March 2016 News

How Much Liberated Are Women In Kashmir?

7 March 2016
Rising Kashmir
Malik Zahra Khalid

Srinagar: March 8 is a sad reminder for the women of Kashmir that they have yet to touch the realm of freedom and emancipation which women in other parts of globe enjoy. This day will end in the grief striven Kashmir valley by holding of some seminars, talk shows etc., and few speeches by some women who feel they have got their space in the male dominated society. This day reminds us all of our duties and responsibilities towards our own gender so that they come out from the shadows and at least live a life with dignity and some degree of honor. Instead of flaunting the 'pseudo freedom' achieved by few dozen of 'Srinagar circle of those liberated women', they should ponder how many hands they have held after having a space in the society. How many abandoned women they have rehabilitated or helped them to get rehabilitated? Have they ever tried to sit with them and at least know their tragic story? There are many compartments of tragedies in Kashmir society in which women are main sufferers. War widows, half widows, terrified class of women living an extremely difficult life with their in-laws for want of dowry, acid attack cases and their alienated life after being abandoned by the society. Work place road blocks, including intimidation and visible gender bias in every department of life, are some of the pointers to understand the ground realities and how far is the real freedom of women here. Facts are depressing and it's tragic when it comes to helping other women to come out of their dark shadows of tragedies and live a normal life. It is their pure resilience against the odds that they are afloat along with their hopes and dreams. Society at large along with nascent women NGO culture in Kashmir have done very little to make life better for these tragic stricken women. It is strange that Jammu and Kashmir state has no home for destitute women and all those terrified women folk who virtually live on streets. Less visited ward in SMHS hospital is the home for all those destitute women who have no shelter even to live their lives. Amid such depressing scenario about the quality of life that women in Kashmir have, speeches and talk shows only mock at the realities. Despite such lows in life in Kashmir, there is a brighter side also that reveals how many women despite odds have not only reared their children but have made them shining stars in our society. Resilience of such women has become inspiration for others in our tribe to fight the odds and create a space for themselves. In media and in education sector there are lots of inspirational stories, of journeys undertaken by women to achieve impossible goals. In entrepreneurship Kashmiri women have shown their mettle and if given a level playing field, may bring real turnarounds of Kashmir economy. In police, Kashmiri women have started showing their visibility and it also reminds me how a single police woman in the only women police station of Srinagar gets dozens of women harassment complaints on daily basis. Divorce rate has increased and now it is quite normal in Srinagar and other towns to witness scores of divorce cases being settled in and out of the courts. Although in Srinagar city and the main towns, women are trying hard to create a space for themselves, women folk in the rural areas especially among the Gujjars, Bakarwals and Paharis are living in sub human conditions. Women in such tribes and areas have virtually no say to decide about their destiny. Most of the girls among the tribes still get married at a very tender age and most of such marriages are solemnized without even caring for their consent about such marriages. All those emancipated women of Srinagar have a huge area to cover and have lot of responsibilities to work for the liberation of those teenaged girls whose education is stopped and are forced to marry against their wishes. All the NGOs instead of showing their presence via media should work at least to create a shelter for all those abandoned Kashmiri women who have no home to live. The best tribute to the International Women's Day would be to at least hold someone's hand and help her to live a normal life. Author teaches at Media Education Research Centre and she can be mailed at