The #MeToo movement has reached Kashmir too with women voicing their sexual harassment and indecent experiences with men. This has come as a surprise as a Kashmiri woman’s voice is unheard of in and outside the valley.
The Policy Times caught up with the Valley’s renowned feminist, Essar Batool who is also a writer to discuss #MeToo.
“Women’s voice is unheard of in Kashmir because of political conflict. The narrative about women is mostly affected by the Indian state, and it has been successfully doing so in the past many years. Only recently, stories of Kashmiri women have started to go out because of social media. There has not been much coverage by the international media because of censorship. This has led to Kashmiri women isolated within Kashmir.
Essar says Kashmir’s women have been through a lot. There is a history of sexual violence by the state but the thing is that the narrative has been controlled so much.
The #MeToo movement is now bringing this and more into the open. Essar applauded the movement saying “It is never too late for a movement like this to some positive impact. Now it has become a global movement. Usually, for something that is global to take off in Kashmir is very difficult because of the political context. But this is one movement that has actually broken that constrain and because of the fact that women all around the world, even in developed countries facing the same thing.”
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Essar argues that the West riding high on liberating their women was not true. “They are patriarchal as much as we the Indian. Patriarchy does exist everywhere with varying degrees which is why movements like #MeToo have come up.”
She stressed that the reaction was the same. “Most of the people are like how can a woman prove that this happened?; where is the evidence?; why are they speaking so late?; where were they till now?; it is because of jealousy. Even the men who are accused in Kashmir say that it is a conspiracy against them.”
Kashmir is male-dominated society and women’s voices go basically unheard of. In the 13 cases that the Kashmir Women’s Collective has highlighted, some prominent names have come up.
Essar says that the movement is really important. She highlighted some women missing out to express their stories is because of no access to the internet. “The aim is to reach out to every woman, who is facing similar situations in their everyday life – then it will be a movement that reaches to the ground,” Essar called for the need of inclusion, this should be the main element of the movement.
As #MeToo gains momentum, the mindset of men hasn’t changed. They continue to do what they have been doing. “We cannot reach out to men as of now,” said Essar. “They are being conditioned by the patriarchy to think that they are superior to women and that they can get away with anything, and they know they got away with things, so what we can do is to make a general appeal to their common sense.”
Essar said “toxic muscularity is wrong. It is not a standard that should be set.”