Skip to main content

Kashmir's half-widows: "Gender neutral" international, Indian, Islamic laws fail to address women's plight

By Our Representative
A recent interview-based policy paper says that, not just Indian laws, but even international laws, as also Islamic jurisdiction, fail to address the plight of an estimate 4,000 to 8,000 half-widows of Kashmir. They are called half-widows because their husbands have “disappeared” in strife-torn Kashmir Valley, never to return.
Their problem becomes even more vulnerable because, the policy paper says, India has not ratified the UN convention enforced disappearances (CED) or accepted its jurisdiction. It indicates lack of India’s willingness to prosecute the crime of enforced disappearances in Kashmir.”
Titled “The Plight of Kashmiri Half-Widows”, by Deya Bhattacharya, released by the Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy” (2016), the policy paper is based on interviews with what 55 “half-widows” in November 2014 and another 35 between May and August 2015 in Srinagar, Bandipore, Budgam and Kupwara district.
The paper regrets, appallingly, even the “international law makes it difficult to define the half-widow as an isolated victim, independent of the continuous crime of enforced disappearance that her husband was a direct victim of, thereby establishing the primary victim/secondary victim dichotomy.”
This is because, says the paper, “Except for the CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, an international treaty adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly), all the instruments adhere to a strict gender-neutral manner of defining harms.”
Suggesting that even the community to which majority of half-wives belong provides little help, the paper says, “Under Islamic jurisprudence, a widow with children gets one-eighth of her husband’s property. A widow without children gets one-fourth. A half-widow, till her husband is declared dead, gets nothing.”
It adds, “Islam encourages remarriage, and it would probably make sense for half-widows to get remarried so that their vulnerability is not exploited. However, not many widows prefer to remarry.”
As for India, the paper says, “Enforced disappearance is not a codified crime under any law either in Jammu & Kashmir or in India. Despite a number of international conventions and a customary international law that prohibit the crime of enforced disappearance, it will be practically impossible to make these applicable in India unless it ratifies the treaties and/or makes a legislation on the same.”
The paper underlines, “The state has not acknowledged the crimes by its agents, and has repeatedly maintained that the whole Kashmir affair has been something of a ‘proxy war’ with Pakistan”, adding, “It maintains that there is heavy terrorist activity in the area, and that laws like the AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) are necessary in the interests of national security.”
Even the ex-gratia relief mechanism is faulty, as is not backed by law, but by a government official order, the paper says. The half-widow must apply to the district magistrate for ex-gratia. Application goes to the district screening-cum-coordinator committee”, which must “ascertaining whether the disappeared person can be presumed dead.”
Interestingly, the paper says, the “committee is in no way an impartial one — it is constituted of officials and representatives from the police, the security forces as well as governmental agencies. Many a times, the committee might comprise the same people who perpetrated the crimes.”
The result is that the interviewed women say that, while the security forces claim to share classified information about the whereabouts of their husbands/sons “a class of ‘messengers’ has sprung up and made a business out of this desperation, charging exorbitant amounts.”
And, many a time, women are subjected “sexual harassment, during their search for their husbands, remain silent about the ways in which the state or non-state actors have violated their private spaces…”
---
Click HERE to download the paper

Comments

TRENDING

Call to support IIM-Bangalore professor, censured for seeking action against Uniliver

Counterview Desk
Sections of the Indian Institute of Managements (IIMs) across India have strongly reacted to the decision to censure Dr Deepak Malghan, a faulty at IIM-Bangalore. Prabhir Vishnu Poruthiyil, who is faculty at IIM-Tiruchirapalli, has sought wider solidarity with Dr Malghan, saying, "The administration has censured Deepak for merely suggesting a meaningful action against Hindustan Unilever for their abysmal environmental record" by “disinviting” it for campus placement.

Actionable programme for 2019 polls amidst lynch mobs, caste violence, hate mongering

Counterview Desk
Reclaiming the Republic, a civil rights network, has released a document prepared under the chairmanship of Justice AP Shah (retired) -- and backed, among others, by Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan, bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist Harsh Mander, economist Prabhat Patnaik, Right to transparency activist Anjali Bhardwaj and social scientist Yogendra Yadav  (click HERE for full list) -- with the "aim" of putting forth policy and legislative reforms needed to “protect” and “strengthen” the Constitutional safeguards for India’s democratic polity.

Noam Chomsky, top scholars ask NRIs to take stand on human rights violations in India

Counterview Desk
Renowned world scholars, including Noam Chomsky, James Petras, Angela Davis, Fredric Jameson, Bruno Latour, Ilan Pappe, Judith Butler, among others, have issued a statement castigating the Narendra Modi government for allegedly creating an environment of fear through arrests, intimidation and violence.

India under Modi "promoted" crony business, protected financial fraudsters, fueled bigotry

By Sandeep* and Rahul Pandey**
Narendra Modi's ascension to power was accompanied with jubilation and expectation. His supporters were expecting an end to era of corruption and initiation of good governance which was described as Achche Din. His party's adherence to idea of nationalism was believed to make India a vibrant country and guide India to be a world leader. He gave the slogan of 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas' conveying that his government was for all.
Corruption The government system is infested with corruption. A minimum of 10% is siphoned off from government schemes and projects, some of which goes back to political party in power and remaining is pocketed by various administrative, executive and political functionaries. This corruption continues and has increased. Now an additional Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) person working as Official on Special Duty or some equivalent position in every government department also has a share in this booty.
The Narendra M…

Inviting Rajapaksa to India "insult" to 1,40,000 Tamils killed by Sri Lankan army

Counterview Desk
In the context of Sri Lankan opposition leader Mahinda Rajapaksa being invited in India, about 75 human rights activists*, claiming to be concerned about rights violations during the civil war in Sri Lanka, especially in 2009, have joined together to express their dissent through a statement.

A Godse legacy? BJP rulers have "refrained" from calling Gandhi Father of the Nation

By Dr Hari Desai*
What an agony! On one hand, the entire India is celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but on the other side, so-called Hindu Mahasabha members have been found mock-enacting the killing of the Mahatma and celebrating the murder by distributing sweets!

No aadhaar, no ration? Hard blow by Gujarat govt on poor and marginalized

By Pankti Jog*
Only those who have aadhaar registration and linked it with ration card will get ration from a Public Distribution System (PDS) shop. This decision of the Gujarat government has hit very badly thousands of poor and marginalized communities of Gujarat, especially during the drought year.

Post-advisory, Govt of India appears reluctant to ban e-cigarettes, "harmful" to kids

By Rajiv Shah
Is the Government of India dilly-dallying over the issue of banning e-cigarettes, which have been declared by anti-tobacco activists across the world as providing “an entryway to nicotine addiction”, especially among the kids? It would seem so, if the latest developments are any guide.

Poser to Modi: Why is Gujarat not fulfilling Constitutional obligations to minorities?

Counterview Desk
In an open letter, Mujahid Nafees, convener, Minority Coordination Committee (MCC), a Gujarat-based civil rights organization, has accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi on infringing upon MCC activists’ constitutional right to protest. Nafees says, they had no other demands except that the Gujarat government should move towards fulfilling the constitutional obligations towards minorities and international treaties to which India is a signatory.

World Bank needs a new perspective on development, not just a new president

By Maju Varghese*
The resignation of the World Bank President Jim Yong Kim was an unexpected development given the fact that he had three more years to complete his tenure. Resignations at such a high level after bidding for a second term is unusual which prompts people to think what would have led to the act itself.