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Article: ‘Locked in silence: Women’s Day Reflections on Kashmir’s Untold Stories

Qurat ul ain Ali

Every year, on the 8th of March, International Women’s Day is observed globally to honor the achievements of women, raise awareness about gender disparities and discrimination, and advocate for universal support for women’s rights. The theme for International Women’s Day 2024 is “Inspire Inclusion.” This theme underscores the importance of fostering an environment where women are valued, respected, and included in all aspects of society.

When we inspire others to recognize and appreciate the inclusion of women, we contribute to the creation of a more equitable and prosperous world. Moreover, when women are actively encouraged to participate, they experience a sense of belonging, significance, and empowerment. Let us collectively endeavor to build a more inclusive world for women. At the individual level, it is imperative to acknowledge, appreciate, and actively promote the inclusion of women and girls. Furthermore, sharing knowledge, support, and encouragement with others is essential in advancing gender equality. On an organizational or group level, there are various strategies to ensure that the needs, interests, and aspirations of women and girls are valued and included. Organizations and groups can #Inspire Inclusion through actions such as:

• Facilitating women’s economic empowerment.
• Implementing inclusive recruitment, retention, and professional development strategies to cultivate diverse talent pools within organizations.
• Advocating for and supporting women’s leadership roles.
• Ensuring infrastructure projects with specific needs and safety concerns of women and girls.
• Providing comprehensive health education and services to empower women.
• Engaging women and girls in sustainable agriculture practices.
• Encouraging female participation and achievements in sports.
• Promoting the creative and artistic endeavors of women

As the world observes International Women’s Day this Friday 8th March 2024, it is important to acknowledge the ongoing sufferings and victimization of Kashmiri women at the hands of Indian troops, police, and agencies in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK). We honor the resilient women of Kashmir who have borne the brunt of Indian atrocities in IIOJK on this International Women’s Day. Additionally, we recognize the strength and resilience displayed by Kashmiri women in the face of ongoing hardships in IIOJK. The women of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir have endured widespread devastation and faced obstacles that hinder their access to essential needs and their ability to lead dignified lives. Kashmiri women, widowed and orphaned in alleged fake encounters by Indian forces, are denied the chance to mourn their lost family members. They are forced into the role of sole breadwinners for their families. Decades of turmoil have profoundly impacted women in the occupied valley.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), India recorded 275 cases of custodial rape between 2017 and 2022, involving perpetrators from law enforcement, armed forces, and other custodial facilities, reflecting an abuse of power under the guise of state protection. Incidents such as the gang rape in Kunan Poshpora in 1991, the double murder and rape in Shopian, and the gang rape of young Asifa Bano are among the most egregious examples of the nightmare faced by women in Kashmir. Over 11,000 cases of sexual violence have been reported since 1989 in IIOJK, leaving nearly 23,000 women widowed and over 107,805 children orphaned.

Since the partition of the Indian subcontinent, Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) has witnessed persistent oppression escalating into frequent bloodshed. Women in the region bear indelible scars from the protracted conflict, enduring physical and mental assaults by Indian soldiers. The muted cries of these intimidated souls resonate through the valleys of IIOJK, steeped in strife and despair. India has earned the dubious distinction of being labeled the world’s most dangerous country for women, a designation accentuated by the numerous atrocities inflicted upon Kashmiri women.

In reference to the Kashmir Media Service, there have been approximately 11,256 cases of molestation or group rape of women in IIOJK between January 1989 and December 2022. Shockingly, 22,954 women have been widowed, and 7,282 women have lost their lives while in the custody of Indian forces. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released two reports on the state of human rights in IIOJK, documenting numerous human rights violations, including kidnappings, civilian killings, and sexual assaults. Despite these grave violations, not a single Indian officer has been held accountable in court over the last 30 years, underscoring the ongoing impunity enjoyed by perpetrators.

Aasiya Andrabi, Fehmeeda Sofi, Naheeda Nasreen, Insha Tariq Shah, Saima Akther, Shazia Akhter, Afroza, Aisha Mustaq, Hina Bashir Beig, Nusrat Jan, Shabroza Bano and Aasiya Bano were unlawfully detained in the prisons of Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) and the notorious Tihar Jail in New Delhi. They are facing persecution solely for advocating the just cause of the right to self-determination and the aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

The state-sponsored violence in IIOJK constitutes a flagrant violation of human rights. The Indian Prime Minister Modi-led regime in India persists in its oppressive tactics, largely unchecked by international pressure. It is imperative for the international community to address the crimes committed by India in IIOJK to prevent a regional catastrophe. Pakistan consistently advocates for the rights of Kashmiris in international forums and calls for the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions to achieve a just settlement of the Kashmir dispute. Kashmiri women deserve to live free from oppression and enjoy their rights and freedoms, including the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. Pakistan will continue to extend political, diplomatic, and moral support to our Kashmiri brothers and sisters for a just and peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.

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