Sexual harassment of Women in Kashmir
By Syed Aatirah Tahoor
Sairah, 26, has been visiting a gynecologist for years now. She is not able to conceive. Doctors are hopeful that she will be able to bear a child but she has to stop taking anti-depressants, which she says she is unable to live without.
She narrates: “It all started when I was in class ten. One of my relatives visited our home and stayed there for weeks because he had been looking for a job. My parents worked in a private company. One day I came back home and my parents weren’t present. This relative came and looked very dull, I don’t know but I believe I was scared of him that moment. His voice was horrific when he asked for water. I went into the kitchen and within no time he was behind me. I realized pretty late that my clothes were torn, I had bruises and marks all over my body and my private part had bled severely. When I opened my eyes, with a hope that it is a nightmare, I saw my mother besides me weeping and my father was standing near the window. I think he was weeping too. Then he said that we are moving from the town and we will shift to some other place. This thing, whatever happened, needs not to be told, Izzat ka sawaal hai (honour matters). We moved to another city and I was strictly told not to reveal anything, otherwise I won’t get a suitor.
I still remember the pain I went through, physical, emotional and psychological. I used to get nightmares. I couldn’t sleep alone for months. My mother bought me medicines that helped me to sleep. I still can’t sleep if I don’t take those. It has been almost a decade now. I didn’t like to go out. I was forced to stop school so I actually never went out for a year or so. Then as soon as I was 18, my parents decided to get me married. They looked for several boys and men, but I was mostly rejected because I looked weird.
One fine day, I met this guy during the process of looking for a groom. He somehow accepted to marry me and we got engaged the following week. After my engagement, I decided to tell my would-be husband the truth but my family didn’t allow us to meet alone even during our courtship. May be they knew I may not “keep the secret”. I got married after a year. I was 20 then.
I had problems in my marriage because my husband realized I wasn’t virgin and he questioned me about it the very first day after our marriage. I couldn’t resist speaking the truth and that impacted my marriage in a very bad manner. My husband still doesn’t talk to me like husbands should. But I feel lucky that he didn’t confront my family and somehow understood why he wasn’t told the truth.
For past five years we are trying to start a family but I am not able to conceive. Doctors say it is because of the side effect of the sleeping tablets, but I cannot give those up. I cannot live without those. I stillget nightmares of that fateful day, even when I take a nap during day. How would I sleep a whole night without tablets?”
Another girl, Razia, 21, is at a psychiatric clinic. She is with her boyfriend. She narrates her story and says that no girl should ever witness what she has experienced in life. “I used to be a very happy girl, until my cousin’s marriage when I was 14. I and my whole family went there. Everyone was busy in their respective work and I was busy playing, that’s what every child does, isn’t it? One of my cousin’s friends came to me and said he is going to market and wants to take me along. I was happy with the idea but wanted to ask my mother’s permission. Mom permitted with smiling face. As we went to the market, we brought some flowers and bouquets, he told me that he has some work at his home so we will first go there and then go back to the marriage hall. I agreed. As I went in there was no one present in the house. He took me inside and told me to wait in one room until he gets his stuff done. It was taking him longer than expected so I thought of knocking at the door of his room to remind him that we have to go. I went towards his room, the door was partially open and I could see his computer screen. He was watching porn. I knocked and said bhaya it is getting late. He asked me to come in. I resisted saying we need to go but he insisted. I peeped through the door he had minimized that window so I opened the door and said we should go. He came towards me and dragged me in. The only thing I remember now is pain and blood.
He then asked me to clean myself as we had to go. He even beat me. He terrified me and said I must not tell this to anyone otherwise he will say to everyone that I wanted him to do this. I don’t remember exactly what the other blackmails were.
That horror accompanied me for years but I never spoke to anyone about it. It was only when I joined college and met him pointing towards her boyfriend. He brought back my confidence and now takes care of me. He stood by me and that makes me feel that I will get over my horrible past.”
Sairah and Razia are just a few examples. There are many more horrible stories that made me shiver while listening. I get Goosebumps when I recapitulate those stories. I feel I can never pen those down because my shivering hands won’t let me.
Sexual abuse is one of the common crimes and the most concealed crimes in our society. And most of the times the guilty is someone known to the victim. There are hundreds of cases pending in the courts of law and several hundred that get unreported. And those who report it say that they feel they shouldn’t have because the cases are pending for years and guilty is roaming freely.
“He is married now and has two sons. He lives a dignified life and I have been fighting for more than a decade now and I can’t even get married because nobody marries a raped women. I feel I am being punished for standing up for truth and asking for justice. My parents are ashamed of me.
They don’t support me anymore”, said Sheeba who is 33. “The law has to change and we have to be given justice. For how long will we fight and our guilty will roam around us happily, living his life and even enjoying it?” asks Zamirah who was raped by her brother in law soon after her marriage. She was divorced after she decided to file a complaint.
“Two things need to change, if we want the rape victims to live confidently. One is the law that provides bail to the guilty and second is the social taboo of ladki ki izzat lut gayi. Instead, the person who commits this crime should feel that he has stripped his honor and not the victims.” said a lawyer, who has been taking up these cases for years now.
(The article is based on true stories. Names of the people have been changed to respect their identities.)