How safe are women in Kashmir?


Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the United Nations, declared in a 2006 reportposted on the website of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) that violence against women and girls is a problem of pandemic proportions.At least one out of every three women in the world has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused at least once in her life. In most of the cases, the abuser is usually someone she knows well.  Since moral values are degrading fast, the cases of violence are increasing persistently.

Kashmir too has seen a steep increase in the rate of divorces and domestic violence in recent years. Studies reveal that domestic violence is a serious threat to women in every society, be it rich or poor, developed or under-developed, young or old, highly educated or illiterate. As per the State Women’s Commission, Jammu and Kashmir, 1600-1700 cases of domestic violence are reported every year. Surprisingly, majority of these cases are reported in Kashmir, a Muslim dominated society. Pulwama, Budgam and Srinagar are the leading districts in this regard.Studies carried out by the State Women’s Commission headed by Chairperson Nayeema Mehjoor revealed that more than 40 percent of women in Kashmir are physically or mentally abused by their husbands or in-laws. Most cases of domestic abuse are usually over demands for dowry, interference from in-laws, misunderstandings between the couple or birth of female babies. The administration of Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital (SMHS) claims to have started registering increasing number of cases of female torching as well as an alarming increase in the rate of female suicides.

Some may disregard these findings, claiming that our religion prohibits such actions and hence, women in our society are treated with love and respect. Sadly this is as true as cheetahs being slow. Religion isn’t the problem, it is the environment we are brought up in. In our society, women are expected to do everything from earning money, to doing house hold chores, to raising children and taking care of the whole family. When the girl is married, she is thought of as a helping hand and not as a daughter in her husband’s house. She is often subjected to so many tortures that suicide is her only way of getting relief.   Very recently on the day of Eid ul Adha, when people were busy performing the Abrahamic tradition of sacrificing animals, a Muslim sister was being burnt alive by her in-laws. Recently, I read about another similar case from Pulwama where a woman was burnt by her husband. Reading about these horrific cases, one can’t help but wonder if we have altogether forgotten the teachings of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). As quoted in the Hadith, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best behaviours, and the best of you are those who are best to their wives.”

In reference to the relationship between a husband and a wife, Abu Hurairah, the Prophet’s companion, says that he heard the Prophet saying, “A believer should bear no malice to his wife, if he dislikes one of her habits, he likes another of them.”

Hopefully our society too will change and our women will once again enjoy the status and respect that our religion grants them.


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