This is a press release from the ASSOCIATION OF PARENTS OF DISAPPEARED PERSONS, The Bund Amira Kadal, Srinagar, 190001. It is about a new report, which you can download in .pdf format at the end of this press release.
Srinagar, July 28, 2011 – The Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) today released the report Half Widow, Half Wife? Responding to Gendered Violence in Kashmir. It examines the situation of women in Indian-administered Kashmir whose husbands have ‘disappeared,’ but not yet been declared deceased. Members of APDP who are themselves half widows released this report at SK Municipal Park, Srinagar.
“I suppose I have this determination and fearlessness because of anger. My husband was a civilian and even though I keep going to court, it seems like an environment exists where this just goes on. We hope this report will be able to tell our story,” one APDP member and half widow said in explaining the importance of this report.
The report draws on the experiences of half widows to capture an often unseen and pernicious face of insecurity in Kashmir. It identifies how this population provides an immediate opportunity for meaningful engagement. It finally makes recommendations to law and policy makers as well as to local, national, and international actors for concrete steps to ameliorate the lives of half widows and the people of Kashmir.
With a commitment to capturing the voices and agency of the women themselves, the 48-page report provides a gender analysis of situation of half widows as well as of the larger security situation in Kashmir. It explains that “besides violence inflicted directly on women’s bodies, women also bear the ramifications of the general—typically male on male—violence in the Valley. Such effects on women also constitute gendered violence. Although the direct violence is disproportionately inflicted on males because they are perceived or imagined as threatening, females suffer indirectly, as reflected in the experiences of half widows.”
The report makes several key findings about the population of half widows, based on extensive individual and group interviews as well as data from APDP surveys and archives. There are, at a minimum, 1,500 half widows in Jammu and Kashmir. As wives of men disappeared, half widows face various economic, social, and emotional insecurities. These various insecurities are compounded rather than addressed by the legal and administrative remedies currently available to half widows. Further, children of half widows are often particularly traumatized, showing extreme resentment and loneliness, and are vulnerable to impoverishment and exploitation. While most half widows show immense strength and resilience—acting as the sole breadwinners for their families and overcoming massive trauma—they continue to be deprived of the assistance and justice they deserve.
The report makes immediate and short term recommendations for law and policy changes to address the various forms of gendered violence—direct violence against women and indirect violence due to violence against men in their community—in order to bring lasting security to Kashmir.
In the immediate–term (1 year), it asks the government to create a streamlined system of compensation for half widows; convene a special bench of the High Court to expedite their cases; and immediately pass special legislation on enforced disappearances, keeping with the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, which the Indian government has signed and must ratify.
In the short-term (2-3 yrs.), it demands that security laws that provide legal immunity to the armed forces must be amended and disappearances cases in general must be resolved and families told the whereabouts of their loved ones, dead or alive.
It also strongly recommends that civil society—local, Indian, and international—recognize the issues faced by half widows and advocate the government for meaningful change as well as itself fund initiatives such as health care programs and income-generating projects that take a rights-based approach to directly aid half widows and their children.
This report illustrates how the vulnerable population of half widows stands as a constant reminder—for not only their children and communities but for Kashmiris in general—of unresolved investigations, unattended needs, and continued suffering. As displayed by the summers of 2008, 2009, and 2010, unaddressed needs and lack of space for civil society can result in vicious cycles of violence. The report asserts that the population of half widows provides an immediate and meaningful opportunity for positive change and engagement in Indian-administered Kashmir. The Indian government, the Jammu and Kashmir government, and local, Indian, and international civil society must not squander this opportunity for change. Half widows and their children demand and deserve immediate action.
On behalf of APDP