Why gender-based violence of any nature is tabooed in Kashmir?

The recent incident that took place in Shopian from South Kashmir, sent shock waves across the valley. A woman was beaten to death by a peer, a faith healer. And ironically it was her husband who took her to the peer citing some evil spirit had taken over her body. The incident took place on Tuesday, and the faith healer was later arrested. According to eyewitnesses which were reported by many local newspapers: the woman was crying for help, but when her mother went to help her, even she was beaten.

However, this is not just one incident. Women across the world have been subjected to all kinds of violence, this violence is termed gender-based violence. In Kashmir in particular, society has never been open to talking about such things, because gender-based violence of any nature is tabooed. When it comes to violence like domestic violence, eve-teasing, sexual harassment, rapes, attempts to rape, and child sexual abuse everything is tabooed or stereotyped. The people brush these things under the rug.

In this 21st century where people are talking about equity and equality, there are still things that need to be worked on.

“In Kashmir, if you talk about women’s issues, they are all one way or the other shushed down. Because too many taboos you know,” says a young girl who wanted to be unidentified.

Be it women’s issues pertaining to their health, or how society objectifies them, everything has to be kept hidden.  According to some data and reports that have been published by local newspapers over the years, there has been a sharp increase in crimes against women in the past few years.

There have been multiple incidents of rapes, sexual assaults, attempts to rape, dowry deaths, deaths due to domestic violence etc. However such cases are not reported most of the time, and victims are left helpless.

“Due to the fact that everything becomes a matter of honour, victims do not talk about it,”  a young girl comments.

“The victims and their families in most of the cases think about their honour, so they are just left to deal with their traumas,” she stresses.

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When it comes to incidents of eve-teasing, they happen on a daily basis and women, girls regardless of their ages continue to suffer.

“I was coming back from school when a guy started following me on my way back to home. I did not take it seriously at first but then he started stalking me on a daily basis. Asking me for my contact. Until one day when I felt he was going to follow me to my gate. I entered a neighbour’s house where I asked the aunty there for help. When she confronted the boy, he was extremely disrespectful and swore at me and her, I was shaking with fear,”  a teenage girl told Ground Report. She also recalled, “I could not tell this to my parents for days, because I feared they may panic. But then one day I mustered my courage and I told my mother about it as I was suffering silently. And my mother and I started sobbing.”

However, all girls are not this fortunate.

21 years old young girl (identity withheld) shared a horrifying incident with Ground Report. She said, “It was in 2014 I was coming back from my tuition centre, early in the morning. It was the month of January. I was walking and two young boys who barely would have been fourteen years old at that time, started following me. I thought they were stalking me for my number, but one of them grabbed me while the other one was on the lookout if anyone would come. I somehow managed to free myself and scream but the trauma of those dirty touches will remain with me forever. It was the worst nightmare of my life. I have not left my home alone since.”

This incident of sexual harassment is not just one incident there are many more cases of such nature. But no one talks about them.

There have been several incidents of crimes against women that made it to the headlines but several such which never could.

“I remember as a child I lived in a mohalla, where a young child, barely eight went missing for two days or so. And after two days some boys discovered her body. Police took her body for autopsy where it was revealed that she was sexually assaulted. It has been more than fifteen years since, but I never heard of it again,” recalls a young woman.

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Even for domestic violence most of the women face it but never talk about it.

A woman in her forties has been a victim of domestic abuse and recalls, “I was beaten every day, some days my husband kicked me, other days he used to beat me with his hands. I tolerated it all just for the sake of my kids. I have two children. Even after my father in law, my mother in law tried to stop him he would not stop. But one day when it became intolerable for me, I snapped back at him. I hurled him with abuses and I pushed him back. After that one incident, he never raised his hand to me. Though we still fight but it has been almost ten years now he has not abused me. But the horror of those three years of abuse remains.”

Women, in this part of the world where there are endless stories of such nature, still continue to battle these nightmares. They battle all kinds of harassment, all kinds of violence, health issues, and social issues. But in most of the cases are either silenced or choose to remain silent. Reason unknown or maybe known but people do not want to talk about that as well. ” And that is why no one can hear them!”

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