Violence Against Muslim Women in Kashmir is an Endemic Problem

Violence against women is a serious and under-reported problem. Whether it be from harassing language online, sexual harassment, or more serious crimes such as domestic violence and rape – violence against women is a stain on human civilization that has never been eradicated. This issue especially remains pervasive throughout India and India-Occupied Kashmir in which violence against women has become a part of daily life.

In this blog, we will look at the different types of challenges Muslim women in India and Indian-Occupied Kashmir face every day.

Rape and sexual violence are higher in Kashmir than in other conflict zones

Rape and sexual violence have been used as a weapon of war by occupying forces throughout history. The perpetrators often escape justice, and unfortunately, Kashmir is no exception. The World Kashmir Awareness Forum has a page dedicated to documenting the violence against women and children.

Tragically, we must memorialize the death of Asifa Bano, who was only eight years old when she was gang-raped, tortured, and murdered. Ironically, this despicable act took place in the sacred place of a Hindu temple. Of the eight men who had participated in the act, four were police officers, and one was a retired government official.

Since 1989, there have been countless acts of sexual violence and rapes inflicted upon Muslim women in Kashmir that have been higher than in other conflict zones such as Chechnya, Sierra Leone, and Sri Lanka. According to a shocking report published in 2005 in the book Child Safety Welfare and Well Being: Issues and challenges by Deb Sibnath and Waheeda Khan, over 11% of women had personally experienced sexual violence as a result of the conflict in Kashmir. Over 60% had heard of rape within their social circle since 1989, and 5%  had heard of five or more.

Over 200 mass rape cases were documented by The Humanitarian Law Project in 1994 and more throughout the 1990s.

Many cases are likely underreported, and those who suffer in silence may never be known. According to Human Rights Watch, “There are no reliable statistics on the number of rapes committed by security forces in Kashmir. Human rights groups have documented many cases since 1990, but because many of the incidents have occurred in remote villages, it is impossible to confirm any precise number. There can be no doubt that the use of rape is common and routinely goes unpunished.”

Endless harassment online

For Ismat Ara – the dawn of 2022 was one of the darkest days of her young life. She and over 100 Muslim women awoke to find that they had been “auctioned off” to Hindu men in an online app called Bulli Bai. The term is derisive as Bulli is a slur against Muslim women, and bai means maid.

Ara wrote in an editorial published in Time Magazine about her experience. As a journalist she is no stranger to online trolling. She stated that she is one of the most 20 harassed women online but being placed up for auction was a new low.

Nothing is ever truly removed from the internet. While the app in question was removed, the damage was still done. Screenshots still exist, and the harassment morphs into different forms.

Those that had been auctioned shared several important features: they were all successful Muslim women, actresses, journalists, broadcasters, and more. Another important factor was that the majority of those women had been critical of the Modi administration.

Online harassment of women remains a serious issue, and the lack of online content management –allows it to continue to thrive. Most social media content moderation, especially on Facebook, remains focused on content generated in the United States, which leaves marginalized and minority communities around the world—most particularly in India—especially vulnerable to hate speech and harassment.

A state at war with Islamic cultural identity

For millions of Muslim women, wearing a hijab is a central part of expressing their faith publicly. However, it has become a lightning rod for far-right politicians around the world. In March 2022, an Indian court upheld the ban on the hijab for Muslim girls in high school and college.

For millions of women and girls throughout India, this was not only a direct attack on their religious freedom, but it was a direct assault on their fundamental right to education. Girls who did not conform to their school bans were subjected to discipline, including potential expulsion from school.

Almas, an eighteen-year-old, who attended university at Udupi in the southern state of Karnataka, expressed her frustration at having to choose between her faith and her education.

“Why would we struggle, protest, and fight so hard if the hijab was not important to us? Along with hijab, they are also denying us the right to education, privacy, and freedom,” she said in an interview with

The banning of the hijab has also emboldened targeted harassment against students as this shocking video from February shows.

While graduation rates have increased for Muslim women throughout India in recent years, this new law could prove to be a turning point that deprives many of their rights.

Final thoughts

Violence against women remains far too common and a daily factor for far too many. The cases we have talked about today have run the gamut, but violence against women is a spectrum and it is cumulative. What so many dismiss as harmless words online or “locker room talk” plants the seeds of misogyny that allows violence to grow and thrive in the real world.

Unfortunately, women living under occupational forces cannot count on their government to protect their rights. Rape and sexual assault occur in the lives and yet their perpetrators seldom face justice and can even be lauded as heroes or upstanding members of their community.

November 25 is dedicated as International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, but we cannot be silent the other 364 days of the year. We must call out violence against women in all its forms, demonstrate against it, and stand for the dignity of all women while we pray for a day when such acts become unthinkable.