“Lost In Heaven”. Responding to Gender violence in Kashmir

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Last updated: August 16, 2019

PEARL ACADEMY OF DESING Lost In Heaven Responding to Gendered Violence in Kashmir Asim khan 11/24/2013 About this Report This report is the result of discussions with ‘half widows,’ widows, and married and unmarried women in Kashmir.

It also draws upon conversations with Kashmiri men and women, including academics, students, homemakers, tailors, farmers, doctors, lawyers, and teachers. No consultations were made with any politicians in or outside Kashmir. It is authored by the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), a member organization of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society OKCCS).Srinagar-based APDP advocates for Justice for victims of enforced disappearances and is an active member of JKCCS, which works to strengthen an independent civil society movement in Kashmir. Table of Contents Executive Summary 4 1. Insecurity in Jammu and Kashmir 6 2.

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Women and Violence in Kashmir 7 i’. Civic Action Peace-building. 8 iii. ‘Half Widows’: State of Perpetual Limbo 10 3. Numbers 11 i. 11 it. Overview Economic Hardship 11 iii. Social Challenges 13 ‘V.

Children 13V. (Un)Available Remedies 14 vi. Local Action by & for Half Widows 164. 17 5.

An Opportunity Required Law and Policy Changes 186.Recommendations to the Government 18 i. Recommendations to Civil Society 19 it. 23 7. Conclusion Appendix 25 8. 26 Executive Summary: This report examines the situation of women labeled ‘half widows’ in Indian-administered Kashmir: women whose husbands have ‘disappeared’ but not yet been declared deceased.

The Kashmir conflict as a whole and the recent waves in the summers of 2008, 2009, and 2010, have significant ramifications across the sub-continent and create fear of further cycles of violence. This report draws on the experiences of half widows to capture an often unseen and pernicious face of insecurity in Kashmir.It identifies how this population provides an immediate opportunity for meaningful engagement. It makes recommendations to law and policy makers as well as to local, national, and international actors for concrete steps to ameliorate the lives of half widows and the people of Kashmir. Key Findings 0 By conservative estimates, there are 1,500 half widows in Kashmir. 0 Half widows are deemed ineligible for pensions and other governmental relief and thus face severe economic hardship. 0 The current legal remedies are pursued only by a minority of half widows since they are unclear, exhausting, and degrading.Children of half widows are often particularly traumatized, showing extreme resentment and loneliness, and are vulnerable to impoverishment and exploitation.

0 Civil society organizations working to address various socio-economic insecurities faced by half widows are hampered by current laws, a dearth of resources, and lack of outside support to develop programming for half widows and their children. Half widows represent various forms of insecurity, signify rights violations, stand as a constant reminder of alienation, and thus impede resolution in Kashmir. Key RecommendationsLaw and policy changes must address the various forms of gendered violence??” direct violence against women or indirect violence due to violence against men in their community??”in order to bring lasting security to Kashmir. The government must immediately (1 year) create a streamlined system of compensation for half 0 The government must immediately pass special legislation on enforced disappearances, keeping with the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, which the Indian government has signed and must ratify. In the short-term (2-3 years), security laws that provide legal immunity to the rmed forces must be amended and disappearance cases in general must be resolved and families told the whereabouts of their loved ones, dead or alive.

0 Civil society??”local, Indian, and international??”must recognize issues faced by half widows and advocate the government for meaningful change, while itself funding iniciatives such as health care programs and income generating programs that right based approach to directly aid half widows. 1.Insecurity in Jammu and Kashmir Women whose husbands have been subjected to enforced ‘disappearances’ are often called ‘half widows,’ and hereinafter referred to as such. Half widows illustrate one of the starkest forms of the general insecurity in Kashmir. An in-depth analysis of the history of the dispute is outside the scope of this report but understanding the situational backdrop is imperative for contextualizing the issues highlighted and discussed herewith.

