Part II | Making Sense of Domestic Violence in Valley: Invalidating women’s violent experiences

Many women remain at their parents’ homes for years as estranged souls without any sense of accountability shifting to in-laws
Part II | Making Sense of Domestic Violence in Valley: Invalidating women’s violent experiences
Representational Photo

Why violence goes unnoticed because it is more or less routinised and normalised and later internalised out of the hollow and brutal patriarchal values in which women get socialised like Betiyoon ko nahi bhaven hain shikayat Karna (daughters ought not to complain).Then it is deemed as justified and legitimate. Sometimes domestic violence is justified under the garb of religion and gender that operates as an ideology of superiority and inferiority in our context.  The culture and learning of venomous values like 'Mere Allah Ladayi Se Bachana Mujko-Muskurana Gaaliyan Khake Sikhana Mujko'still prevails in our context though in diverse and varied forms.

There are examples where the victim is not believed by her dear ones if she reports violence, they just drove her away and shut her mouth. Many women remain at their parents' homes for years as estranged souls without any sense of accountability shifting to in-laws. We also have a culture of invalidating women's violent experiences or asking for a proof always or trying to settle or hush-hush the matter by relatives even by parents at times.

Structural Violence and No Justice Delivery

As per the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act 2019, the State Commission for Protection of Women and Child Rights (SCPWCR) was closed in October 2020. The absence of the commission makes victims suffer more and is in a way the structural violence against the victims. It was quite shocking that despite the former governor (Satya Pal Malik) did a great job by amending the State Commission for Women Act, 1999, and enacted the Jammu and Kashmir State Commission for Protection of Women and Child Rights Act, 2018 which amply empowered the institution towards justice delivery mechanism but sooner it was closed down in October 2020 thereby creating a big void.

Earlier we had a conjoint mechanism of The Jammu and Kashmir State Commission for Protection of Women and Child Rights under the leadership of a very sincere chairperson who really worked hard across the length and breadth of the valley to give a sense of justice to such victims but the Commission's closure and people waiting for NCW office in the UT created a big confusion. Jammu and Kashmir should have its own conjoint women and child rights commission like it used to have and it is not that NCW that will open its office in the UT. We have examples of other UTs like Delhi or Pudducherry which have their own commissions. Isn't it the fact that Delhi as a Centre has the National Commission (NCW) but alongside has a Delhi Commission for women (DCW) as well? Similarly we have Puducherry Women's Commission as well. Therefore UT of J&K should have its own Commission as people's access to NCW given our context, socio-economic background, awareness level, literacy, huge rural population, etc, is not that easy. NCW thankfully has opened a desk though for the UT but should we expect someone from far flung areas reaching Delhi NCW and afford filing a complaint and travelling to Delhi for the redress. At the moment UT needs accessibility to justice and complaint redress and counselling has to be at least at district level given the magnitude of the problem. Therefore J&K needs its own commission on priority since the gulf from October 2020 till date has hardly left any redress platform amid number of unaddressed and unheard complaints. At the moment Women Helpline-181, (actually a central scheme and a program of Department of Social Welfare, J&K since 2017) is the only platform for distress s calls but is not enough to tackle the monster. Former Chairperson of SCPWCR-an eminent lawyer and activist Vasundra Masoodi says, "Increase in cases of violence against women and children in J&K warrants an immediate mechanism (Commission) in place that could not only provide an expedient support system to victims but speedy trials and engineer mass level campaigns and awareness programmes throughout the UT". She further adds, "Commission is also much warranted so that the purpose of welfare legislations could be realised in letter and spirit on the ground level".

The Family Hypocrisy

The family's double standards and family politics is actually a big hypocrisy. The son who is good with his in-laws is treated as the Zanan-moutt (Hen-pecked husband) but if the son-in-law is good then he is a thorough gentleman. Parents keep praising their married daughters but never acknowledge the contribution of their own daughters-in-law who are at their service always. Sons get the property but daughters still denied it though politely and silently. The family in present day Kashmiri society is nothing but a sum total of a rising silent domestic violence, conflicted and unhappy marriages; in-laws harassing widows after husband's death, etc, is also a facet of domestic violence. The dual career families face the other crises, initially everyone wants a working daughter-in-law (a reason for late marriages) but later family denies supporting them plus the intimate partner violence (IPV) further makes life hell for them. We have scores of unhappy marriages and regular fighting couples out of spouses' extramarital affairs too. We have incidences of domestic violence against single women, single mothers, divorced women and widows as well who are at times thrown out and even denied husband's property.

Last Word

Instead of looking at the binaries of good and bad, right and wrong, to conceptualize domestic violence we need to understand the complexity of family today and the power relation among its members. We also need to acknowledge that patriarchy in family mostly operates through women's agency and abusers are not men always. We need to see members as the products of patriarchal environment and resolve to take responsibility of our own happiness and just not stay in toxic relations and keep blaming or hoping for good. Happiness and love have fairly diminished in family today.

J&K has a serious dearth of shelter homes and it is a big concern. Also our civil society (activists) isn't talking much about this. Even social media is not too effective in our case to report domestic violence because of the obvious reasons. In urban areas people are though more aware and report violence to some extent however in rural landscape the position is still dismal and domestic violence mostly goes unreported. The conflict induced domestic violence like against widows, half widows, orphans and the domestic tortures they face by their families is also a big concern in Kashmir. Lastly and academically speaking hardly any quality research (post sociologist T.N. Madan) has been done on family and its crises which reflects the scholarly disinterest and lone greed of academics to grab only well funded projects about 90 percent of which are related to 'conflict in Kashmir'.

Dr Adfer Shah is a Delhi based Sociologist working in Jamia Millia Islamia. Author is Associate Editor of Women's Link Journal and Eurasia Review.

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