KASHMIR, India – Our society claims to be developing at a rapid pace, but it is still patriarchal in attitude and sometimes misogynistic in nature. Women are not given the space to express or present their opinions like men are. They are confined their roles to the chores of the house.
The few exceptional cases are evangelized as success stories that distort the reality of discrimination and control over women. Women are considered to be the second gender, giving precedence to men as providers for the family and responsible members of the society — further alienating women from the roles they should play in building a society. The societal norms and principles are still set by men, restricting women to activities that men deem to be within their capabilities. The rules are set: “Scooties are meant for girls, and the bikes for boys.” Girls cannot go out late, and most religious principles are only applied to girls.
The aggravating state of women can be partially blamed on them, as the list of compromises they make is endless. The helpless situation of women can be felt in the fact that female literacy is at 57 percent in Kashmir, while the rate for men is about 75 percent, which speaks volumes about the treatment of girls compared to boys. Male-dominated society has long repressed women and kept them away from education to reinforce “Male Pride” that’s highly based on the sex instead of personality.
Women have been challenged and continue to struggle to establish themselves as equals in the society. Cultural responsibilities have subdued them while men have evolved and exercise total control. The obligation on women to act according the gospel of men has erased their identity and representation as a key stakeholder in society. Our economy is the weakest because more than half of our women are home makers, elsewhere women are “nation builders.”
Most cases of harassment of women or domestic violence go unreported, often due to the social stigma attached to such exploitation. “Most of the cases are related to domestic abuse, even teasing and harassment. Last year we recorded 1,359 cases [of] domestic abuse, and two cases of rape,” said inspector Anita Katal, who heads the women’s police station in Jammu.
Last May, the women’s police station in the Anantnag district of Kashmir was founded to encourage women to report crimes. “Almost 100 cases have been registered with us, of which most of the cases are domestic abuse cases, with one rape case and another case of cybercrime,” said station head Poshmala Akhtar, “Four FIR’s have been launched with most of the domestic cases being resolved at the station.”
On International Women’s Day, women celebrate their freedom and achievements as equal members of the society, though the world is still very challenging for the female gender.
“Women are not coming forward with their complaints, how long will they be silent and suffer like this? It pains me to see them suffer and not get up against the abuse and harassment. There is social stigma about going to a police station, it is high time and this needs to change. If women come and register the complaint at the police station, action will be taken, and the culprits will be punished by the law. Parents need to play an active role by standing up for their girls, empower them with education, consider them equal and capable of doing anything,” said deputy superintendent of the Kashmir Police, Nighat Aman.
“I don’t feel like celebrating, I have been looking for a job for months now and am highly stressed as most of the times I get rejected because for my gender. I wanted to go out and build my career, but my parents won’t allow it. It’s not that they don’t trust me, but the relatives and the society will not spare them for giving me this too much freedom,” said Humaira Farooq , iOS developer.
“On other days around the year, women are harassed and disrespected, and only this day we are equal to men which hypocritical! Islam has given women equal rights, any sort of injustice and oppression against women is not just inhuman but unislamic too,” said Gousiya Khan, postgraduate student in psychology.
“Another day in the long list of days which we celebrate every year, nothing has changed! The patriarchal mindsets are there, a bold women having many male friends is still seen as a wh*re! Travelling alone is an unthinkable idea. Where are women’s rights? Just hollow talks and much ado about nothing,” said Hirra Azmat, journalism student from MERC, Kashmir University.
“Girls here get catcalled for just dressing comfortable, while guys can go beyond limits and no one bats an eye. I am not against their freedom but no one should have the right to tell me if I should dress in a particular way,” said Maria Shahmiri, renowned visual artist.