Women in conflict zones are faced with intriguing circumstances with regard to their status, roles, expectations and vulnerabilities.
Women are important part of the society and play a significant role in nation building. Kashmiri society is patriarchal in nature which has confined women within the boundaries of their homes. They had limited exposure and low level of education with limited freedom because of discrimination and violence. Women in Kashmir have played significant role in all spheres of society but unfortunately their role and contribution has been ignored. Kashmiri women have witnessed varying fortunes
Women in conflict zones are faced with intriguing circumstances with regard to their status, roles, expectations and vulnerabilities. In conflict zones like Kashmir, these realities compound other vulnerabilities for women. Although the lives of men and women are intricately linked, the pre-existing socio-cultural understanding and the masculinist nature of conflict increase women’s vulnerabilities.
A comparison between the situations of young male and female pellet victims in Kashmir shows a stark difference in their realities. For the male victims, the lack of access to healthcare and being visible on the radar of the security apparatus are the most immediate threats, setting off layers of further victimization. These layers get compounded in the case of female victims, whose families fear that their present and future social relations would be damaged, resulting in their social and economic exclusion. Women’s choices and bargaining power become the worst casualties in conflict zones. The option of getting remarried after the loss or disappearance of their spouses or not remarrying is hardly a choice as it is governed by the potential vulnerabilities of a stigmatized life.
Women and men experience conflict differently due to differences in their culturally determined roles. The rampant displacement of women goes unnoticed. Destruction of houses, the loss of a spouse, being single or being a single mother, loss of jobs or property can lead to such displacement. This adds to the gender-role complications. Women’s identities have been reduced to half-widows, widows or mothers of disappeared children. This imagery excludes them from their claim on the role of active agents. Protests are the only means through which women transcend into being active agents. Yet, in the public imagination, they simply come across as bearers of loss.There is thus a need to view women as complete entities whose experiences of conflict are distinct from those of men. Their experiences must be part of any dialogic process of conflict-resolution. Women’s realities should be seen as integral to the process of strengthening accountability and law-making.
Women’s experiences are also a testament to complex vulnerabilities. Consider the women who came from Pakistan with their former militant husbands in 2010-2011 under the rehabilitation policy of the then Jammu and Kashmir government. Most of them live in Budgam, Baramulla and Srinagar. They are the ‘lost women’ with no citizenship rights or recognition. Even their disappearance goes unaddressed as they do not belong. Somiya Sadaf, hailing from Muzaffarabad and educated in India, who accompanied her husband to Batergam, found her citizenship challenged when she tried to contest the recent DDC elections from Drugmulla constituency. She is popular in the region because of her social and humanitarian work. The plight of women from Muzaffarabad should be seen as a humanitarian crisis; they can neither visit their native place, nor can they belong to their current place of residence due to the lack of documentation.
In the run-up to International Women’s Day, it’s good to celebrate the undeniable gains on our road to gender equality. But it’s also worth remembering just how far we have to go — and how little has changed. In the contemporary Kashmiri society it has been observed that majority of the women have conflict with family members due to less income and women considered inferior, physically and mentally weak. It has been also observed that women are harassed and treated unequally. She has not permitted to raise voice in front of her parents, husband and in-laws. They are contributing equal share in the family income but they are not allowed to spend their income independently. They are members on record only. Allegedly they are not consulted while taking decision. Besides gender discrimination has been banned by the constitution but yet there is a difference between the constitutional rights and the rights enjoyed in reality by women.