Many Jammu-Kashmir women wish State Commission could actually be of help

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Srinagar, March 16 (ANI): Many women in Jammu and Kashmir, who have been victims of violence or harassment in marriage or other relations, want the State Commission for Women be enabled to act efficiently to assist distressed women of the valley.

Many women in the State turn to the Commission, a statutory body set up in March 2000 under State Commission for Women Act 1999. The only representative body constituted to safeguard the rights of women provided in the Constitution of India, it has a significant role to play.

It performs several functions including examining all aspects concerning women, reviewing laws and policy matters related to them and reaching out with information through media and NGO networks.

Tying the nuptial knot with Ishtiaq Hussain four years ago, was not quite the bed of roses that Dr. Ratooba Shaheen imagined it to be. Immediately after the wedding in September 2005, Hussain left for Riyadh where he was employed, leaving his wife behind. Little did she know what was in store. Harassed for additional dowry by the in-laws, Dr.Ratooba faced continued humiliation. r. Ratooba's case finds mention in the Annual Report 2008-09 of State Commission for Women.

"They demanded a plot of land, Alto Maruti vehicle and two gold sets. I couldn't fulfill this demand and was thrown out of the house," says the report quoting Dr. Ratooba. All attempts by her to communicate her husband, who worked as electrical engineer in Riyadh, came to naught. The Report goes on to say that her certificates had been taken by her husband to Saudi Arabia for her job "but neither her certificates nor her husband returned".

Amongst the cases received, were maltreatment by NRIs of their wives on various counts ranging from torture, harassment, re-marriage, divorce, maintenance, desertion and cheating.

One of such cases is that of Dr Sameena Gul, who got married in July 2003, was allegedly tortured and physically assaulted by her husband, Dr. Mohammad Afzal-u-din and in-laws again on the issue of bringing less dowry. As their demands increased, humiliation faced by Dr. Sameena became unbearable which led her to file a complaint with the Commission in November 2006 and seek its intervention.

The Commission first offered counseling to the couple that was not responded to by Dr Afzal-u-din. Later, he proclaimed that the reason he could not live with his wife was because she was unable to bear a child.

He then abruptly left for Saudi Arabia without any intimation to his wife or the medical department where he was working. It led to proverbial cat-and-mouse race between him and the Commission which involved letters being shot off to Saudi Arabia and enquiring about his movements on his trips home. The Commission finally caught up with him and summoned him to Station House Officer (SHO) of the concerned police station in the valley. He divorced his wife by pronouncing 'Talaq' or divorce thrice in front of the authorities.

Today Sameena is a distraught woman. Apart from the personal trauma, she is unclear about her marital status. She has not received divorce papers, yet. Unless the full documents related to the divorce are with her, her fate hangs.

The case of Moninder Kaur from Jammu featured in the State Commission's records is also a harrowing one. She faced torture, harassment from her in-laws but the bombshell fell after she came to know that her husband Gurnam Singh, who lived in Australia, was already married. Her case is also pending. Though the Commission has sent repeated summons, accused has simply not turned up.

It unfortunately functioning of the existing State Commission for Women has limited jurisdiction and cases are referred automatically to the National Commission for Women and Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, New Delhi.

This is proving to be a bane for many women in Jammu and Kashmir who married to men settled abroad. They rue that their cases are not dealt with and settled speedily.

In the case of Sakeena Bano, married in July 2007 to Mushtaq Ahmad Suda, settled in Germany. She was eagerly awaiting her journey abroad to join her husband and enthusiastically taking lessons in German language. Her world came crashing down when she approached the German Embassy for a visa and learnt that Suda was already married. In her struggle for justice and succor, Sakeena turned to the Commission and filed a complaint in January 2009.

The case, as per the norm, was forwarded to the National Commission for Women in Delhi with a suggestion that the case be taken up with the German Embassy to first trace Sakeena's husband whose whereabouts remain unknown yet. ccording to Charkha Features, there are scores of women like Sakeena in the State who are suffering and yet hold back due to societal inhibitions and family pressures.

At the State Commission, the disposal rate is low. This fact proves disappointing to the local women victims of injustice and harassment across the state.

During 2008-2009, of the 126 cases dealt by Commission related to various forms of violence against women, only 15 cases have been resolved, which is just 12 per cent rate.

Ever since its inception, more than 1600 cases have been registered in the Commission. Of the 1,693 registered cases, 1,260 have been from Kashmir and 433 from Jammu. In both of these regions of J and K, women are literally left in the lurch by the establishment. By Afsana Rashid (ANI)

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