women exhibit themselves in different roles and, instead of social construction of gender roles, play important roles in any socio-political, socio-economic or socio-cultural movements across different counties and have also shouldered freedom struggles in many post-colonial states.
Every religion enjoins us to respect and honour women and provide equal rights to all and hence there should be no hierarchy on the bases of sex. It is actually the misunderstanding and misinterpretation of religious texts which leads many people to think of all the privileges for men only and radiate this wrong notion that women are subjects and subordinates.
While religion doesn’t really create any segregation on the basis of sex when it comes to rights or roles, patriarchy, however, is seems to be the root cause of all the problems that women have been facing since centuries. The male domination paved the way to dictate the terms for women deciding for them what to do and how to do. It confined the role of women to the boundaries of four walls of a house and thus deprived them of rights of education and a profession.
Kashmiri society, which is rapidly changing now, has also demarcated boundaries for women when it comes to education and tends to dictate terms for women on the basis of the old patriarchal thought process that still prevails in many cases. Presently if we see in kadhmir, the only professional role of women acknowledged by society is being in a teacher job, though we have women in other professions too but they are seen with some sort of invisible tag.
The birth of a girl child in our society is still a discomfort to many a learned couples and families. There is still a percentage of people who feel lower in esteem in bringing up a girl child and many cases of abortions and child feticide are a telling example of this tragic reality. In the L.D ( Lal Ded) hospital, the only maternity hospital in the valley, the abandoned female babies outnumber the abandoned male children way too ahead.
In wartime, women are particularly subject to rape and prostitution as such strategies are usually designed to continue occupation of a place and create a feeling of horror and terror among the natives. Rape is not just an accident of war, but often a systematic military strategy and it is estimated that 20,000 to 35,000 women were raped during the war between Bosnia and Herzegovina. In Bosnia, many historians and political theorists say that rape was part a policy of ethnic cleansing. The strategy included forced pregnancies to make Bosnia a Serbian state by impregnating Bosnian Muslium mothers. Such and many startling revelations can be found in the works of Jhon Baylis and other political commentators.
Since Kashmir has also been witnessing a conflict for decades now, there too have been instances of rape as a strategy not only to tarnish the chastity of innocent women but to make a power statement as well- Kunan Poshpora being one such example! Women are the worst victims in any conflict and Kashmir is certainly no exception in this case. Women here have gone through the toughest times and continue to live under the shadow of fear and there are thousands of half widows, old wailing parents waiting for their disappeared children and the victims of rape.
Apart from the impacts of conflict, women here also suffer domestic violence, denial of property rights etc and the Govt. has also failed to frame the policy through which old aged women are provided adequate funds, such that they are no longer dependent on others. Besides there are also issues of women labour exploitation which has gone totally unnoticed here.
The political scenario too indicates the status of women here as we don’t see much female political voices emerging here. It is only those women who are traditionally in the hierarchy of power that we see trying to assert their political space.
The author is pursuing masters in political science at Central University of Kashmir and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org