(London Press Release): –
The London Institute of South Asia (LISA) hosted a webinar about the women and girls in the Indian occupied Kashmir living under locked down long before the occurrence of Covid pandemic on 4th February 2021. The webinar titled as of “The Forgotten Women of Lockdown”
The event was moderated by Mary Hunter (Researcher at London Institute of South Asia) and Speakers attended were: Dr Anam Najam (consultant psychiatrist in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan-administered Azad Jammu and Kashmir) and Uzma Rasool (researcher, consultant and cross-party liaison).
Summary of the event:
The subject of the webinar was focused on the hardships facing women that have been intensified by the various lockdowns imposed. Special focus was on the women of Kashmir, who have been doubly locked down, first when the special status of Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir was revoked and then second as part of measures to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.
The first speaker, Uzma Rasool, spoke about the general tense environment that women are experiencing in Indian-administered Kashmir which has seen a lot of violations against women. Enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings have left many so-called “half-widows” who don’t know if their husbands are dead or alive. Women are also facing increased pressures to give up their education in favour of work so they can fulfil the position of breadwinner following the deaths or disappearances of their husbands, brothers and fathers.
The second speaker was Dr Anam Najam who provided context to the Kashmir conflict regarding the history and its demographics, as well as the all-important revocation of its special status in 2019. Dr Najam described how women are in a state of limbo, not knowing whether they are married or widowed as a result of enforced disappearances. She also highlighted how Kashmiri understand the struggles of lockdown more than any other given that they have been in two lockdowns, one of which was unrelated to COVID-19. Despite the fact that she emphasised the resilience and empowerment of the Kashmiri women, the region may suffer from ‘transgenerational trauma’ in which younger generations carry the traumas of their parents and grandparents which highlights how awful that trauma is.
Here are important points in response to questions:
In response to a question on how mental illness may be reduced in Kashmir, Dr Najam suggested that we have to start at the grassroots level by educating and training local leaders to provide support to the population. She suggested that the illness cannot even be described as PTSD given that the trauma is still ongoing for many Kashmiris.
In response to a question on what international activists and spectators can do, Uzma Rasool suggested that Western feminist organisations have not shown support to the women of Kashmir despite the fact that these women face many misogynistic abuses, such as the sexist fetishization of Kashmiri women.
Other important points:
Mary Hunter – the lack of empathy shown by the outside world to the people of Kashmir is unacceptable considering that the international community has now experienced what it is like to be in a lockdown. And Kashmiris have been doubly locked down.
Mary Hunter – we need to increase international awareness of the violations against women in Kashmir, because if outsiders were aware, they would not be silent.