The Plight of Kashmiri Half-Widows

This report examines transitional justice in Kashmir from the perspective of a unique category of women. The insurgency in Kashmir that began in 1989 brought forth the category of ‘half-widows’. Half-widows are the wives of the disappeared men in Kashmir, who are uncertain about the status and whereabouts of their husbands. However, since this category does not have the legitimacy of the law, and is born out of the identity of the disappeared man, it is not justiciable in a court of law. This makes it almost impossible to include women’s rights into the transitional justice paradigm within Kashmir. This Report, therefore, documents the experiences of these women vis-à-vis the reparations structure that was developed following the conflict.

The Report uses the experiences of these women to indicate how during the course of transitional justice mechanisms, the experiences and needs of women are noticeably missing or silenced by the general discourse of accounting for the past. This study is an attempt to bridge two disciplines — women’s rights and transitional justice — though it seems immensely problematic in Kashmir because of how incomplete or even exclusionary the disciplines seem to become when attempted to stitch together during conflict.

The Report traces the trajectory that enforced disappearance, as an unchecked, undocumented, fragmented crime, has taken in Kashmir and how this affects the lives of women who survived their husbands. For this research paper, the author interviewed 55 women whose lived realities, along with her understanding of the extant reparations paradigm shaped this research project. This Report endeavours to make a case for policy changes towards the welfare of these women — whether social, psychological, economic or financial. The author hopes that this research will aid in changing the current environment in which international law in India, and by extension in Kashmir, is enforced. Such an exercise will also help in preparing for a gendered reparations structure, while entrenching the narratives of the half-widows.

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