Kashmir has signified a major source of tension between India and Pakistan since 1947, and has seen armed conflict since 1989.Currently, 400,000 to 750,000 (the exact number remains unknown and disputed) Indian military and paramilitary remain in Kashmir, making this one of the world’s most militarized regions. By the government’s own estimates, the number of active militants is below 500. The Indian government has passed security legislation??”such as the Disturbed Areas Act, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, and the Public Safety Act??”giving military and police forces special powers to suppress insurgency and maintain a fortified presence in the region. i Indian forces have been accused (by Kashmiri, Indian and international civil society) of human rights abuses against civilians since 1989. By conservative estimates, 22 years of strife have seen more than 70,000 dead viii and more than 8,000 disappeared. In the face of these violations, failures in the justice mechanisms??”in the state Judiciary, military tribunals, and State Human Rights Commissionxi??”amount to impunity. Between 2004 and 2007, the armed struggle by Kashmiris abated and gave way to nonviolent resistance.

The summers of 2008, 2009, and 2010 have seen massive civil disobedience ??” workers’ strikes, student rallies, and business shut-downs. Such protests and unrest by millions of Kashmiris have been met with force, sometimes lethal in nature, and have led to heightened tensions. But Kashmiris continue to shun the gun. This report strives to capture some of the multiple forms of insecurity, which while faced by women do in conventional peace and security analysis 2.

Women and Violence in Kashmir Bearing in mind the risks of generalizations, women’s experiences of and roles in the long-standing conflict in Kashmir are broadly defined by the conditions outlined in this section. It should be noted that the real names of all half widows (unless referring to specific legal cases), their spouses and children, and most other women quoted in this report, have been changed to protect privacy and safety. i.

Gendered Violence. With the heavy militarization in the Kashmir Valley, women have often been the targets and survivors of violence suffering from trauma, injury, and disease.Like most conflict situations, gendered violence is systemic but typically overshadowed by attention to ‘harder’ security matters. Statistics of violence against women are thus especially lacking: while taboos around sexual violence result in under-reporting, the narrow definition??”outside the overall context??”of violence against women, has prevented accurate assessments of the actual harms perceived by women, for example, due to widowhood.

Within the South Asian context, and due to the universal taboos around sexual violence, women often do not report such crimes, even to receive crucial medical care.Thus, the actual extent of sexual violence is unknown though various independent observers have reported its prevalence in women’s everyday lives. Certain particularly violent ‘events’ that have gained notoriety provide a window into the violence faced by Kashmiri women. For example, in 1991, more than forty women, aged between 13 and 80 years, were allegedly raped at gunpoint by the 4th Rajputana Rifles Unit in village Kunan Poshpora, Kupwara. A ubsequent one-man inquiry team stated that the allegations by the village were “a massive hoax.

In 2009, the bodies of sisters-in-law Neelofar Jan and Asiya Jan were found in a shallow rivulet after an overnight search by their family and local villagers in Shopian. Though a postmortem declared both women had been raped and murdered, subsequent government commissions and a Central Bureau of Investigation report declared no rape or murder had been committed. Besides violence inflicted directly on women’s bodies, women also bear the ramifications of the general??”typically male on male??”violence in the Valley. Such effects on women also constitute gendered violence.Although the direct violence is disproportionately inflicted on males because they are perceived or imagined as threatening, females suffer indirectly, as reflected in the experiences of half widows. Women are also affected psychologically; women have been reported as the worst affected by mental health problems in Kashmir. And women suffer severe socioeconomic hardship, given their conventional financial dependence on men in most cases. it.

