In researching militarized sexual violence in Kashmir, I came across an analysis written by a non-Kashmiri feminist. Rape & sexual torture by an occupying army have a political character & psychological dynamic that need to be understood as well as the army does which employs it for social control & subordination. But the feminist critique indulged some kind of vindictiveness by prioritizing patriarchy in Kashmiri society so that Kashmiri men came out almost as culpable as the army perpetrating the crimes. With such an obtuse approach, the feminist analysis became worse than useless & almost an apologetic for the army.
The issue of sexual violence & torture in war & occupation has been an issue of epic scale for decades but it was not addressed because of the shame associated with rape. It was thought of as sexually frustrated soldiers “getting their nuts off” rather than a calculated military stratagem when it has to be understood politically that any shame involved adheres to the perpetrators, not the victims.
February 23rd is Kashmiri Women’s Resistance Day commemorated as part of the campaign to demand justice for Kunan Poshpora. February 25th is the annual commemoration in Guatemala of the National Day of Dignity for the Victims of Armed Internal Conflict to honor the victims of the civil war between 1960 & 1996.
Guatemalan military violence against the Mayan people included torture, forced disappearance, mass rape, massacres & mass graves, razing entire villages & crops, displacing entire communities, & acts of genocide. Over 100,000 women were raped: first the army took the men & massacred or disappeared them; then they returned for the women who they raped in front of their children. A scenario of horror very like Kunan Poshpora in 1991.
Women & human rights activists around the world have changed the dynamic of the political struggle against militarized sexual violence, especially activists in Kashmir & Guatemala. No one who watched the 2013 trial of former dictator Efrain Rios Montt, the general who led the scorched earth policy against Mayans, will ever forget the power of Mayan women rape victims testifying against him to bring him to account after campaigning for 30 years. The women scorned the lie that military rape is their shame & before the world laid it squarely on the military. That the courts allowed the general to walk only means the campaign continues, that it has been set back, not defeated.
This interview with Natasha Rather, a co-author of “Do You Remember Kunan Poshpora?”, by Irfan Mehraj is a feminist understanding of military sexual violence. It takes mass rape & torture out of the realm of victimology without diminishing the horror of the crimes. Rather discusses the dialectics of patriarchy & military rape in a political way without ulterior motives or imputations against Kashmiri culture & without excuses either. The work of Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) on military sexual violence is also exemplary in that regard. There is no ambiguity about the criminal culpability of the occupying army.
That’s what makes the fearless work of Kashmiri activists campaigning about Kunan Poshpora so important. There is no healing from such monstrous crimes without justice. There is no justice without international solidarity to support activists on the front lines of this struggle. The contributions by Kashmiri & Mayan activists to exposing & campaigning against military sexual violence are beyond incalculable.