Women and Pandemic 

THIS refers to the news story “Plague in Pandemic: Kashmir Witnessing Surge in Women Abuse” published in Kashmir Observer online on 03 June 2021. The news story brings forth the concern regarding the growing incidents of sexual offences-rape and molestation- against women in Kashmir. Even though the increasing number of cases is a cause of concern, there seems no major change in the trend of the reported number of cases for both rapes as well molestation. The increase in the number of the registered cases during the pandemic, therefore, cannot be called “significant” or “startling”. They are just a part of the increasing trend of sexual crimes against women in Kashmir.

The women rights activist quoted in the story has blamed the rise in the number of cases on the “frustration” that has been built over the last two-three years upon the people of Kashmir. People in Kashmir have indeed been virtually locked down ever since the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019. However, is that the reason for the highest number of reported cases in almost 11 years mentioned in the story. If the numbers from 2020 are taken into consideration in isolation, then yes, one might infer that lockdown has contributed to the increase but when viewed along with data available for the previous 10 years, it might appear just another year with its own share of the increase. In fact, the number of reported rapes for the year 2020 and 2013 are very close.

The number of reported and all the unreported cases of sexual crimes against women in Kashmir is gut-wrenching. However given the available data for the 11 years, it would be unwise to blame the pandemic for the increase. That would be exonerating our society and its patriarchy of all their crimes against women in un-pandemic times.

There has indeed been what the United Nations termed a “shadow pandemic”- an abrupt increase in physical and sexual violence against women during pandemic and lockdown. However this violence on women is mostly inflicted by their intimate partners inside their homes and the pandemic/lockdown leaves them without any recourse, essentially leaving them at the mercy of their abuser. Since the laws in Jammu and Kashmir do not acknowledge marital rape and other marital sexual abuses as crime, the number of reported cases of rapes and molestation as mentioned in the news story must not include the “shadow pandemic” cases.

Haris Rashid

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