Civic Action. Throughout the troubled decades, Kashmiri women have challenged the label of Victims’ and played a robust role in civil society, even though they are not often seen in leadership positions.As service providers, women run orphanages, self-help groups, and crisis hotlines. As rights activists, women call for state accountability, disarmament, and report as Journalists. As volunteers in various capacities, women work on disease and trauma. As advocates of self-determination, women actively protests, often in contravention of traditional South Asian gender roles. When disenchantment with the electoral system led to mass public protests in the Kashmir Valley in 1990, at the onset of militancy, daily newspapers reported the extensive and spirited participation of women.In the recent protests in 2008, 2009, and 2010, women have again taken to the streets in large numbers, walking alongside the men, raising pro-Kashmiri independence slogans, in defiance of the security forces that surround them.

Many women employ their dress as an expression of resistance. On the one hand, increased covering, such as the burqua, historically not part of Kashmiri dress, is attributed to the increased insecurity due to militarization (also eported as the reason for suspension of girls’ education, the increasing literacy gap between girls and boys, and the decreasing average age of marriage in rural areas).On the other hand, the increased wearing of the hijab, also historically not Kashmiri dress, is related to women’s self-expression of a unique, proud, and politically aware Kashmiri Muslim female identity.

However, it must be noted that sustained women- centric and women-led activism, unaffiliated with political parties, is thus far largely missing. There are limited resources and high rates of burnout (often times due to ompeting demands of family, especially immediately after marriage and/or children, as a result of cultural patriarchic setups where childcare and housekeeping are seen as the predominant responsibility of women).Many local women express an interest in women’s organizations that provide a site for leadership development, strengthening of women’s voices, and deepening of gender sensitivity across society.

iii. Peace-building. In the face of the tensions, women have made efforts to break the silence, calling for accountability, disarmament, and restoration of peace. While women were not active combatants in Kashmir, many supported the popular ovement in the 1990s. Their support for the armed struggle has waned drastically and given way to peaceful protests and community organizing.

Instances of individual and collective action by women peacemakers are seen in KWIPD and APDP. Kashmiri Women in Peace and Disarmament (KWIPD) was formed in Srinagar in 2000. KWIPD members published a monthly newsletter Voices Unheard that captured how women viewed the situation and its possible resolution. Through their activities, including organizing an international conference called Sharing Experience, Interaction in Kashmir, the group questioned the definition of Women’s issues’ and lso whether peace and Justice were indeed competing ideals.The group became dormant after 2007 due to a lack of funding and a leadership vacuum Mothers, sisters, and wives of the disappeared have organized under the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) towards bringing peace and Justice. Founded in 1994 (and subsequently split into two organizations in 2006), APDP-JKCCS now has members from over 1 50 families. Women constitute over 60% of the membership, have 50% representation on the Executive Board (5 of the 10 rotating members are women), and at least 50% representation during monthly public protests.Many women members have faced indirect or even direct threats against such activism, which is seen as ‘shaming the government, and at times even antithetical to militant groups’ interests, but they have continued to actively participate in APDP activities.

While as caregivers and providers, women generally eschew violence, they have same. 3. ‘Half Widows’: State of Perpetual Limbo i. Numbers. APDP estimates at least 1,500 half widows in Kashmir. The estimate is borne by extrapolation from the following JKCCS study: A three-year door-to-door survey in District Baramulla, 1 of Kashmir’s then 20 districts, revealed 337 cases of isappearances.

52 of these 337 were married. If we assume that about 45% of all those disappeared in Kashmir, estimated at 8000, were also married, then APDPs estimate of 1,500 half widows is very conservative. 1 Ms Parveen Ahangar , The face behind APDP Several issues compete for attention in the Valley and a complete survey of disappearances (of single and married men) has not been possible. While civil society lacks the resources to undertake such a project, the government would be grossly amiss to spend precious resources on prioritizing such a project over initiatives that provide concrete assistance to half widows (pp. -7).

It is clear from the available data that half widows are a significant part of the Kashmiri landscape, a continuous reminder of unaddressed rights violations, and require immediate attention. it. Overview. Women are labeled ‘half widows’ when their husbands have been disappeared but not yet been declared dead. Such disappearances have been carried out by government forces??”police, paramilitary, or military??”or by militants.

