Jammu and Kashmir State Commission for Protection of Women and Child Rights was scrapped soon after the Centre abrogated Article 370 of Constitution on August 5, 2019
Arifa Bano, a 30-year-old woman got married to a man from north Kashmir’s Baramulla in 2016. She gave birth to a baby girl in 2017. Soon after, things started getting uneasy for her as she had to face mental and physical torture from her husband and in-laws.
She landed at her parents’ home several times with bruises on her body. “My husband would easily lose his cool and would often beat me up for no reason at all. He and his younger sister would accuse me of not taking care of the family and cooking food that did not taste good,” she narrated in a broken voice.
“My mother would tell me to bear it for the sake of my child. I remained quiet for some time. Then in January 2019, things became unbearable for me. I took my baby and returned to my parents ‘ home,” she said.
In June 2019, she approached the J&K State Commission for Protection of Women and Child Rights with a complaint of domestic violence. However, the Commission along with six other Commissions were disbanded after the PM Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre stripped Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) of its special status under Article 370 of the Constitution and divided the state into two Union Territories.
Over 18-months later, there is no platform for women in J&K which they can approach for such cases.
The J&K State Commission for Protection of Women and Child Rights was created in April 1999 to investigate and examine matters relating to safeguards provided for women under the Indian Constitution and other laws.
“I don’t know whom I should approach. It is not possible to go to the court due to our poor financial condition. The world is celebrating Women’s Day on March 8, but Kashmiri women don’t even have recourse to any government agency for our basic rights,” Bano said.
Like Bano, Rukhsana Jan, a 35-year-old woman from south Kashmir’s Pulwama district is also a victim of domestic violence.
She was married in the same district in 2014. For two years, things were fine. However, her husband and brother-in-law started hitting her after she gave birth to a second female baby. “My first daughter was born in 2015 and another in 2017. I had to face mental torture as my in-laws wanted me to have a male baby. But it’s not my fault that I did not give birth to a male baby. I was ill-treated by in-laws. I often had to seek refuge at my parents’ home to save myself from the torture,” she shared. She has now been living with her parents for the last two years.
In March 2019, she had also approached J&K State Commission for Protection of Women and Child Rights. However, before the commission could have helped her, it was disbanded.
There are hundreds of women like Jan and Bano who face domestic violence. But they have nowhere to go to seek justice in the absence of a women’s commission in J&K.
Senior Supreme Court lawyer Vasundhara Pathak Masoodi, who was the last chairperson of J&K State Commission for Protection of Women and Child Rights before it ceased to exist, said she continues to receive complaints from victims of domestic violence and sexual harassment.