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Breaking the Silence About Impunity on Sexual Violence in South Asia (Navsharan Singh and Urvashi Butalia)

6 July 2013

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The Economic and Political Weekly, July 14, 2012 vol xlviI no 28

Challenging Impunity on Sexual Violence in South Asia
Beginning a Discussion

Recent histories and contemporary political developments in the various countries of south Asia have shown an exponential increase in sexual violence, particularly mass violence. Even as the incidence of sexual violence – whether during the partition of India in 1947, or the liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971, or more recently, in the internal and cross-border conflicts in all south Asian countries, or indeed, in insurgent movements across the region – has increased, so has the ever-deepening and deafening silence around it.

The end of violence in Sri Lanka, for example, has not resulted in a frank and open discussion about the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war; in the ongoing political movements on the Indian side of Kashmir and India’s north-eastern region, rape remains a subject that is really only discussed in private – except when women bring it loudly to public attention as in the Manorama1 case. The Bangladesh War Crimes Tribunal of 2009 did not initially bring the investigation of rape under the tribunal’s remit, despite the fact that it is widely acknowledged as having happened, and despite women having spoken out about it.

Silence is not the only issue here, for crucial to maintaining the silence is the active collusion of the State in providing impunity to perpetrators, sometimes under the guise of protective laws, sometimes under the guise of nationalism. So heavily are the odds stacked against women here, that very few dare to speak out. Backed by culture, and strengthened by the state, and often with the active collusion of non-state actors, the impunity of the perpetrators then, remains largely unchallenged. [. . .].
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Challenging Impunity on Sexual Violence in South Asia Beginning a Discussion
by Navsharan Singh and Urvashi Butalia
The Economic and Political Weekly, July 14, 2012 vol xlviI no 28

P.S.

The above material from The Economic and Political Weekly is reproduced here for educational and non commercial use.