To do justice by Asifa would be to recognize that in her tragedy lies the story of thousands of women and girls in Kashmir who have experienced the same crimes fueled by the same ideologies.[CW/TW: mention of r/pe or sexual assault, and murder.] By Manaal Farooqi When news of an abduction, rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in India broke loose earlier this month, the response was polarizing within the nation and amongst its diaspora. Asifa Bano was sexually assaulted for days then murdered by several men, also happened to be a Muslim Kashmiri in Indian occupied Kashmir. The Hindu men who tortured and murdered Asifa were found and arrested, but have received sympathies and demonstrations for their release from Hindu nationalists across the country. The men allegedly committed the crime to drive away Asifa’s family and community, the nomadic Bakarwal tribe members. The injustice has been framed as isolated from the overall occupation and atrocities that have been committed in the past decades in Kashmir, but the history of violence, sexual assault and more in the region has been an intrinsic part of this cycle of violence. Hindu nationalism has been on the rise since the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2014, which is the political extension of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) who are committed to creating a Hindu nationalist state. While these changes in government and policies have swept the nation since 2014, these issues have affected the people of Kashmir for far longer. Indian occupied Kashmir has dealt with clashes and insurgencies since 1965, at times with the help of the Pakistani state as well. In current times, the insurgency continues on a different scale with alternative tactics since 2017 — dubbed as the “year of the student uprising”— including mass protests and rallies. This particular generation has been raised in occupation for their entire lives and with the BJP in power they are experiencing the national shift with a deeper sense of estrangement from the state. With comments from both the BJP and Modi asking Kashmiri youth to choose between “tourism and terrorism”, the already established lack of faith in the state and government has deepened.
Violence is so normalized that we often don't even recognize sexual abuses in the moment.[TW/CW: discussion of sexual violence.] I recently realized that sex is unhealthy for me. Not sex in theory. No, of course not. Sex is healthy for our bodies and even our hearts and minds.When I say that sex is unhealthy for me, I mean the kind of sex that I have experienced — an experience that I share with many women, femmes, and bottoms. The sex where my needs are neglected and my boundaries are ignored in favor of whatever desires my partner may have. Not everyone experiences sex and the things surrounding it in the same way, for various reasons. Some of those reasons might include gender cultivation, (a)sexuality, choice of sexual expression, knowledge of self/knowledge one's own (a)sexuality, or relationship with one's own body. Some of those reasons might include how certain body types are deemed "normal" and acceptable while others are only ever fetishized or demonized. Some of those reasons might include the fact certain folks are told that they should be grateful that anyone would even be willing to look at them, let alone touch or love them, while others are expected to always be available for sexual contact. Some of those reasons might include the fact that some people are afforded certain permissions to make decisions about their sex and love life without being eternally scrutinized, while others are nearly always assumed to be sexually irresponsible. Some of those reasons might include past or current trauma and abuse. And a host of other reasons not mentioned here, or reasons that you or I have never even considered because they're not a factor in our personal story. I'm not straight. I'm just an asexual with a libido—infrequent as it may be—and a preference for masculine aesthetic and certain genitalia. Most of the sex that I have had is what we would consider to be “straight” sex, and I am fairly certain that I would enjoy the act more and have a healthier relationship with it if more sexual partners were willing to make the experience comfortable and safe for me. Instead, men seem to want to make sex as uncomfortable and painful as possible for their partners, whether consciously or unconsciously, regardless of whether or not that is what we want. Many men seem to judge their sexual partners abilities the same way that they gauge how much we love them and how deep our loyalty goes — by how much pain we can endure. I say this based on my personal experience, as well as the experiences of many of the people around me who have been gracious and trusting enough to share with me their testimony. Many of us have been conditioned to measure ourselves in the same way, using our ability to endure pain as a barometer for our worth.
In our culture there are few spaces for survivors of sexual violence to rise up, speak out, and change the conversation around rape culture and sexual violence. That's why NYC activists and creatives are carving out a space for themselves. Corinne