Kashmir Indepth

Women from marginalised section of society, those live in not easily accessible areas are more prone to sexual violence, says Vasundhara Pathak Masoodi

Irfan Ahmad 

Srinagar Dec 21 (KINS): Kashmir has witnessed increase in crime against women. Among them were many horrifying rape and murder cases reported recently which sent shockwaves across Kashmir.

In an interview to news agency Kashmir Indepth News Service (KINS) Senior Supreme Court advocate Vasundhara Pathak Masoodi said that it has been observed that women and girls from socially and economically disadvantaged groups, rural or far off areas are more vulnerable and are at greater risk of gender-based violence in Jammu and Kashmir. “Juxtaposing rape cases that happened in past few years with recent cases of rape we can conclude the women and girl who belong to marginalised section of society or those who live in not easily accessible areas are more prone to gender based and sexual violence,” she told news agency KINS.

Masoodi has remained last chairperson of J&K Women’s Commission that ceased to exist.

“A recent report submitted by the government in the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir has revealed that 16 cases of rape, 64 cases of molestation and one case of eve-teasing have been reported in J&K during the lockdown period. These are the cases that got reported and I am sure the number is way more than what has been reported. Jammu and Kashmir is predominantly a hilly area wherein it is difficult for women to reach out to law and order agencies to report such crimes in normal circumstances, needless to say, things apparently turned much difficult for the victims during lockdown. There has also been an unprecedented upsurge in gang rapes and rapes of minor girls by relatives and neighbours that sometimes result in tragic deaths,” she said.

The Supreme Court lawyer, who belongs to Kashmir, said that there have also been cases wherein women/girls have been raped by their close relatives or an acquaintance.

“By and large the reasons for an increase in such cases are no different from those reported in other states. Lack of deterrence, conviction, long drawn out legal proceedings, financial constraints, societal pressure, unwillingness to report are some of the main reasons because of which cases of sexual violence continue to happen unabashedly,” she says.

It has been over a year since State Women’s Commission was dissolved. When asked she being the chairperson of the then State Women’s Commission, does she still receive complaints from victims, Masoodi replied, “Though, very unfortunately, the State Women’s Commission got dissolved without the new mechanism in place for over an year now, nevertheless, I have been receiving complaints from victims belonging to different areas in Jammu and Kashmir.”

About nature of complaints she is receiving: “The complaints vary in their nature as we not only received complaints against domestic violence but also against sexual harassment at work place, child abuse and gender based discrimination, medical negligence, etc.”

Apart from Women’s Commission, when asked whether there is need for establishment of more institutions which would work for destitute women, she replied, “There must be a system or a mechanism wherein women are represented in due proportion in various existing institutions, organisations, management and legislature. First and foremost we need to strengthen our existing institutions by ensuring equal participation of women in decision making. I believe if women are given their due share in decision making and implementation of laws right from the grass root level such as effective implementation of the 73rd and 74th Amendments (1993) to the Constitution of India it would help laying a strong foundation for their participation in decision making at the local levels.”

Asked IF there was a need to establish women police station in every district, she said that role of police is pivotal in safety and security of citizens in general and women in particular.

“As we all know that women who are victims of violence or harassment do not find it easy to approach the police or other authorities in Jammu and Kashmir forgetting help or support. It would, therefore, be desirable to provide Women’s’ Police Station or Mahila Police Station in each and every district. I go a step further and suggest that in order to provide help and support to women lodging complaints there should sub ranches/chowkies of Women’s Police Station in each district so that women do not have to travel much in terms of seeking redressal of their complaints,” she said.

She has urged the UT administration to increase focused community outreach by engaging/nominating Mahila Police Volunteer (MPVs) in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir, who will act as an interface between police and community to facilitate women in distress and conduct mass awareness programmes to sensitize masses on gender equality and women friendly laws.

She also said that strict implementation of laws by law enforcement agencies is ‘’sine qua non’’ extremely crucial factor in clamping down on such ignoble crimes.

“The role of law-enforcement agencies begin the moment a crime is reported till the criminal is prosecuted and punished, any soft or sluggish approach or negligence in terms of conducting investigation, collecting evidence or recording statements of credible witnesses, delay in filing the charge sheet can lead to an unfortunate acquittal of the culprit and denial of justice to prosecutrix. Moreover, the whole purpose of laws against sexual violence is frustrated if justice is not delivered in time. The judiciary has the primary responsibility of enforcing fundamental rights, through constitutional remedies. Therefore, the trial in such cases should be run and concluded on fast track basis so that justice to victims of sexual violence is not denied due to unwanted and unwarranted delays,” she added. (KINS)

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