Women in Kashmir are caught between two guns - terrorists and troops - Prof Seema Shekhawat, research assistant PoK Project said on Friday at Centre for Strategic Studies and Regional Studies, Jammu University.
"Women face conflict-related violence doubly because of their gender, as part of civilian population. They're caught between two guns - that of terrorists and troops. Women have suffered, ranging from rape and torture to losing loved ones and homes.
They witness custodial killings of their loved ones, destruction of their homes and hearths, disruption of their daily lives, dislocation of entire families and localities," Shekhawat said in her presentation Victims, Perpetrators, Survivors or Peace Building? Women In Kashmir: An overview.
Men may be the worst targets in a conflict situation but women in Kashmir have experienced the conflict doubly. She was of the view that while most of the dead or missing in Kashmir are men, they leave behind women to cope with mental trauma, economic hardships and the hard struggle to rebuild their lives and homes.
"The most widely documented victimisation that women suffer is sexual violence. "Kashmir is no exception. A number of cases of molestation, rapes, and even gang rapes have been reported and rights organisations have blamed the law enforcement agencies in Kashmir for failing to launch serious investigations into most cases of abuse and failing to prosecute the perpetrators," Shekhawat said.
She described the children, old age people and women as the most vulnerable lot in conflict. Dating back into history, Seema informed that the gender-based violence had transcended time.
"Violence against women takes place even before the formal and open outburst of conflict. It continues during the conflict and displacement. The ceasing of hostilities does not end it and thus is perpetuated even in the post-conflict situation," she said.
Quoting Ritu Dewan, a professor at Mumbai University who studied the impact of presence of troops in Kashmir pointed out, "Women face other milder forms of sexual violence like eve teasing and molestation. Next to girls schools and hostels, there are camps of troops and the result is continuous sexual harassment, passing of comments, molestation, snatching of dupattas, pulling away of burqas, singing cheap filmi songs, taunting, teasing, obscene gestures etc."
Shekhawat said because of these, young women become more burdened by the pressures of patriarchal scrutiny, whereby their freedom of mobility gets largely curtailed.