Asif Khurshid
International Women’s Day is celebrated annually on March 8th to recognize the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women around the world. It is a day to honor the remarkable contributions of women to society and to highlight the ongoing struggle for gender equality. This day is an opportunity to raise awareness about women’s rights and to inspire action towards achieving gender parity in all areas of life. Despite of this women’s rights violations are unfortunately still prevalent in many parts of the world today. These violations are happening in many forms, including physical and sexual violence, discrimination in employment and education, forced marriage, and denial of basic human rights such as access to healthcare and freedom of speech. It is crucial that we continue to work towards ending these violations and ensuring that all women have the freedom and agency to live their lives on their own terms. The heinous and despicable practice of sexual violence persists in other war-torn areas occurred as an individual act rather than a state policy, however, the situation in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir (IIOJK) is entirely different. While sexual abuse of women and girls occurs regularly in India, the Indian forces in Kashmir have consistently used rape and molestation of Kashmiri women as a tool of war to suppress the seven-decade-long struggle of the Kashmiri people for their inalienable right to self-determination. The Indian security forces operating in Kashmir have been accused of perpetrating grave violations against women, including sexual violence, torture, and extrajudicial killings. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, security forces have used rape and sexual violence as weapons of war against Kashmiri women. The report highlights cases where women were gang-raped, sexually assaulted, and molested by security forces. In some instances, women were assaulted in front of their families, while others were raped and killed. One of the most notorious cases of sexual violence in Kashmir was the Kunan Poshpora incident. In 1991, Indian soldiers conducted a mass rape in the villages of Kunan and Poshpora in northern Kashmir. The soldiers entered the villages at night and systematically raped more than 30 women. The incident was widely reported in the media and sparked international outrage.The use of torture by Indian security forces against women in Kashmir is also a significant concern. According to a report by the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), women in Kashmir have been subjected to various forms of torture, including beatings, electric shocks, and sexual abuse. The report documents cases where women were stripped naked, beaten with rods, and had chilli powder poured into their genitals. The Indian government has also been accused of using extrajudicial killings as a means of controlling the insurgency in Kashmir. The security forces have been accused of targeting civilians, including women, who are suspected of having links to militants. The victims are often killed in fake encounters, which are staged to make it appear as though they were killed in a legitimate encounter with militants. The families of the victims are often denied justice, and the security forces responsible for the killings are rarely held accountable. The use of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in Kashmir has further contributed to human rights violations against women. The AFSPA is a law that gives the Indian security forces sweeping powers to search, arrest, and shoot to kill anyone suspected of being a militant. The law also provides immunity to the security forces for their actions. The AFSPA has been criticized by human rights groups for its draconian provisions, which have led to widespread abuses by the security forces. The Indian government has been criticized for its failure to address human rights violations in Kashmir. The government has been accused of protecting the security forces responsible for the violations and not holding them accountable for their actions. The lack of accountability has created a culture of impunity among the security forces, who continue to operate in Kashmir with impunity. In recent years, there have been reports of sexual violence and other forms of abuse against Kashmiri women by Indian security forces. The allegations include rape, molestation, and harassment, with some women reporting that they were targeted because of their association with militant groups or because they were suspected of having links to them. In 2020, a report by a group of Indian activists and scholars documented several cases of sexual violence committed by Indian security forces in Kashmir. The report alleged that the security forces used rape as a tool of control, and that the women who spoke out about the abuse were often stigmatized and harassed. The situation has been exacerbated by the communication blackout and restrictions on the media in the region. As a result, it is difficult to ascertain the exact number of cases and the scale of the problem. The Indian government has denied the allegations and maintained that any cases of abuse are isolated incidents that are promptly investigated and punished. However, human rights organizations have criticized the government for its lack of transparency and accountability in addressing the issue. The issue of human rights violations of Indian forces in Kashmir against women is a complex and sensitive one. The Indian government must take immediate steps to address these violations and hold those responsible. The major powers and the UN must reassess their role in determining the future status of IIOJK and ensure that the people of Kashmir are granted their rights, as outlined in the UN Charter and its resolutions. The international community must also play an active and conscientious role in this regard. The South Asian region is currently one of the most unstable regions in the world, and a final settlement of the Kashmir conflict is essential for achieving peace and stability in the region. The dispute has been a major obstacle to peace. To prevent a nuclear war in South Asia and to halt heinous human rights violations in IIOJK, the UNSC must revive the universalizing spirit of the right to self-determination enshrined in its resolutions. In recent times, sexual violence has become a weapon of war in IIOJK and is intertwined with hyper-nationalist, misogynistic, and racist discourse concerning the control and ownership of Kashmiri women. Throughout the year, there are numerous occasions celebrated such as International Women’s Day, Human Rights Day, and days commemorating Kashmir’s history. These events provide opportunities to deepen our understanding of not only the issues facing Kashmiri women, but women across the globe. Achieving progress requires persistent effort, as the international community must recognize the sensitivity of this issue and pressure Indian authorities to take action.

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