“Rape” the word carries with it a host of meanings and in East or Orient cultural baggage too. The term signifies violence, anger, atrocity, patriarchy, imposition and coercive submission. It is particularly used by men against women or children, though in rare cases men can be victim of rape too in particular sodomy. Rapes have been happening in the past and future would be no exception viz a viz the crime of rape is concerned. Indian subcontinent due to its patriarchal culture is still a bastion of rapists and the notion of ‘honor’ and ‘shame’ associated with rape does not let the crimes of rape to be reported in Police stations, hence most of the rapists are never brought to the book. Women especially in the conservative, traditional, orthodox and Eastern societies are considered to be the repositories of honor; hence to humiliate, deflower, and dishonor them through rape is to humiliate the collective honor, masculinity and strength of the society. Even in the Western countries where the sexual freedom has landed the societies into sexual anarchy, rape is considered as a grave crime, and when its use as a weapon to humiliate an ethnic group, population, a nation or a society is the order of the day, it is considered as a crime against humanity, whose perpetuators must be dealt with a serious punishment.
Rape as a weapon of war has always been used by the occupational forces to demean, debase and finally destroy the social rubric of the enemy. In case of the secessionist tendency, the defiant population is tried to inculcate spirit of submissiveness and unconditional obedience by using various strategic tactics, and Rape is one of them. In every conflict rape has been used against the womenfolk of the other or enemy, in order to make them understand how weak and vulnerable they are and make a living testimony of their helplessness before the mighty institutions and a constant reminder not to side with the ‘other’ as the punishment awaits them in the form of rape of their womenfolk.
Since the inception of armed insurgency in Kashmir, the military approach towards the insurgency has resulted in numerous rapes of innocent women. Various tactics were employed by the soldiers to rape women, who on the excuse of searching militants or arms would barge into a house and rape women, during crackdowns. A whole area would be sealed with men assembled at a community ground and women and girls left behind in the houses would be gang raped, during nocturnal raids women were raped, women were intimidated that if they wouldn’t comply and resist the gang rape their sons and husbands would be killed, revenge rapes were also perpetuated on innocent victims when an army man would be killed in the militant assault the army would rape women by barging into their homes, in some cases the male members of the family were first killed and then the women were raped.
The free license to raid, search any premise gave army an upperhand to rape, who would even resort to loot, robbery, arson and even rape during the search operations. They would render eatables defunct by mixing them with oil, kerosene in order to starve the household. In many cases the victims reported that the soldiers said that they were given the orders of enjoyment and can’t take any second chances as the Kashmiri girls are too beautiful to resist.
The aftermath of rape is most agonizing for the victim, and most of the victims suffer from depression and psychological trauma and many victims have even committed suicides. According to a survey conducted by Medicans San Frontiers(Doctors Without Borders) an International NGO in 2006 on “Kashmir: Violence and Health”, 11.6 percent of interviewees said they had been victims of sexual violence since 1989. Almost two thirds of the people interviewed (63.9 percent) by MSF had heard about cases of rape during the same period. The study revealed that Kashmiri women were among the worst sufferers of sexual violence in the world. The figure is much higher than that of Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Chechnya and Ingushetia. Many teenage girls are now going for counseling in order to cope the rising psychological impact of the atrocities on women perpetuated by army and police.
The Justice System in Kashmir is in shambles, as Kashmir has become a Police State, where the State tries every tactic to save the culprits of the heinous crimes who happen to be its soldiers. The various acts provide impunity to the army personnel to be tried in civil courts, and even the Police and State machinery is hesitant to file cases against the army as it will affect their morale. Hence not a single soldier has been brought to book and victims are still awaiting Justice which will elude them till eternity, be it the victims of Kunanposhpora or Shopian double murder and rape case, plus the police enquiry has never helped the victims who now even don’t bother to report the same.
There has been little sensitivity depicted by the society while dealing with the rape survivors. Kashmir being a patriarchal society, woman is treated as a second class inferior citizen whose only purpose of life is to satisfy the carnal desires of her husband, raise the children and look after his household. She is being praised for her selfless household activities and dedication towards her husband. Her salvation in the hereafter depends on how happy her husband is with her services. Any disobedience is treated as sin. She is doomed to raging fires of hell if her husband is unhappy with her. The disobedience of her husband is equal to disobedience to creator. The misogynist Hadith wrongly attributed to Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) try to reinforce this mindset. The patriarchal mindset wants to demean the status of women by stating that “if Prostration was allowed for anyone other than Allah then it would have been allowed for a wife to prostrate before her husband”. Also another misogynist Hadith states that, “If a husband is angry with his wife, Allah doesn’t listen to her prayers”. Also another Hadith that tries to reinforce the upperhand of husbands by stating that, “If a husband doesn’t permit his wife to fast, she shouldn’t keep the non obligatory fasts”. When the patriarchy and misogyny is inculcated and camouflaged in religious terms then obedience and submission becomes a religious duty that few women would dare to oppose. Islam, Quran and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) gave revolutionary rights to women that were snatched by Muslim men over centuries.
The situation of Kashmiri Muslim women is pathetic, as Fatwas and Mullahs try to deny them rights on religious pretext. In Kashmir there is no training for gender sensitivity both within homes as well as in schools. The father and male teachers are mostly misogynist and patriarchal in their worldviews. The children learn same and indoctrinate similar values. The lewd jokes with deep misogynist overtures depict our bias towards half of our population. The use of women’s bodies as a subject of abuse and the declining sex ratio with thousands of girls missing is a living testimony of the status women today enjoy in Kashmir.
Associated with the rape is the concept of shame and honor. Both of them have been wrongly attributed to the survivor. Till the shame and dishonor is the associated with the perpetuator, the survivors will find it quite difficult to cope with the aftermath of rape. Immediate family plays a big role in making the survivor strong giving her a new hope of life. The concept of virginity also needs to be relooked. Husband can play an important role towards her wife if she is a rape survivor, instead of ridiculing or divorcing her by labeling her as ‘impure’. Rape should be treated like an accident, in which the survivor with the help of immediate kith and kin can make the guilty face rule of law. The role of counselors is also important but in Kashmir we have a dearth of professional ones. We have still not developed any social consensus about the rape survivors and in most cases they find it hard to get married if they are spinsters. As a society we need to come forward with a strong institutional mechanism to help survivors live a life free of shame, dishonor, impurity, guilt and hopelessness.
Mushtaq Ul Haq Ahmad Sikander is Writer-Activist based in Srinagar, Kashmir and can be reached at email@example.com