However, the number of disappearances carried out by militants is significantly lower since militants generally have no reason to hide anyone they abduct.Nevertheless, for this report, half widows of those disappeared by state as well as non-state actors have been interviewed and included (see, also, Appendix). The report takes into account the half widows of civilians, militants, as well as ‘suspected militants’ (while the government often employs this term to explain or even Justify the disappearances, here, it stands for those who may have aided militants or whose involvement in armed militancy is suspected by their own families). In all cases, the women have a right to know the whereabouts of their loved ones.But in cases of ivilian disappearances, the shock and sense of injustice is even greater.

It should also be noted that the great majority of half widows who have Joined APDP and have pursued the disappearance cases are the wives of civilians. Wives of militants, even ‘suspected militants,’ often come to find closure in the belief that the disappearance/ death of their husband was a natural by-product of being involved in the violence. The 1,417 cases of disappearances documented by APDP reveal a common pattern: The forces enter and search a house and take the eldest son, stating they need to question him. This son is never seen again.In most cases, wives and other family members who go looking for their loved one are sent from one military base to another, one Jail to another, each suggesting some clue at the next. Many times, officials, perhaps to give fleeting hope to the family, even give a fixed date and time when they will allow a meeting, and ask the family to bring a fresh set of clothes for the ‘missing person. Later, they state that they do not have the person in their custody. He has truly disappeared.

As wives of men thus ‘disappeared,’ half widows face various economic, social, and emotional insecurities (see, Appendix l).It should be noted that most disappearances have occurred in rural areas, where women husbands thus renders them economically reliant, most often on their in-laws, with their property and custody rights undetermined (3. iii, iv). Further, the uncertain nature and duration of the absence opens women to scrutiny and policing by their society as well as threats, extortion, and manipulation by those in external positions of power (3. ‘v). For example, a class of ‘messengers’ has made a business out of taking money (up to hundreds of thousands of rupees) from families to convey ostensible) information from the captors.

In their desperation, many half widows visit pirs, fakirs, darweshs (‘holy men’), make offerings at Sufi shrines, and some even patronize fortune tellers. Further, government officials themselves at times make direct demands of money or even sexual favors. Amidst this socioeconomic insecurity, women battle their emotional traumas while struggling as single mothers, many of whose children also often show manifestations of trauma . These various insecurities are compounded rather than addressed by the legal and administrative remedies currently available to half widows.The punishing nature??”including delays, costs, and harassments??”of the process of availing the remedies is deterrent enough for most. Even for the few half widows who persevere, Justice and closure remain elusive.

iii. Economic Hardship. The absence of husbands renders women economically vulnerable. In already socioeconomically weak families, which is the status of most families that have suffered disappearances, such vulnerability leads to destitution. Generally, the husband is the sole breadwinner in the family and his disappearance results in an abrupt paucity of income.Further, several other otential sources of relief??”such as issuance of ration cards or transfer of husband’s property or bank accounts??”are also closed to half widows.

This is because these processes either require death certificates, which the half widows do not have since their husbands are not officially recognized as deceased; or involve government verification procedures, which mostly result in the inquiring officer noting the person is ‘missing (often with the suspicion that he is an underground or overground militant).The half widow is mostly not equipped, educationally or socially, to begin arning for her family. As a result she, as well as any children she has, become dependent on others, most often the husband’s family (given the cultural context where parents live in a Joint family with their sons and daughters-in-law, not with their married daughters). In the in-laws’ family, relationships often sour after the disappearance. The half widow and her children are seen as constant reminders of the familys loss and as additional mouths to feed.Further, by Muslim law, if the son dies during his father’s lifetime, the father may, but is not required to, give property o his son’s heirs. While deciding matters of inheritance, the disappeared sons are often counted out as deceased and their children’s inheritance comes to naught (or at the best remains undetermined till the grandfather’s death). The half widow thus often does not receive economic relief from this quarter either and remains solely responsible for supporting her children.

