Rukaya got married to Imtiyaz, a resident of north Kashmir’s Bandipora district, in 2010. Over the years, she has been tortured and harassed. Tired of the violence of her in-laws, Rukaya registered a complaint with the Jammu and Kashmir State Commission for Protection of Women and Child Rights (JKSCPWCR) in 2018, stating that it had been more than a year since her husband had abandoned her and her daughters.
“The commission responded swiftly. They summoned Imtiyaz and directed him not to harass me or my daughters any further. They also asked him to provide for our sustenance,” says Rukaya. “I was surprised as he behaved properly with us.” But the happiness was short-lived. Her husband started harassing her again after six months.
However, this time Rukaya did not have the option to visit the commission as with the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019, more than 150 laws, including the one that governed the functioning of JKSCPWCR, were repealed, and the commission was abolished.
The newly formed union territory of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is devoid of a proper institution to address the cases of violence against women. As a result, women like Rukaya have to now turn to the police stations for help. Women rights activist Ezabir Ali says that only a few women can muster the courage to go against their families and register a complaint at a police station. Further, there is only one women’s police station in the valley, which is in Srinagar.
A team from the National Commission for Women (NCW) visited the valley in February 2021. It was decided that women facing any violence will be able to register complaints on NCW’s online portal until the commission sets up an office there. Once the office is functional, there are also plans for shelter homes for women. But, as things stand now, most people in J&K don’t even know what NCW is.
People had direct access to JKSCPWCR. Nonprofits working with women who face domestic violence believe that since NCW has a tremendous caseload, J&K will not get adequate attention.
Lamenting the loss of the powerful institution that JKSCPWCR was, Arshie Zuhar, an advocate at the J&K high court, says, “The erstwhile state commission had powers to establish sessions courts in each district to provide speedy trials in offences against women and child rights.” Zuhar adds that the commission also had powers to appoint a public prosecutor with no less than seven years of experience as a special prosecutor for the cases that go to court.
Bisma Bhat works as a journalist with Free Press Kashmir. The original story was published by Charkha Features.
Know more: Read why we need to change the way we report crimes against women.