Article: Kashmiri women and the speculative male gaze

Yasmeen Khan

Unreported sexual violence along with uncomfortable silence creates dejected environment for Kashmiri women

The comprehensive life experience of Kashmiri Women in the valley is often overlooked when it comes to the male gaze through the eyes of security forces. The gender imperative human security for the cross-section of women has seen an unending paradigm shift since years altogether. The political constraints are cited as one of the major reasons causing threat to the gender based human security.

Experts say that the cases of sexual abuse go unreported because women in the valley fear the retaliation and associated stigma over voicing the constant male gaze through the eyes of security personnel.

A fat black man stationed at a bunker few hundred meters away from Fatima’s home with his eyes fixed on her chest, slowly started passing lewd comments, take his tongue out and sigh in an inappropriate manner. Fatima lowered her head and pretended that she did not hear any of his comments.

Due to the impact of militarization and in the name of protecting the people of Kashmir, the sexual harassment through the hands of security personals has become a routine and is widely spread throughout the valley taking a toll on the mental health of the women.

Sana (name changed) from Delhi arrives at Srinagar and parked her vehicle near Ghanta Ghar in Lal Chowk to purchase clothing from one of the government clothing stores in partnership with the JK Tourism. One of the Central Reserve Police Force personnel (CRPF) starts blowing whistles and asked her to move her car that was placed appropriately in a distant yet adjacent to the armored vehicle of CRPF. Sana tried to explain her part of the fact however the coarse voice and rude gesture of CRPF Personnel compelled her to move her car despite being logical. The incident not only bothers the Kashmiri women but also the outsiders who visit the valley.

There have been incidents where the CRPF Personnel indulged in catcalling and singing loudly every time a woman passes by. With no hope from police stations and courtrooms, women also fear being dragged into the court rooms and confronting the perpetrators alongside the stigma prevalent in the Kashmiri society.

With lack of policy change, men in uniform are continuing the sexual violence to brutalize and dehumanize the society by enjoying the impunity and institutional support and till date not a single security person has been prosecuted in the civilian court.

With zero interference from the concerned authorities and sexist comments directed towards Kashmiri women in India, women in Kashmir are living with hurling of cuss words resulting in physical and psychological problems. The range of atrocities is now becoming more evident than ever before.

“Collective silence of women over the range of atrocities through the eyes of security persons needs to be addressed and countered. To end this cycle of unreported crime, NGO’s and women’s collective centers should be formed across the valley in order to help the victims of sexual abuse and harassment,” said a student. — Courtesy Muslim Mirror

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