Kashmiri women’s rights & International Human Rights Day

Recently a two-day conference was organised by FCDO on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict (PSVC). This was an initiative by William Hague and Angelina Jolie, UK Government and Commonwealth countries in 2012.
UN member countries and international institutions and non-governmental organisations attended first global summit in 2014. The aim was to end the Sexual Violence in Conflict with the political will to put PSVC on the world map for peace and security.
2nd global summit was organised on 28th and 29th of November in Elizabeth Hall Westminster London. A large number of women social activists, government representatives, Nobel Prize winners, ministers and legal experts were present there. The FCDO PSVC conference was attended by inspiring speakers on several Panels and plenary sessions. Many participants were Nobel Peace Prize laureates. The conference was an attempt calling for justice to the suffering women due to sexual violence in conflict and various human rights violations with children.
In this conference, issues concerning women in the conflict areas were highlighted. Some strong voices reflected the situation on the ground and pleaded for preventing sexual violence in conflict. Prime Minister’s special representative David Millband and Lord Tariq Ahmed and Nadine Tunasi were main speakers in the conference. Different organizations were allowed to display their exhibits regarding women issues.
Political declaration declared that sexual violence in conflict zones should be eliminated and governments should discharge their constitutional duties. But India did not sign this political declaration. Barrister Margret Own, Chairperson Widows for Peace, strongly emphasized the UK Government not to sell arms to those countries that are the perpetrators of sexual violence in conflict areas like Kashmir.
It means India doesn’t want an international scrutiny on all the allegations documented by various international institutions, national organizations and by United Nations Human Rights Commissioner. Some of the incidents that have taken place like Kunanposhpora, Neelofar and Aasiya Shopian case, Sopore incident and baby Asifa’s case are testimonies of grave human rights violations.
On this International Day of Women, we want to remind FCDO of Great Britain that the situation pertaining to women rights violated by Indian government were ignored in the discourse of preventing sexual violence in conflict area of Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
Violations taking place anywhere in the world are in contravention to UN Charter, Geneva Convention and International Law.
The term “Conflict-related Sexual Violence”, refers to rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, enforced sterilization, forced marriage, and any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity perpetrated against women, men, girls, or boys that is directly or indirectly linked to a conflict. This may be evident in the profile of the perpetrator, who is often affiliated with a State or Non-State armed group, including those designated as terrorist groups by the United Nations; the profile of the victim, who is frequently an actual or perceived member of a persecuted political, ethnic or religious minority, or targeted on the basis of actual or perceived sexual; orientation or gender identity; a climate of impunity, which is generally associated with State collapse and or knowingly; cross-border consequences, such as displacement or trafficking; and/or violations of the provisions of a ceasefire agreement. While many unrepresented peoples and nations are affected by the threat, occurrence or legacy of conflict related sexual violence, the majority of those are non-State actors, with several having been designated as terrorist groups according to the sanctions list of the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolution 1267 (1999), 1989 (2011), and 2253 (2015). Nonetheless, there are UN Members States who are engaged in conflict related sexual violence as a tactic using their national military and police forces for perpetrating sexual violence and harassment as a form of reprisal. Indeed, intersecting humanitarian, security and political crisis exacerbated the root causes of conflict related sexual violence including militarisation, proliferation of arms and above all impunity to those who carry out such heinous crimes against humanity. Equally gender based hate speech and incitement to violence are evident in public discourse including on digital platforms in such countries. It needs to be noted that sexual violence has massive psychological impact on victims and further impedes women’s livelihood activities particularly against the backdrop of economic shocks and poverty driven by protracted conflict and now the pandemic related restrictions. It is deeply regrettable that recourse to military engagement rather than political and diplomatic is preferred which leads to significant displacement on massive scale, exposing civilians to heightened levels of sexual violence.
The ongoing plight of Ukraine nationals in particular conflict related sexual violence against women and girls seen on the television screens almost on a daily basis is pathetic. The UN and its Security Council appear to be helpless. So is the case with the unrepresented people of Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir. Gender-based sexual violence is a norm there for over 75 years. The sexual violence horror of Kunanposhpora is known to the international community. Prominent Indian writer and human rights activist, Arundhati Roy has said that the Indian army and police are using rape as a weapon against people in Kashmir and parts of India like Manipur.
There have been many reports of mass rapes carried out by Indian army officers since 1990, which marked the escalation of conflict in the region. Rape most often occurs during crackdowns; cordon and search operations where men are held for identification in parks or schoolyards while Indian forces’ personnel search their homes. In these situations, the forces’ personnel frequently engage in collective punishment against the civilian population. Rape is used as a means of targeting women whom the forces’ personnel accuse of being militant sympathisers; in raping them, they are attempting to punish and humiliate the entire community. Rapes are often used as counter attacks to militant strikes on the Indian army.
On February 23, 1991, in Kunanposhpora, soldiers of the Fourth Rajputana Rifles gang-raped 23 ladies, according to the report made by then Deputy Commissioner Kupwara, S M Yasin. Despite investigations into the incident, no one has been prosecuted for the crime committed in Kunanposhpora.
On the night of October 10, 1992, an army unit of the 22nd Grenadiers entered the village of Chak, near Shopian, on a search operation for suspected militants. During the operation, at least six women, including an eleven-year old girl and a 60-year-old woman, were gang-raped by several army soldiers.
On July 1992 and on October 1, 1992, in the villages of Haran and Gurikhan Indian forces’ personnel raped women and this was reported by ‘Asia Watch’. There are other such incidents and which are recorded by international human rights organizations like Aasiya and Neelofar rape and murder case in Shopian.
The latest case of 8-year-old baby Asifa was highlighted at the UNHRC Geneva in 2018 and in EU parliament. The perpetrators have not been brought to justice till date.
UN has failed to remove military from Kashmir which is involved in sexual abuse and humiliation of women during cordon and search operations. Widows and half-widows whose husbands were killed or disappeared during these years of turmoil are not compensated by the authorities. Survivors and orphans are waiting for justice. The truth is that the Kashmiri women suffering under the Indian occupation stand ignored under the very radar of international law. World conscience should play a role to end the trauma of Kashmiri women.

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