Sonia Gandhi, chair of India’s governing party, addressed nearly 5,000 women at a Women’s Empowerment Conference in Kashmir on Monday. In her speech, Gandhi stated that education and opportunity were the keys to women’s empowerment and praised the women of Kashmir as a symbol of resistance against terror. “The women have always bore the brunt of any disaster, whether natural, social or political,” Gandhi said, according to the Daily News.
Officials say the conflict over the disputed territory in Kashmir has widowed 25,000 women since 1989 and increased the risk of sexual assault. While the Indian army denies charges of strategically using sexual assault, at least 76 security forces personnel have been arrested for sexual assault since 2000 and 10 have been convicted, reports the International Herald Tribune.
While security was tightened for Gandhi’s visit, suspected Islamic militants triggered an improvised explosive device just hours before her arrival, injuring three female police officers. The explosion, which targeted a bus carrying members of the Central Reserve Police Force, was just two miles from the lakeside convention center where security was being tightened for Gandhi’s visit.