While Kashmiris claim moral high grounds over other cultures, the cases of violence against women folk have gone up considerably. Saima Bhat looks at some of the social evils that have shocked society, but not shaken it.
Violence against women in Kashmir is on the rise. As per the recent figures released in the state legislative assembly and council, it was observed that nearly 9634 cases of rape, kidnapping and molestation were registered in 2010, 2011 and 2012. The state legislature passed a law in 2011 to curb this menace but the rules to make it applicable are yet to be framed after almost two years.
Shaheena, 38, a single mother of three is lucky to be alive. Despite repeated attempts by her in-laws and husband to burn her alive, she survived. She now lives with her parents in a small two-room single storey house in Habba Kadal, Srinagar. “My husband used to beat me ruthlessly. He and his family even tried to burn me alive a number of times but I somehow survived,” she says.
Shaheena was working with the state police when she married a jobless person. After marriage, out of love and in order to spare more time for her family, she got her husband adjusted on her job. “It was the biggest mistake of my life,” says Shaheena.
After getting her job, Shaheena’s husband started roaming around with other girls. “One day my husband came home with a lady and threw me out of the house along with our daughters. Our youngest daughter was just a few months old then.”
Shaheena later came to know from her neighbours that the lady was her husband’s second wife. After failed attempts from neighbours and local elders, Shaheena resigned to her fate and went to live with her parent’s in Srinagar.
Shaheena’s husband has filed a divorce deed in court but she doesn’t want to sign the papers. “I want to make him suffer for ruining my life.”
Shaheena manages to run her family by spinning the wheel. Her brothers also help her financially sometimes. “I don’t want to be a burden on my parents or brothers. They all have their own families to look after,” says Shaheena.
But Shaheena’s case is not an isolated one. Such cases of domestic violence against women are on the rise lately in Kashmir. As per records available at Kashmir’s lone women police station located at Rambagh, on average around 50 such cases are registered yearly. This excludes those cases which are settled out of the purview of the law.
Tasleema Akhtar, 28, a resident of Yechgam village in district Budgam was burnt by her husband Ghulam Mohiuddin Rather, a mason by profession on January 27 this year. But she was not lucky enough to survive. After battling for her life for 8 days, she ultimately died.
Family members of Tasleema, blames her sister-in-law, mother-in-law and her husband for the heinous crime. They informed that Tasleema was never happy during her eight years of marriage. Yet on the pretext of her financial conditions, she preferred to stay at her in-laws’ house.
Hafeeza Muzaffar, ex-member secretary, State Commission for Women (SCW) believes domestic violence always existed in Kashmir; the only difference is that now it is documented. She says she has seen violence in every sector of society against women who work, and those who are homemakers as well.
Waheeda Akhtar of Kanigund Budgam was beaten and attacked with a sharp-edged weapon by her husband. Waheed received 250 stitches all over her body. Her husband claimed that his new bride was helping her own family with his money.
There are many murder cases like that of Ruksana Bano, murdered by her police officer husband from Batamaloo; Sameera Jan from Kralpora, Chadoora who was married to her cousin, who then killed her; Shazia who was found dead at her home in Bag-e-Mehtab and many others are still waiting for justice.
Interestingly, there are no women-specific laws in Jammu and Kashmir. As per RPC, if a woman dies an unnatural death within 7 years of her marriage, it is assumed that she has been killed by her husband or her in-laws unless and until they prove they are innocent.
“As Kashmir has no women-specific laws there are almost negligible number of cases where culprits have been convicted,” informs Faisal Qadri, a lawyer who works with the Human Rights Law Network.
Presently such cases of domestic violence are filed under RPC and Section 488 in CRPC which is for maintenance.
The Jammu and Kashmir legislature adopted, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act in April 2010, which was enacted by the Indian Parliament in 2005. But so far it has not been implemented as the rules have not been framed yet.
As per Bashir Ahmad Dabla, HOD Social Works at the University of Kashmir, this violence against women is not only of inter-sex nature but of intra-sex too. It means that violence was committed against women not only by men but by women too.
It is not only domestic violence, molestation or suicides that are on a rise among women in Kashmir, instances of rapes, illegal abortion, eve-teasing and child abandonment have also become common lately.
Due to the lack of a proper survey, there are no clear stats about the cases of illegal abortions. Gynaecologists’ say only 4 to 5 per cent of such cases reach them. Others are managed in medical shops and private clinics. Besides, some sub-district hospitals also allegedly help women to abort their babies.
It took a local court about a decade to solve one such case. In February 2003 police recovered an unclaimed body of a young woman from SMHS. Investigations revealed that she had died in a private nursing home during the induced abortion. Five persons accused in the case were finally arrested for murder and conspiracy and the case was charge-sheeted in 2013.
The trial concluded in February 2013 when Principal Sessions Judge, Srinagar Mohammad Shafi Khan passed an order sending the doctor – who carried out the procedure, and deceased lady’ boyfriend, who was financing the exercise, to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment. But various such cases are never leaked.
According to a senior doctor who talked to Kashmir Life on condition of anonymity, some senior surgeons also carry out illegal abortions in their clinics, even under candlelight.
And most of them are unmarried pregnant girls who opt for risky abortions once all other medication and techniques of abortion fail. Recently, a gynaecologist, Dr Shan-e-Alam, from the sub-district hospital, Kupwara, was arrested along with his associates for killing a newborn baby. Dr Alam was earlier running a clinic in Shraya, Tangamarg where he allegedly conducted abortions on unmarried girls against hefty amounts.
“In case of a botched up abortion, unmarried mothers leave their newborn babies outside various hospitals, shrines, orphanages etc.,” shares a gynaecologist.
So far in 2013, five cases of child abandonment were reported. Of these five cases, four were female children and one was a day old boy, who was left on the stairs of a Sufi shrine.
Sociologists are not certain about the reason for the growing trend but blame the increasing materialistic outlook in the society, the prevalence of premarital and extramarital affairs, extravagant marriages and sudden exposure to mass media as the reasons behind the increase in violence against women.