Sexual violence is a key human rights concern in Kashmir. When will the world pay heed?
Sexual violence including rape is often used as an instrument by Indian security personnel against Kashmiri women. There have been several cases of sexual abuse and rape of women in custody, but such acts are conveniently swept under the carpet. A case that took place in May 1990 in Indian-occupied Kashmir’s Anantang district was particularly disturbing and it generated some kind of debate about the Indian security forces’ abuses. A bride named Mubeena, then 25, along with her pregnant aunt, was raped by at least four BSF personnel the night she was supposed to get married. The incident took place when the wedding party was intercepted and the car carrying the bride and groom was stopped. Mubeena’s father, the groom and other male passengers were shot, while the two women were taken to the nearby field and raped.
This horrific incident spread a wave of fear in Kashmir and for decades, people held wedding ceremonies only in broad daylight to avoid such an untoward situation. Although an FIR was lodged, and the occurrence of rape was established, the perpetrators faced no consequences. Such incidents continue to take place in the occupied valley.
In 2018, a report of the United Nation High Commissioner for Human Rights, said impunity for sexual violence is a ‘key ongoing human rights concern in Kashmir’. The report blamed the authorities for their failure to independently investigate and prosecute allegations of sexual violence by security forces personnel.
“There is no record of allegations of sexual violence by security forces being prosecuted in a civilian court. In February 2018, the Support Group for Justice for Kunan Poshpora Survivors filed a petition before the State Human Rights Commission, urging the investigation into all cases of alleged sexual assault by security forces and non-State actors as well as reparations for survivors,” the report states.
It further says that the group provided the Commission with documentation in 143 cases of alleged sexual violence committed between 1989 and 2017. In the 2013 report on her mission to India, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, said, “[W]omen living in militarized regions, such as Jammu and Kashmir and the north-eastern states, live in a constant state of siege and surveillance, whether in their homes or in public. Information received through both written and oral testimonies highlighted the use of mass rape, allegedly by members of the State security forces, as well as acts of enforced disappearance, killings and acts of torture and ill-treatment, which were used to intimidate and to counteract political opposition and insurgency.”