The standard definition of Gender inequality is the idea and situation that women and men are not equal. It refers to unequal treatment or perceptions of individuals wholly or partly due to their gender. Many times it’s a consequence of differences in socially constructed gender roles. My take herein is with respect to the highly biased Gender Discrimination Law applicable to married women of Jammu & Kashmir, who fall into a certain category.
In 1956 UN General Assembly passed a Convention on the Nationality of Married Women which ensured that a woman’s nationality would not be affected by “either marriage or its dissolution or the change of nationality of her husband.” Subsequent to this, the independent identity of a woman is a prerequisite to international law.
However, in the case of Jammu & Kashmir, this gender equality principle remains evasive wherein a woman is stripped of her roots, identity and human dignity, subsequent to the nature of her marriage.
Being a Kashmiri woman by birth, a woman is a victim of the fallout of a draconian Gender Discrimination Law which promulgates step-motherly treatment to the daughters of Kashmir, who marry non-Kashmiris. It snatches away the natural rights of inheritance from such Kashmiri women and renders them uprooted from their homeland forever.
There are no parallels of such disenfranchisement world over, and hence it starkly stands out as a blatant example of Gender-based discrimination. On the other hand, status quo for Kashmiri men marrying non-Kashmiris doesn’t get compromised.
In the land of Sufis/ mystics, who rose above all kinds of biases and spread the message of egalitarianism, this law stands like an eye-sore. It’s not only biased but inhumane and in a modern civilized world, it reeks of appalling indifference to daughters as equal citizens. Jammu & Kashmir has meted out grave injustice to its women by virtue of an article inserted into its Constitution in 1954 and by snatching away the fundamental rights of such Kashmiri women.
Art 370: There is only one system of citizenship for the people of the country but in case of Jammu and Kashmir, it is dual citizenship, one of the state and the other of India. The citizens of Jammu and Kashmir are citizens of India but the citizens of the rest of India cannot be citizens of Jammu and Kashmir. He does not have the right to have property and the right to vote in Jammu and Kashmir.
If a girl belonging to Jammu and Kashmir marries a boy from outside the state, who is not a state subject, she loses all her rights in the state.
If a woman marries a man in the other Indian States, she loses her citizenship. Whereas if any woman marries a Pakistani, she will be entitled to have a citizenship of Jammu & Kashmir.
But if he is from any other states, she loses her rights.
The Article also gives Pakistan’s citizens entitlement to Indian citizenship, if he marries a Kashmiri girl.
Since 1927, some element of gender discrimination has crept into the interpretation of `State subject‘ and `permanent residence’ laws. All such laws were read so that women who married non-State subjects or residents lost some of their special privileges, including property rights.
In a remarkable Full Bench decision in Dr Sushila Sahani’s Case (2002), Justices Jhanji and Doabia (with Justice Muzaffar Jan dissenting), made it clear that “the daughter of a permanent resident marrying a non-permanent resident will not lose the status of permanent resident in Jammu and Kashmir.” This was a clear signal that Jammu and Kashmir’s laws on permanent residence were gendered unjust.
BUT – The Jammu and Kashmir Permanent Resident Status (Disqualification) Bill 2004 was passed and made it a permanent political propaganda. Hence, even after court’s interference gender discrimination stayed. It must be repealed.
Details about Art. 370 – Kashmir’s unique status (such as independent state flag along with Indian national flag- because it has come through an accession) should not be compromised. Many other states enjoy similar unique powers as Kashmir regarding some other subjects such as scheduled tribes and scheduled cast when the term ‘permanent residence’ is read out in detail. Art.371 elaborates this special status in more detail.