Nowhere to turn for women facing violence in Kashmir

‘If he can kill our child, he can kill me as well.’

The threat of violence against women is escalating amid coronavirus lockdowns around the globe. But one region that has lived through a military clampdown for nearly a year – Indian-administered Kashmir – could have foretold the surge.

Being shut in by government order is nothing new in Kashmir, nor is the resulting spike in gender-based violence, women’s advocates say. 

The region has seen decades of conflictmilitarisationprotests, and violent crackdowns. Kashmir has essentially been on lockdown since August 2019, when India scrapped the region’s semi-autonomous status, bringing the former state of Jammu and Kashmir under direct control of the central government. Authorities imposed a communications blockade and security forces patrolled the streets, shut down public transportation, and closed markets. 

Though some restrictions continued to ease in early 2020, India-wide coronavirus lockdowns beginning in March extended clampdown conditions in an already militarised region – and kept survivors of domestic violence shut in with their abusers.

Cases of domestic violence and general violence against women surged tenfold to more than 3,000 a year during a previous clampdown in 2016 and 2017, according to statistics from the Jammu and Kashmir State Commission for Women, a now-defunct government institution established to protect women and children’s rights and ensure quick prosecutions.

Today, Kashmir’s women face both the military lockdown and the pandemic, but there’s little help available for survivors of gender-based violence. 

There are no domestic violence shelters in Kashmir. Blockades on mobile phone connections are frequently re-imposed, while movement restrictions hamper NGOs from doing their work. And India disbanded the women’s commission last year along with Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood – axing a government body that advocated for survivors of gender-based violence.


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