This is in response to a write up titled: “Kashmir Women and sex trade” written by Salman Nizami. The author while writing the article has either ignored the reality of facts or presented false information just to score points or the author is completely ignorant of the facts. I will deconstruct his whole article here to present facts to the readers and let readers decide what is right or wrong
Mr Nizami starts with a story about a girl Shabnam and later in his article mentions few other names as well and their stories. Who knows whether these stories are true or not as no evidence is produced to confirm the veracity of the stories?
Nizami says that insurgency has forced women into flesh trade. This is truly a very fraudulent presentation of facts. Even those who are strongly against the armed struggle agree to the fact that one of the greatest service of armed struggle has been that it has kept western culture off from our society, it has encouraged Kashmiris to adopt to Islamic laws to some extent be it only at public places. Militancy has not increased but has diminished and wiped off prostitution from Kashmir. Nizami contradicts himself in the latter part of the write up when he quotes a women saying, “Now I am free to do my work. Under the militants’ threats in Kashmir, I would never have been able to do this”. Nizami seems to be a very prejudiced man who sees everything from a prism that mainstream Indian media wants people to see. I wish he used logic and reasoning and looked at the problem dispassionately.
The author alleges that the Kashmir society pretends that prostitution does not exist. This is in total contradiction to the facts on ground. When the infamous Srinagar Sex Scandal was unearthed in 2006, whole Kashmir was on boil. How many people come out on streets of Mumbai or Delhi, when rape cases take place not to talk about prostitution? India is ranked third (3rd) when it comes to rape cases and we don’t see any taking place in Kashmir. In 2007, the Ministry of Women and Child Development reported the presence of over 3 million female sex workers in India. Human Rights Watch puts the figure of sex workers in India at around 20 million. The frequency of rape and prostitution is lowest in Kashmir as far as statistics go, but Mr Nizami has rhetoric only.
Mr Nizami again misleads the readers with false information. He says: “J&K is the only state in the country where prostitution is legal.” I suggest Mr Nizami to read more and then address readers. The fact of the matter is that the primary law dealing with the status of sex workers is the 1956 law referred to as “The Immoral Traffic (Suppression) Act (SITA)”. According to this law, prostitutes can practice their trade privately but cannot legally solicit or ‘seduce’ customers in public. The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act or PITA, which Mr Nizami refers to, is a 1986 amendment of legislation passed in 1956 as a result of the signing by India of the United Nations’ declaration in 1950 in New York on the suppression of trafficking. The laws were intended as a means of limiting and eventually abolishing prostitution in India by gradually criminalizing various aspects of sex work but prostitution till now has not been made illegal. However, PITA has provisions of punishment if prostitutes seduce or solicit, if sex is done at a public place etc.
Mr Nizami says that thousands of Kashmir girls have been forced into sex trade because of poor economic conditions. Yes, it’s true that Kashmir’s economy is in shambles in spite of having resources by which we could suffice not only ourselves but feed others as well; we already are feeding many in spite of the fact that we are hungry ourselves. It’s wrong to allege that poverty has forced thousands into flesh trade, Kashmir society is not a believer in “Devadasi culture” where girls are offered in temples and serve as temple singers, dancers, concubines and prostitutes. The value system taught in Kashmir is very good, although few cases may be there, but Mr Nizami can’t generalize and distort facts like this.
I leave it to the reader to be the judge and end with a verse from The Holy Quran: “When truth is hurled against falsehood, falsehood perishes, for falsehood by its nature is bound to perish”.
(Iqbal Hakim is a blogger from Kashmir)