However, in APDPs experience, it is clear that if compensation is made easily available through a transparent process, most families would likely not shun it. Most half widows’ claims that they will not ‘sell’ their usbands for government compensation arise only when compensation and relief are predicated on abandoning their legal cases or other efforts to locate their the stories of half widows are recorded by many, few bring them hope of any economic assistance, which is what they need most desperately lv. Social Challenges.The prolonged and indeterminate nature of the husbands’ absence makes half widows vulnerable to several threats against their physical and mental well-being. While social networks have been crucial to most half widows for surviving their trauma, societal biases have at times further traumatized half widows. Half widows often suffer further loss when they are separated from their children. Given the aforementioned tense dynamics in the in-laws’ home, the in-laws at times choose to keep and raise their grandchildren, while turning out the half widow and providing no visitation rights.In other cases, the half widows natal family takes her in only on the condition that her children remain with the in-laws or be sent to an orphanage.

In still other cases, children are divided between the half widows parents and in- laws and she may never see one/some of her children. Their forced status as ‘single omen’ coupled with gender biases results in half widows facing social isolation, shaming, and physical vulnerability. Half widows are at times senselessly blamed for their husbands’ disappearances.For example, the women are told they are bad luck for the family or that they brought on tragedy due to their bad character or deeds. Furthermore, they are often watched with suspicion: being Without a man,’ they are accused of trying to attract other men should they continue to dress as they did when married, or leave the house for work or everyday chores, or meet with lawyers r government officials. Some half widows have also reported becoming targets of sexual violence from those viewing them as defenseless without a partner. v.

Children.The initial trauma of the disappearance, and the resulting economic hardships and social challenges??”that combines to have lasting adverse effects on the lives of half widows??”in turn deeply affect their children as well. These children either grow up in the insecurity that shrouds the lives of half widows or away from their mothers in orphanages or in their grandparents’ homes. They carry the social tigma of being fatherless’ in a society where the father’s??”rather than the mother’s ??”name, status, and protection are crucial to a child’s identity.Many half widows thus often lie to their children for years about their father’s fate, in an attempt to protect them from stigmatization. When they are forced away from their mothers as well, these children are rendered orphans.

After the disappearance of their father, children’s education is often suspended and they become vulnerable to exploitation. Due to the abrupt paucity of funds, children of half widows are often removed from schools. Given the gender biases, young girls are the first to suffer; their education is discontinued before that of their brothers.Furthermore, the economic conditions force some of these children into child labor.

v’. (Un)Available Remedies. Half widows and their children currently fail to receive due response and assistance from the government despite being an at-risk population that faces serious economic and social hardships. There are two possible sources of remedies: legal and administrative (non-legal). While most administrative remedies are unavailable to half widows (for their widowhood status is undetermined); most legal remedies emain elusive due to the severe financial and emotional costs over multiple year timelines.

Further, half widows may face additional roadblocks from two possible half widow. Despite its wide extent, the phenomenon of disappearances in Kashmir is not officially recognized by the government, which leads to several challenges for half widows. For example, applying for ration cards or transfer of land title may become impossible (see, p. 10). Another stark illustration is the case of disappeared public servants. According to the Service Law, a public servant can only be erminated from service if he willfully remains absent from duty.While a disappeared person is not willfully absent, he is treated as such and his employment, benefits, and pension are accordingly terminated.

4. Local Action by & for Half Widows While not nearly all of the 1,500 estimated half widows in Kashmir are organized, represented, or heard, many half widows and their civil society supporters have actively worked for Justice and survival through the years. The Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons was formed in 1994.In 2006, APDP split into two organizations, under different leadership. Half widows constitute the membership of both APDPs. Each month, for the last 8 years, APDP stages sitings in Srinagar. Half widows and other family members of the disappeared sit together in solidarity, as a reminder that the disappeared have not been forgotten.

