Daughters First

Reports of women abuse in the family set-up indicate a crisis that the Kashmir society may have to tackle up-front. It will start a reversal from the day when daughter and daughter-in-law do not see a shift in status and priority, writes Tasavur Mushtaq


On May 8, 2022, when the world was celebrating Mother’s Day, Warpora village in Kashmir witnessed the death of a mother of two little girls. The deceased did not die a natural death. She was pushed to death, brutally, allegedly by her in-laws, including her husband. The 28-year-old victim struggled to survive in the hospital for many days, however, she succumbed to savagery, eventually.

Many stories may surface detailing the sequence of events, but the fact remains that the violence against women seems unending. This is emerging as a vicious cycle, where momentous mourning is all that Kashmir society has responded with to this mounting crisis, collectively, as well as, individually.

Three Studies

In its latest and last report, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has said that Jammu and Kashmir saw a more than a 10 per cent increase in crimes against women during 2020. In many cases, as the report reveals, women have been mercilessly murdered by immediate family members. “There were 3,069 cases in 2019 and 3,414 (including nine in Ladakh) in 2020.”

Another report, the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) conducted by the Union Ministry of Health has some more worrisome details regarding domestic violence. The survey report, released in 2020, states that 9.6 per cent of women in the 18-49 age group experienced domestic violence in 2019-20. More than this, the report revealed that domestic abuse and sexual harassment are more widespread in rural areas of Jammu and Kashmir as compared to urban areas. The most common perpetrator is the husband.

Further, the IPC crime index has its own revelations. As per the report for the year 2019, it says cases of crime against women have been confirmed at 3082.  Besides, there is data available for 2016, 2018 and 2018 regarding the missing women and the tally for Jammu and Kashmir is 943, 1044 and 1335 respectively.

A Dichotomy

These reports and records give an idea, not an accurate picture of the crisis. Otherwise, a scary situation is surging. A social stratum is not a specification. It is breaking barriers. Seems happening everywhere.

The worst part of this disaster is the cases which go unnoticed and unspoken. There are multiple instances where a husband does not talk to his wife. She is being ill-treated by his family. But in front of relatives, friends and others, she is being treated well, only to keep that fake societal respect intact. Money is being minted from her savings and salary but never given the place she deserves. The wails and woes remain within the confines of four walls. Possibly, taken to the grave only.

The paradox of Kashmir’s home lies on a different pedestal. The families are doing everything to keep their married daughters happy and expect their in-laws to be compassionate are cruel to their own daughters-in-law. The yardsticks change from case to case, and so do the consequences. The fact is the same family has two yardsticks, one each for a daughter and a daughter-in-law.

Besides, physical and sexual abuse, there is a financial one.

A Test Case

Working at a good position, Mrs A is having a tough time. Barely a few months after her marriage in 2021, she was asked about salary by her father-in-law. Getting an idea of his intention, she started giving Rs 20,000 per month. But that was not enough, seemingly. She was asked to give the entire amount, only to ask for her basic minimum expenditures. The husband did not intervene. Resultantly, discord erupted.

Just a year after marriage, she was sent back along with the baby. Pertinently, the father-in-law is a retired principal, the mother-in-law works as a headmistress, and the husband is a middle rung officer in the government. The family’s monthly income is already three lakh rupees!

First Abuse

The position and places don’t matter. The rot lies deep in the societal setup. Even before the girl child is born, the vibes and voices around don’t want her to come. There is a subtle feeling that boys are born to lucky couples. So the first abuse starts from the womb itself and is being carried forward religiously.

In small childhood affairs, the son has a silent privilege, even if the daughter is being given everything. In the name of restraining, there is an unspoken decree that their dreams could be doomed anytime, for anybody. While growing, this sentiment of seclusion seeps into the psyche. Eventually, this paves the way to the imbalance in the entire familial and societal ecosystem.

Besides, facts and figures, it is malice multiplying. Preparing for a daughter’s marriage is a decadal process. Dreams are woven around her existence. With all difficulty, she is a send-off to start a new life. But to see her dead or in difficulty is not what daughters are married for. It is a perpetual pain for parents.

Mainly a societal issue, it needs concerted efforts and collective response at successive levels. The vows before the marriage should remain in vogue afterwards. Realization is required to understand things well.  No sky-scraping expectations, but the human heart is all that can change the situation. The role of the clergy does not end in solemnizing the marriage but starts from there. The essence should be elaborated, and the details are obvious. Pulpits should popularise the teachings. People should remain receptive.

The clergy must explain life to the people who follow them within and outside the mosques. There are a small fraction of couples that start having problems after marriage. This could be because of their own temperamental issues and there is the possibility of third parties poking their noses into their affairs.

The clergy must tell the people that if the couple has discomfort in their relationship and possibilities of reconciliation are difficult, there is a possibility of life beyond. They can and they must separate. Separation is a million times better alternative to violence in which one dies and the other goes to jail or both live a horrific life later.

At the same time, however, society must understand the value of remarriage. It is key to a better life reset by a situation. Individuals affording more than one wife are by and large a global phenomenon.

A group of men and women stage a protest in Srinagar against an acid attack on a 24-year-old girl in downtown Srinagar on February 1, 2022. KL Image by Bilal Bahadur

Legal Recourse

Taking legal recourse is important as well. But in Jammu and Kashmir, the option to appeal locally for the rights was snapped post-dissolution of various commissions, including the State Commission for Protection of Women and Child Rights (SCPWCR). Going to the National Women Commission for something happening in Kashmir is too difficult a task, which has not taken off since the down gradation of the erstwhile state.

The launch of family courts offered the jarring couple some way out for reconciliation but they reach the courts only after they have surpassed the tolerance and civil levels of dispute. That is why most of the cases that land in the courts end up in separation.

A symbolic step to celebrate a specific day does not define the status of women in any society. It is beyond the glamour and gaze. Public applause and appreciation does not augment in ensuring a safe, secure and stable home for the fairer gender. It could be ornamental but not operative. A sustained and reliable support system is required from the government, coupled by the efforts put in by society.

Finally, the change should commence from the confines of four walls and not from the conference rooms.

The point remains, that a father should sleep peacefully knowing his daughter is safe. Or the concern of having a girl child since her birth is being reaffirmed every day. Daughters deserve deference.

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