SRINAGAR: Domestic violence against women has steadily increased in Kashmir, despite stringent laws, and scores of women are falling prey to the violence of their husbands and the in-laws every day.
Police records suggest that five women died in 2014 while this figure jumped to six in 2015. The official figure reveals that from 2014 to 2016, 312 females were forced to commit suicide. Police have booked 361 accused across the Kashmir Valley so far.
Divulging information about the crime-rate against women, an official from the Jammu and Kashmir Police Department said that 3,960 cases relating to violence against women were reported over seven years in J&K in which 5,150 accused were booked. In Jammu district alone, 638 such cases have been reported, followed by Srinagar city (387), Doda (335), Udhampur (148), Poonch (135), Baramulla (105), Anantnag (79), Kishtwar (76), Kupwara (64), Ramban 58, Samba 51, Reasi 45, Rajouri 40, Ganderbal 32, Budgam 31, Pulwama 31, Bandipora (24), Shopian (24), Kulgam (18) and Kargil (4). A solitary case of domestic violence against woman was reported from Leh district of Ladakh.
Women’s Police Station Rambagh receives 10 to 15 complaints of domestic violence every day. “There has been a steep increase in cases related to violence against women, particularly from the past few years. Incidents related to domestic violence or matrimonial disputes are on the rise. We received 29 cases in 2016 while in just seven months of 2017, the case list is already 23,” a senior police woman said.
“These days tolerance level has reduced resulting into increased incidents of violence. After their marriages, girls find their in-laws’ attitude different that results in more problems, and ultimately these cases land in police station,” she said.
However, the registered and filed complaints are not the only cases of domestic violence in Kashmir. A number of silent sufferers exists that makes it increasingly difficult to tackle the problem.
“We come to know about cases of domestic violence through surveys. This is because of the reluctance of the victims to file a case, owing to social stigma. Large numbers of victims do not want to register their complaints to avoid legal hassles and other cumbersome procedures,” the police official said.
Ruhi Jan, age 26, alleged that she was subjected to domestic violence at her husband’s house in Pampore area of Pulwama district.
She said that shortly after her marriage, her in-laws unleashed atrocities on her and threatened to kill her. Her brother Tahir Ahmed related, “On August 24, 2014, she was married to Arshid Ahmad Mir, a resident of Kadlabal Pampore. Right from the first week of the marriage, he began mistreating her. He would beat her and ask her to get money from her family so that he could start his business.”
The in-laws would beat her regularly, Tahir said, but she never uttered a word in the hope that things might change. “That was her biggest mistake. She should have informed us in the beginning. She was tortured both physically and emotionally. She only told us when it was unbearable for her.”
Tahir alleged that on July 7, she was locked up alone in a room and kerosene oil was thrown over her. “They had planned to burn her alive, but she managed to escape their clutches and reached home,” Tahir said.
In addition to severe emotional and physical torture perpetrated on victims, domestic violence has also deteriorated the mental health condition of many women in the Valley over the last decade.
“Today women in Kashmir constitute 55 percent of the patients visiting Kashmir’s sole mental health hospital, located in Srinagar, with most suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” said Dr Mohammad Younis, a psychiatrist.
Dr Younis believes that in contemporary times women are more prone to PTSD than men. “There are thousands of women still hiding behind the doors of their houses who, because of illiteracy and social taboos, continue to suffer silently”.
Social scientists believe that the changing role of women in society has resulted in violence against them.
Nayeema Mehjoor, chairperson of the State Women’s Commission (SWC) said, “Earlier our daughters were illiterate. Literacy and employment rates of women have now increased. They are coming out of their homes and have empowerment and education. At the same time it has also given rise to different sets of demands in wedlock. Boys started demanding working women with more dowries, resulting in violence against the womenfolk.”
Nayeema also stressed the importance of the establishment of family courts to deal with and resolve chronic as well as fresh cases.
“In addition to police and courts, the role of mohalla committees seems highly relevant,” she added.