Hearing the word feminism may raise a few eyebrows, unfortunately, due to a general and sometimes deliberate misunderstanding of the term. Feminism may mean different things to different people, after all in its politico-philosophical sense we have a plethora of ideologies that come within the ambit of what we call as Feminism.
For me, feminism is a way of looking at the world from the eyes of a woman, not as a cog in the larger male narrative, but as a complete individual in herself. This is precisely what I tried to achieve in my recently published study on the Kashmir conflict.
It does not require an expertise in any of the social sciences to realise the injustice that has been done, in an extremely organized and well-thought manner, to half of the human race – women.
What it requires is a humanistic outlook of the world and that is what gave me the impetus to write the aforementioned paper Feminist perspective on conflict: A case Study of Kashmir: Post 1989.
Those interested might refer to the original work, but I found it inescapable to put my findings in the public domain.
Kashmir like any other conflict-ridden area has seen women facing the brunt of violence, while not being partners to the dispute.
To a large extent, they are still considered a war booty, tough the ways of representing the same have changed. Who can deny the extent to which women have suffered in the conflict: from being killed and maimed to being molested and abused.
Going from pillar to post, in desperation, trying to find traces of their husband, named as half-widows: which has become an essential part of the Kashmiri lexicon. But what we wish away – the elephant in the room, is the social construct of honour and shame, that not only incites gun welding men to commit atrocities on women but also makes lives of the victims far miserable than death, once the crime against them has been perpetrated.
A society intoxicated in patriarchy puts the honour of their entire community and family in a women’s body. The ramification of which is to use and abuse them as a weapon of war. The system is so entrenched and its roots so deep that more than often it even convinces the victim of the righteousness in the unnecessary misery she is subjected to.
Having said this, my study did find a positive trend among women: the feeling of being crushed under the weight of male chauvinism. They do realize that they are under a double-edged sword, namely: honour and shame. What I found lacking was the ability to connect and organize for a cause that belongs to and affects only her.
I also found, which is highly substantiated by earlier and far detailed studies that tough women relate to the surrounding conflict, they see it from a different prism. Contrary to common perception, I found their understanding of the conflict more nuanced than men and their resolutions far more inclining towards peace. It may not be wrong to say the cliché Add women and stir still works.
To end, I would reiterate my recommendations as in the original paper, though in brief:
As far as women, they must know their rights and organize around them.
For political actors, they must make sure that women are included in every stage of conflict resolution.
We have a huge amount of evidence that when women are included in the process of political resolution the chances of peace increase and when they are given their rights, the society as a whole progresses faster.