By Khursheed Yousuf
Rafiqa (name changed) ,was born in a poor family, in a small hamlet (name of the village not mentioned) on the banks of Nalla Veshew in South Kashmir’s Kulgam district. She was brought up, cared, loved like any other child by her parents. Her childhood years were simple devoid of any costly toys and items unlike others due to scarce financial resources and earning of her parents. Her father is a laborer having no agriculture land of his own. The family is unable to meet two square meals a day. She left schooling midway due to meager income of the family. Rafiqa has three sisters and one younger brother. One sister is older than Rafiqa and is married.
Rafiqa was married at the age of 19, six months ago to Parvaiz (name changed), 32, in a simple manner. Parvaiz belongs to well off family; however, he is jobless. Rafiqa moved to her new home with aspirations and dreams of a newly wedded bride. Though her dreams were simple, to love and be loved and accepted by in- laws. She ignored the fact being much younger than her husband due to the extreme poverty she had lived. Her parents advised her that whatever circumstances were; keep in- laws and husband happy.
It is pertinent to note here that Rafiqa was unable to bring dowry with her at the time of wedding as the financial circumstances of her family disallowed her. During the first month of the marriage itself, the attitude and behavior of in- laws and husband altogether changed. They started abusing, harassing and demanding dowry and other costly items. Rafiqa, with hands down, faced it thinking that it things would improve with time. However, soon she was subjected to physical and mental torture, beaten ruthlessly and dragged out from house. Her dreams were shattered in no time. Despite the everyday torture, she remained resolute and determined as she was advised by the parents to keep the in-laws and husband happy under any circumstances at the time of her wedding. She never complained to anyone regarding all this due to the reasons better known to her.
The torture has not stopped yet. She is beaten every day and relations with her husband and in laws have only worsened. The domestic violence and demand of dowry amounts to punishment under law, however the fact only when it is reported. Rafiqa, however, has not reported it yet anywhere, unfortunately. This is the story of domestic violence, husband cruelty, which in the final analysis, constitutes a social cancer increasing at alarming rate in our state. Despite living in modern digital world we still practice dowry and related social evils in our society. According to a recent NCRB report, 0.1 crime rate in dowry deaths were reported in Jammu and Kashmir under section 304B IPC as six persons became the victim of dowry deaths in 2016.
As per government reports 639 case of domestic violence were registered in 2014 and 1108 persons were arrested, while as 571 cases of domestic and social violence were registered in 2015 for which 1127 people were detained by the police. Similarly, 422 cases of domestic violence were registered by state police in 2016 for which 583 persons were arrested.
All domestic violence cases are not reported due to various factors that are deep rooted in our society. The social stigma, fear of divorce, unawareness, illiteracy, backwardness, and fear of abandonment, poverty, social boycott, inaccessibility, and other apprehensions among the hapless women victimes are various reasons for not reporting the crime. The females in rural areas are more vulnerable to such kinds of age old social evils.
—The author can be reached at: [email protected]