In 1971, the formation of Bangladesh coincided with the death of a large number of civilians and the rape of many women. In stark contrast to the assumption of complete silence relating to war-time rape, the independent Bangladeshi government publicly designated that all women raped as a result of the war in 1971 were birangonas (war heroines). This effort remains internationally unprecedented and yet unknown to many apart from Bangladeshis. The government also set up various rehabilitation programs and centers to ensure the women were not socially ostracized. The history of rape of 1971 has remained in the Bangladeshi public memory through the last forty years. It has been a topic of literary and visual media (films, plays, photographs), thereby ensuring that the raped woman endured as an iconic figure. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, who is primarily associated with deconstruction and a feminist-Marxist approach to postcolonialism, has been working with various organizations in Bangladesh for many years. Spivak first went to Bangladesh when she visited one of these rehabilitation centers while she was accompanying her mother, Sivani Chakravorty, and took photographs of the women and the rehabilitation program in Dhaka in January 1973. The following discussion highlights the personal, political, and intellectual context within which Spivak undertook this visit to Bangladesh along with a deconstructive reading of sexual violence during wars which she refers to as the “tacit globalization of reproductive heteronormativity.”

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