The Spectral Wound: Sexual Violence, Public Memories, and the Bangladesh War of 1971
Based on archival sources and interviews, this chapter explores the processes by which the government rehabilitated birangonas, whereby the rehabilitation program established the sovereignty—the lawmaking authority—of the new nation. After the war, the government eulogized the raped women as birangonas but also set up rehabilitation centers for them. Rehabilitation in fact became a trope for the symbolic invocation of the dynamism of the new nation of Bangladesh, which ensured its development and modernity out of the “traditions and taboos” of Muslim society. The chapter explores the orientalizing tropes inherent in the explanations of wartime rape. It argues that the rehabilitation program institutionalized stereotypes and subordinated norms of femininity in Bangladesh, even though it aimed to provide a new vocabulary for social change in gender relations and citizenship for women. The rehabilitation program combed/searched for birangonas only to comb/hide them and re-member them in independent Bangladesh.