A space has thus been created for survivors of the crime of disappearance to gather, support each other, and share strategies for pursuing remedies. Such organizing comes at a cost.Some family members dissuade half widows from attending meetings, for they would rather she stay within the home and not expose her vulnerability (which may in turn hreaten her security; prospects of remarriage; and/or her familys social status). Children often attend these meetings with their mothers and thus repeatedly hear about disappearances and rights violations, which often deepens their own angst and depression. While APDP-JKCCS urges parents not bring young children to the meetings, mothers often have nowhere to leave their children.Also, APDP-JKCCS is keen on creating child centric programming, in which the children can be engaged every month while their mothers attend the sit-ins.

However, the dearth of resources prevents such additional programming. 5. An Opportunity The vulnerable population of half widows stands as a constant reminder??”for not only their children and communities but for all Kashmiris??”of unresolved investigations, unattended needs, and continued suffering. Peace is more than merely the absence of war; for ordinary citizens it is also inextricably linked to development and a better future.Efforts that improve the quality of life of Kashmiris and remove everyday vulnerabilities enhance momentum towards resolution and inclusive peace. The deserving population of half widows presents an occasion for promoting trust and security in the Valley.

The Indian government has the opportunity to exhibit any seriousness about addressing rights violations and bringing security to Kashmiris??”given the discrete nature and concrete concerns of this population, tangible steps will be highly effective as well as visible.Half widows also represent opportunities for the international community to meaningfully engage in relief and empowerment work in Kashmir, though such involvement is also contingent on government willingness and approval. It is however clear that addressing the problems faced by half widows is impossible without addressing the approach. The following law and policy recommendations help outline such an approach. 6. Required Law and Policy Changes violence committed directly against women, or indirectly, due to violence against men in their community.

Women’s issues’ cannot be defined narrowly, outside the larger context. The general environment of insecurity must always be taken into consideration in order to accurately assess and address the actual harms perceived by women. i. Recommendations to the Government: While the majority of these recommendations are addressed to the state government, they are also aimed at the central government, given how New Delhi continues to ave significant influence in the state’s administrative matters, particularly those related to traditional security issues.Immediate-Term (1 Year) 0 A streamlined system for compensation, without room for delays, harassment, or coercion, must be instituted for half widows.

This report has noted the grave economic situation of half widows and their dependent children (pp. 10-11). The government’s remedies have thus far failed to alleviate this situation (pp. 1 5-18). The current administrative remedy involves sending the half widows case to a ‘District Screening cum Coordination Committee,’ which includes military, paramilitary, and olice personnel, since a major criterion for relief is that the disappeared person was not involved in any militant activity (pp. 5-16). This process lacks public confidence and has been ineffective, leaving half widows to face severe economic vulnerabilities. Instead, the government should create a system for compensation wherein a civilian Committee focuses on providing relief after determining: (i)whether the woman has had any male partner in the past seven years (the Indian legal benchmark for considering whether a person reported ‘missing’ may be deemed dead); (it) her conomic condition; and (iii) the number of dependent children.

The Committee should focus on the plight of the women and children and prioritize cases where the half widow has minor children. Such a Committee must be immediately constituted and made functional. 0 A special bench in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court must be constituted to hear cases filed by half widows on an expedited basis. The legal system, generally over-crowded and costly, presents special difficulty for half widows, who are generally at an economic, social, and educational disadvantage (pp.

16-17). Since most disappearance cases follow a similar pattern (p. and also involve common legal features (such as the non-flling of a FIR), a special bench to hear half widows’ petitions would be particularly suitable. Such a bench must be committed to independent and impartial Judgments. International remedies and recourses need not be sought if the state legal system makes special provisions for hearing cases of half widows, a vulnerable and deserving section of Kashmiri society. The government must allow free civil society activity around the cases of half widows.

The government must aid rather than prevent civil society from assisting the half

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