Lives in Limbo – Lessons from Kashmir’s ‘Half Widows’
Half Widows are women whose husbands have ‘disappeared’ in Kashmir but have not yet been declared deceased. Disappearances in Kashmir have recently made headlines again after a Kashmiri Government agency’s disclosure of “mass graves” in the Indian-administered Kashmir Valley.
While skeletons in mass graves are evidence of suffering of the past, half widows are evidence of the continued suffering in the present. These women are a pernicious face of the insecurity in Indian-administered Kashmir and provide an immediate opportunity for meaningful engagement and change in this conflict torn region. Half widows face economic and social vulnerability; find little legal recourse; and struggle to raise children who manifest various forms of inter-generational trauma. Their unaddressed rights violations stand as a constant reminder of alienation, and impede conflict abatement and resolution in Kashmir.
The Kashmir conflict as a whole has significant ramifications across the sub-continent. Responding to the conditions of a discrete and deserving population such as half widows, through law, policy change, social initiatives and economic assistance will be a significant step toward building trust and a lasting peace in Kashmir.
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