Country in Focus: Kashmir

Kashmir, a region in the northwestern Indian subcontinent, is a beautiful mountainous area with lakes and meadows. Kashmir has a very diverse climate. The Kashmir region is known around the world for exporting Cashmere wool. However, the region’s economy is centered around agriculture. One can find a wide variety of religions in the region, however, there is a Muslim majority.

Women’s rights and the perception of women in Kashmir is often very limited. In many rural areas, having a son is preferred over having a daughter, as men are expected to support their family and women will leave home after they marry.

After the Indian subcontinent was partitioned by the British in 1947, Kashmir became the center of a complicated dispute between India and Pakistan, who both have partial control over the region, but claim it as a whole. While India and Pakistan fight over their right to rule the region, most Kashmiris are longing for independence. The exact number of deaths inflicted by this dispute is estimated at 80,000-100,000 in the past 30 years. Thousands of people have suffered torture and rape, leaving them with severe traumas that are not being treated.

Due to its demographic location, the Kashmiris are caught between several nuclear powers, which puts them in a very fragile position. Recently, the Indian administered part of Kashmir has suffered new tensions, as the Indian government announced the abrogation of article 370 and 35a from the constitution (August 5). These laws provided the Kashmiris with a limited sense of autonomy, which has now been taken from them. The abolishment of these laws was decided by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This party promised to do so in its 2019 election manifesto.

After the abrogation of Article 370 and 35a was announced, the Indian government imposed a curfew and communication block on the region. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) was not permitted access to the area by both India and Pakistan. This makes it difficult to assess the seriousness of the situation.

With a strong military presence and thousands of men in detention, Kashmiri women are left especially vulnerable. During this tumultuous time, Gender Concerns International has taken on a very active, vigilant position and has urged the international community to do the same.

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