A study conducted by noted social scientist Prof Bashir Ahmad Dabla has unveiled some dark truths about Kashmir society, and indicated the magnitude of sexual abuse and harassment suffered by women in domestic and work spheres. Even though the Srinagar press reported on the findings of the study, and authorities concerned spoke of initiating remedies, the grave issue seems to have disappeared from the radar of “public opinion” which is generally highly vocal, vehement and learned when blame is to be laid at the doors of others.
Reasons ranging from “modernization” to massive militarization have been cited for this growing menace stalking women even where they are supposed to be safe and secure. In a survey of 200 respondents across Kashmir, the study has found cousins, relatives and neighbours responsible in the domestic context and office colleagues and armed forces in the wider context. It shows that office colleagues and armed forces were responsible for 60 per cent of molestation cases. Contrary to what the moral police assert, appearance and dress have been found to be the cause (sic) in just 2 and 4 percent of cases surveyed.
Molestation, the survey says, mostly happens in crowded places and in farms and fields. The irony is that the clergy accuses women of spreading “immorality” and waywardness. But the study proves the predatory role of males. Most victims never report their ordeal. After studying 66 old cases, Prof Dabla came to know that only five of them had reported to the police. An overwhelming majority of such incidents, therefore, goes unreported, and the women suffer alone. There have been instances when repeated molestation has ended in suicide attempts.
The study discusses in detail the short term and the long term implications on the lives of the victims. That most of them prefer silence may be explained in terms of the tendency to hide actual details. A few respondents have listed the consequences of molestation as losing ones reputation, marital problems, suicide, difficulty in getting proper matches, psychological problems, and extreme and negative reactions from men.
The study was conducted almost a decade ago, and the professor fears that the incidence now would be much higher than when at the time of the survey. He suggests a broad-based social initiative on part of individuals and groups to stop the menace. The administration did a good job a few years ago by reserving seats for women in passenger buses, but more often than not these seats are occupied by men, leaving women at the mercy of sick minds in jam-packed vehicles. There are enough laws to prevent sexual assaults against women, but the job cannot be entrusted to the police entirely. As the professor insists, the fight has to be collective.