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JAMMU: As the entire world gears up to celebrate International Women’s Day tomorrow, the State of Jammu and Kashmir which is already fraught with many challenges including armed conflict and violence, is facing many other confronting situations with regard to its girls and women. A major challenge that the state is witnessing these days is the abandoning of its new born babies in Kashmir. Mrs. Gulzara Masoodi, Member, J&K State Commission for Women who is also a well known educationist of Kashmir, speaks about all such challenges, on the eve of International Women’s day tomorrow. Excerpts from her interview.  

Kashmir has seen an increase in the cases of abandoning of the babies, especially the new born girls. How do you see it?  

My heart bleeds as I hear about the number of such cases wherein newly born baby girls have been abandoned in Srinagar. This is an alarming situation. Our Kashmir, at one point of time, had no such social issues which have turned into crisis. We never had orphans as joint families would take care of such children. But now this trend is disturbing. I am shocked to see the diminished values and ethos of our culture. This is not our Kashmiri culture. I exhort people to come forward on this International Women’s Day and put a stop to such things which are giving us a bad name. This degradation has to stop.  

Jammu and Kashmir has already seen a downslide in child sex ratio in Census 2011. How do you see this and what is the Commission doing in this regard?  

Yes. We saw a decline in Female Sex ratio and despite the provision of PC&PNDT Act to check all ultrasound clinics which are indulging in the unauthorized determination of sex of the fetus, these practices are continuing. We have to act as a society. How can we forget that if we kill the girls in the wombs itself, there will not be many of them left and this would create an uneven society resulting in the increase in the violence against women and girls? Already we are seeing a sharp increase in the cases of violence against girl child. Only yesterday, a 3 year old girl who was playing with her 5 year old brother in a state, was raped in front on him. What has happened to our society? I am aggrieved.  

But what are you doing in this regard?  

I, as the Member, of J&K State Commission for Women, am doing lot of counseling of young mothers, grandparents and the other members of the society. I make them understand that this disturbing trend of female foeticide in the state would create major problems which they are not able to apprehend right now. I am trying my bit.  

What need to be done in our society?  

Such things are not allowed in Islam and that’s why I exhort the Kashmiri society to put a stop to such practices. We need to check our evils also including dowry, domestic violence and now these issues. You cannot see any issue in isolation. All such issues are interlinked. The government had already tried to take the help of religious preachers but we need to go for it at a big scale as a society. The people need to understand that when a female like Ms Mehbooba Mufti can become the chief minister, why the girls cannot achieve what they aspire their boys to achieve. Today, girls are scaling the heights worldwide. So, the girls should be allowed to be born.  

Women of our state, especially of Kashmir are among the most vulnerable groups. We have widows, half widows, unmarried girls; displaced women due to border shelling, illiterate women and girls, the issues are many. Violence against women is increasing, she has poor and low status, lack of education is a major hindrance to her empowerment and there is not much awareness, so plenty of issues.

Our hon’ble chief minister Ms. Mehbooba Mufti is the first female chief minister of the state and she is also totally alive to the situation of the women. Women empowerment is one of the top agendas of her government. She has started a scheme by the name “Laadli Beti” on the name of her late father and former chief minister of our state Mufti Sayeed sahib under which Rs 1000 is being given to the family of the girl child. This remarkable social security scheme is aimed at creating a strong positive disposition towards the girl child and reverses the alarming trend of declining child sex ratio in the State. But the sad part is that many people living in far off areas do not know about such schemes. We at Commission need to spread awareness about these schemes which addresses the concerns of girl’s right from birth to adulthood by providing financial security to them.

What is your message to the people on the eve of International women’s Day?  

I just want to say that we as a society need to work collectively and handle all issues like late marriages of the girls; dowry, domestic violence etc; the patriarchal set up has to be sensitive towards all such issues. Islam says a father with three daughters will go to heaven. Then why this discrimination with the girl child! Why she is being abandoned! Let’s take a pledge this International woman’s days to work for these little girls and women. Only then we can have a society which is at peace with itself.

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