Srinagar: Twenty-nine-year-old Sumaiya (name changed) first became skeptical when her partner raised questions about her past life during their engagement.
“She had tried to discuss this with her parents and met a usual response—“Ye chu bardasht assan karun, pate gatchi khandar pate sorye theek (You have to be more patient. Things get better once you get married) However, her husband became more controlling after marriage and resorted to beating her. Now, the situation has come to such an extent that she is filing for a divorce. Additionally, she is battling a full-blown depression and trauma left by the battering and verbal abuse,” the clinical psychologist treating her said.
The abuse is, however, not only limited to physical violence. Sometimes, it comes in the form of neglect and refusal to share the responsibilities. Take the case of 34-year-old Fatima( name changed). Her two years of marriage fell like a pack of cards when her doctor husband refused to take care of their child. “In this case, the lady’s husband said his career is more important than anything else. Throughout his childhood, his parents told him to focus only on building a successful career. He doesn’t know how to build and nurture a relationship. Emotional unavailability coupled with his indifference has killed this relationship and they are also looking for options of divorce,” the psychologist said.
While the unresolved personality issues of childhood can trigger gender-based violence, in some cases, the males also bear the brunt of it. This can be seen in the two-year-old marriage of Saif (name changed) and Mehak (name changed).
Mehak’s father died at a very young age. Her brother’s absence from home for long periods made her emotionally vulnerable and aggressive at the same time. “She showed bouts of aggression frequently and broke into regular fights. As a result, her husband couldn’t handle it. Both are facing mental health issues right now and are also seeking options of divorce,” the psychologist said.
Gender-Based violence refers to harmful acts directed at an individual based on their gender. The violence can include sexual, physical, mental, and economic harm inflicted in public or in private.
It also includes threats of violence, coercion, and manipulation. This can take many forms such as intimate partner violence, sexual violence, child marriage, female genital mutilation, and so-called ‘honour crimes’. The consequences of gender-based violence are devastating and can have life-long repercussions for survivors. It can even lead to death.
Kashmir of late has seen an alarming increase in the cases of gender-based violence. A few weeks ago, a female from Baramulla district was critically injured after she was allegedly beaten up by her in-laws. Later she succumbed to her injuries.
According to the National Health Family Survey 5 (NFHS-5), 9.6 percent of married women in the age group of 18 to 49 years have experienced spousal violence in 2019-2020. The percentage has shown an increase since 2015-2016 when the last survey was conducted.
High Court Lawyer Umar Mir said they are witnessing a surge in cases of violence against women and the number is quite high. Neither every case gets reported nor every victim of violence approaches the different forums for redressal of the same.
“As a practicing advocate, we come across and meet several victims of violence narrating different kinds of gender violence. Most of the gender violence cases relate to newly wedded couples, particularly where choice marriages have taken place because greed crept in the in-laws of newly wedded women and incompatibility also remains a cause,” he said.
He maintained that they even contest the cases of old and senior citizen women who beg before their children for two-time meals. “Anti-women violence legislation is in place. Among them, the most effective is the Protection of women from domestic violence act 2010. The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, and the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 are there as well. There are provisions in penal laws also like section 498-A making cruelty as offence and section 304-B dowry death,” Mir said.
Clinical Psychologist at Kashmir Helpline Wasim Kakroo said the surge in gender-based violence can be reduced to a greater extent once there are people start discussing it. “Unfortunately, we only talk about it when the abuse has already taken place. Also, there should be parental workshops conducted on a large scale. Dysfunctional and careless parenting vastly leads to domestic violence. Secondly, the religious clerics should be involved and mobilized to create more awareness on domestic violence and how to build a healthy relationship between married couples,” he said
He emphasized that premarital and post-marital counseling for couples is necessary. “This can lead to a better understanding and compatibility,” Kakroo said.