Civil society seeks international probe into sexual violence in Valley

SRINAGAR: Shortly after Global Summit on Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict was held in London, many civil society members of Jammu and Kashmir are jointly making an effort to get international community’s help in ending “sexual violence as a weapon of war” in Kashmir Valley.
About two dozen civil society members, some of the based abroad, have written an open letter to UK’s Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, William Hague, asking him to support an “independent international investigation” into the rapes and sexual violence that have occurred in the Valley since 1989.
Among the signatories of the letter, posted on pulsemedia.org, is researcher Aaliya Anjum; London-based historian Alex von Tunzelmann; lecturer from Seton Hall University, US, Dr Amrita Ghosh; Executive Editor Kashmir Times Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal; novelist Aruni Kashyap; anthropologist Ather Zia; civil rights activist and author Gautam Navlakha; human rights activist Khurram Parvez; and novelist and journalist Mirza Waheed.
“We must speak against rape as a weapon of war in Kashmir and foreground the survivors whose suffering you have neglected throughout the two-year high profile global campaign,” reads the letter.
“We are writing to ask you to support an independent international investigation into the rapes and sexual violence that take place in Kashmir since 1989 as a weapon of war,” it adds.
Saying that New Delhi “grants its military occupying Kashmir legal impunity so that they cannot be prosecuted for rape and other violent crimes including murder”, the signatories have appealed the international community to break its “long and unconscionable silence” over rapes in the “internationally recognised disputed region of Kashmir.”
“The Indian armed forces in such areas remain immune from prosecution for rape, sexual assault and murder under protection from the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act.  Rape as a weapon of war is thus legitimised and legalised, making it impossible to end sexual violence in Kashmir,” the letter reads, including the mention of Kunan-Poshpora mass rape and the alleged twin rape and murder of Shopian.
To maintain the “credibility and moral integrity” of the ongoing global campaign, the members have asked the campaigners to “support the rape victims and survivors in Kashmir who continue to struggle for justice”.