Women in occupied Kashmir

On March 08, 2016, the breaking news was that “Celebrating International Women’s Day Around the World”. It is a global event to mark social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women around the world. The human rights activists and the lovers of democracy pledged to strive for gender equity and empowerment of women. The leaders across the world vowed to act as champions of gender parity.

The Secretary General of United Nations, Ban Ki-moon said: “Let us devote solid funding, courageous advocacy and unbending political will to achieving gender equality around the world. There is no greater investment in our common future.”

The 2016 theme for International Women’s Day is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality”. One of the key targets of the 2030 Agenda is to eliminate all forms of violence and exploitation against all women and girls.

It is noteworthy that as per Article 3 (Elimination of exploitation) of the Constitution of Pakistan, it is the duty of the state to eliminate all forms of exploitation. The Article 25 (Equality of citizens) of the Pakistani Constitution prohibits discrimination based on sex/gender; however, the aforementioned article permits the state of Pakistan to make special provisions for the protection of women and children. In Pakistan, over the past few years, Laws have been enacted or amendments made in existing legislation to address acid attacks and sexual harassment at workplace.

The International Women’s day was also celebrated in South Asian Countries including Pakistan to mark the struggle for women’s rights, celebrate the successes and reflect upon what more needs to be done. In Pakistan, NGOs and the citizen forums enthusiastically organized workshops, seminars, and conferences to emphasize on the significance of the equal opportunities for men and women.

Sadly, the champions of women rights starting from the officials of the United Nations to the world leaders and finally, the women rights organizations including Pakistani NGOs preferred not to address the miseries and misfortunes of the women in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). The women in occupied Kashmir have to face atrocities and go through traumatic experiences almost daily. The innocent women of the Indian Occupied Kashmir have faced worst draconian laws, illegal detentions, gang rapes, intimidations and unprecedented humiliations.

Kashmiri women have to witness their fathers, brothers, husbands and sons being slaughtered by Indian forces.

There is a plethora of academic work based on practical findings prepared by independent and impartial organizations, which aim to highlight human rights abuses particularly, violence against women in occupied Kashmir by the Indian security forces. For instance, the Indian forces stationed in occupied Kashmir are acting in absolute violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 (adopted by United Nations) – in particular Article 3 that “guarantees right to life, liberty and security”; Article 5 that states that “no one shall be subjected to torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”; and Article 9 that prohibits “arbitrary arrest, detention or exile”.

It is most noteworthy that on women’s day rally, the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union President Kanhaiya Kumar said: “……we will still talk about the fact that in Kashmir women are raped by security personnel…..” Hats off to Kanhaiya Kumar! People like Mr. Kumar are the agents of change. He is an Indian but still he stood against the wrong doings of his state. Now, he is facing death threats for speaking the truth. The basic reason of specifically mentioning the statement of an Indian activist is to further substantiate the empirical findings highlighting the Indian atrocities against women in occupied Kashmir and also to emphasis on the fact that as human beings, it is our sacred duty to strive for the protection of human rights regardless of the religion, ethnicity or nationality.

The million dollar questions – 1) Why the champions of women rights (UN, EU & USA) around the world preferred to remain silent on violence against women in occupied Kashmir? The answer is like writing on the wall – Hypocrisy / Double standards. 2) Why Muslim countries never say a word to condemn Indian brutalities committed against women in occupied Kashmir? The answer is simple and easy to understand – Impotent brotherhood. 3) Why the Pakistani women rights NGOs hardly say anything about Indian atrocities committed against women in occupied Kashmir? The popular view is that Pakistani women rights NGOs are only inclined in strict adherence to the wish-list of their foreign paymasters.

Pakistan has a legitimate and lawful claim over Kashmir. The Kashmiri and Pakistani leaders must appropriately highlight the Kashmir issue as a matter of protection of the human rights. It is a matter of protection of the human rights with particular emphasis on the elimination of violence against voiceless women in occupied Kashmir. Therefore, it is the responsibility of all lovers of human rights to support the Kashmiri freedom movement against Indian occupation.

One can only hope that someday champions of women rights around the world including the Pakistani women rights NGOs will strongly condemn the violence committed against women in occupied Kashmir. Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had declared Kashmir as Pakistan’s jugular vein. It exemplifies the significance of the Kashmir for Pakistan. Therefore, it is the sacred duty of the whole Pakistani nation to remind the world (via twitter, facebook and other social media websites) about the Indian atrocities committed against women in occupied Kashmir.

By Afzal Hussain