Women Chapter International conducted a webinar titled “The Unspoken Trauma of 1971: Healing of the Past for a meaningful future” on 11th December 2021 on the upcoming occasion of the Victory Day of Bangladesh on 16th of December. The panelists discussed the unspoken horror and trauma suffered by our War Rape survivors from the Liberation War of 1971 in the hands of the Pakistani army in 1971 and how the society failed to give them the support they deserved and needed to heal their pain. They also drew attention to the transgenerational effect of that trauma and how if unhealed, that trauma can descend down to the future generations and have a significant effect on their life and their interaction with other human beings.
The session was hosted by Shumu Haque (board member of WCI). The panelists included:
- Wiola Rebecka: She is a feminist, a human rights activist, and a therapist with over 23 years of clinical experience working with trauma, PTSD, War Rape Survivors Syndrome, and Transgenerational Trauma. Wiola is the author of the Project “Rape: A History of Shame.”
- Dr. Snigdha Rezwana: Dr. Rezwana is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Anthropology, at the Jahangirnagar University in Bangladesh, Her area of interest are Social anthropology, gender & sexuality, queer and non-binary Gender fluidity in south Asia. She has recently completed her Ph.D. from Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand. She did her dissertation on the topic of “ Beyond Binaries: An Ethnographic Study of Hijra in Dhaka, Bangladesh”.
- Supriti Dhar: Supriti Dhar is a dedicated human rights activist and the founder of the Women Chapter and Women Chapter International. As a journalist, she worked for more than 20 years with various media houses including BBC Radio Services. Her areas of interest are, ensuring the rights of women, refugees, religious minorities, and indigenous communities.
Dr. Rezwana discussed how the Biragonas and women freedom fighters are marginalized in every way. Starting from the sculptures to academic discourse, women have only been reduced to as rape survivors and nurses and their bravery and sacrifice were never acknowledged. The Biragonas had to hide their traumas and be silent about their ordeal as a result of which very few stories are known. Dr. Rezwana also talked about how thousands of them were forced to undergo abortions or give up their babies born out of wartime rape, and their wishes were hardly taken into account. She stressed the need to acknowledge political aspects of historical narratives with regard to who is acknowledged and who is neglected.
Supriti shared that while the women were given the title of “Biragona”, they were not recognized the way they should have been, and instead, most lived their lives in unimaginable poverty. Even though the government of Bangladesh had decided to provide stipends, in reality, the family members of the women often collected the money and abandoned the women. Supriti also talked about the current social reality of Bangladesh where the majority’s outlook towards rape survivors remains regressive, and thus not much has changed in 50 years!
Wiola Rebecka explained what transgenerational trauma is, and how that can impact a survivor’s family across generations. She stressed the need for more research to understand the complexity of traumatic events such as wartime rape.
Towards the end of the session, Shumu stressed the importance to find ways for moving forward towards progress. Wiola mentioned that while the attempt to honor the women survivors didn’t work out, but the concept was beautiful which can inspire other countries given that this was the first time in history that attempted to honor the survivors. She shared a recent experience where she and Supriti went to Kosovo for a program and how the women survivors from the Yusoglavia war, especially Kosovo sought inspiration from the example of Bangladesh and decided to call their survivors heroines. According to Wiola, education can pave the way towards acknowledging the survivors as fighters. The session ended with the hope to change the current lack of representation and duly acknowledge the survivors.
Link to the webinar: