The Birangona

The birangonas, 'war heroines,' are women and girls who survived sexualized violence during the 1971 Liberation War fought by East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh) against West Pakistan (present-day Pakistan) after the Pakistani Army sought to brutally suppress the Bengali nationalist movement and impede the democratically-elected Awami League from becoming the dominant voice in East Pakistan's parliament.

An estimated 200,000 to 400,000 women and girls were raped by the Pakistani Army and allied forces within East Pakistan. Although the Bangladeshi government made attempts right after the war to honor these women and prevent their ostracism, decades of military rule led to the suppression of public memory of the crimes committed against them.

In the past several years Bangladeshi society has sought once again to honor the birganona and legally recognize them as "freedom fighters," a status that grants them compensation for their suffering.

Moreover, second and third generation Bangladeshis are showing a renewed interested in the long-suppressed past. The film "Rising Silence" is an example of how they are seeking to understand the trauma associated with the country's independence. The film is directed by Leesa Gazi, a British-Bangladeshi playwright whose father was himself a freedom fighter. She began interviewing birangonas for the film in 2013 and sought, in her words, to "see these women on their own terms, beyond labels and statistics."

Watch the film trailer below and scroll down further for more resources on sexualized violence and genocide in Bangladesh.

Further Resources