FII is now on Telegram
5 mins read

Posted by Vara Raturi

TW: Sexual violence against women

A fiercely political chapter in Megha Majumdar’s recent bestseller, ‘A Burning’, follows a group of enraged men as they storm towards the house of a Muslim man, suspected of committing the ‘unthinkable’ – consuming beef. As they violently and forcefully enter his house, destroying everything they see, they also take it upon themselves to set the record straight and to punish his wife for his alleged offences. Majumdar paints an accurate picture of their inner monologue – “Our people, the true people of this nation, are a flood of cleansing water, our arms and legs full of muscles which grab and swing, our grip never more certain than when it closes around the resistant throat of the man’s wife. Never more certain than when it stretches open her leg.

Just like that, on the whims and fancies of a group of entitled men, a woman is violated in a way that can never be forgiven, yet is almost never questioned in the first place. Self-proclaimed righteous men who were out to save the dignity of their holy, sacred mother, considered it perfectly fine to rape a woman on their way. And not an eyebrow was raised. Not a muscle flinched. 

 This tale – of women’s bodies becoming convenient sites for men to wage their wars is not a new one, in fiction or in reality. 

 This tale, of women’s bodies becoming convenient sites for men to wage their wars, is not a new one – in fiction or in reality. 

Also read: Sexual Violence And Rape: The Anatomy Of Reaction

The much talked-about Prime Video’s Paatal Lok has a similarly disturbing visual. A feud between men from different castes, sparked by upper-caste men tormenting the other, eventually concludes with a woman from the disadvantaged caste being raped and sexually assaulted by a group of men from the so-called ‘upper caste’. It was depicted as their route to revenge, their way to justice. Similar, violent images are seen in portrayals of war everywhere, among the most infamous portrayals in popular culture being how Dothraki men rape women while pillaging villages in Game of Thrones. They transpire just as brutally outside the screens. What happened in the villages of Kunan and Poshpora, in Kashmir in 1991 is enough proof of that. Units of the Indian security forces allegedly mass-raped the women of their villages – the women’s bodies thus becoming sites for the assertion of political agenda.

Women end up becoming mere pawns, their bodies violated, especially because of the patriarchal, deeply-entrenched belief that women are the markers of each community and are the repositories of the honour and dignity of the communities they belong to.

Men often go to war and take up arms for reasons created in their heads and propagated in the world – like their violent need to protect a species of animals; or their staunch belief that a person from a caste they consider low should never dare to fight back; or across the borders, as trajectories of India-Pakistan partition indicate, because of religious extremist tendencies. And whenever they do, women end up becoming mere pawns, their bodies violated, especially because of the patriarchal, deeply-entrenched belief that women are the markers of each community and are the repositories of the honour and dignity of the communities they belong to. So, in the 2002 Godhra carnage when a Hindu mob gang-raped a pregnant Bilkis Bano, it was a) an assertion of the Hindu masculinity to emasculate the Muslim men as incapable of protecting their women, b) as a mockery of the honour of the Muslim community. Women’s bodies become mere pawns in masculine narratives of nationalism.

Women end up becoming mere pawns, their bodies violated, especially because of the patriarchal, deeply-entrenched belief that women are the markers of each community and are the repositories of the honour and dignity of the communities they belong to. Image Source: Aasawari Kulkarni

Yet, the women whose rapes would be dismissed as “collateral damage” in military parlance, would never receive statuses of honour for dying or sacrificing their bodies in the battle. More often than not, these violent acts go unreported, unregistered, unremembered. In the book ‘Our Bodies, Their Battlefield’ Christina Lamb has collected stories from women who have been victims of such violence, and these accounts are widespread. From being taken as sex slaves by the ISIS members to being incessantly sexually abused in refugee camps, women everywhere have gone through absolute turmoil when men decide to wage wars. Women become currency in wars, being traded as business deals, awarded to men for their wartime labour. 

The women whose rapes would be called “collateral damage” in military parlance, would never receive statuses of honour for dying or sacrificing their bodies in the battle. More often than not, these violent acts go unreported, unregistered, unremembered. In the book ‘Our Bodies, Their Battlefield’ Christina Lamb has collected stories from women who have been victims of such violence, humiliation and oppression, and these accounts are widespread.

The use of rape as a tool of oppression, humiliation and control is not limited to wars and conflict zones. In our everyday lives, it is manifested in the way men from different communities rape women from the other as a way of asserting their dominance over the community, and this problem is all-pervasive. Dalit women are raped by upper-caste men who think they are “putting them in their place”. Relatively-privileged women are not spared either. In her essay ‘The Masculinization of Wealth’, Gloria Steinem points out how socialist revolutionaries treat women as an extension of their husband or father’s class, subjugating them for being from the upper class. Men who were considered revolutionaries, like Norman Mailer, who wrote ‘An American Dream’, portrayed women from wealthy families being raped as a form of justified fight against the powerful men these women were considered to belong to. Forget that, two men having a verbal face-off pepper their spat with abuses that indicate raping each other’s daughter, mother and sister.

Adamant as they are on using wars, battles and other tools of violence to resolve disputes, the men in power (and they are almost always men) taking these decisions do little to ensure that sexual violence is kept out of these matters. Which is why, a feminist, more empathetic leadership is more important than ever. A country that is preparing for war will take away the resources allocated for social benefits such as healthcare, food security, education etc., the impact of which will directly or indirectly be on women. Thus, not only is sexual violence against women an obvious consequence of war and fascist, communal forces at play, it also impinges on other factors that benefit marginalised sections of the community, including women.

Also read: Infographic: Sexual Violence In Conflict

It is bad enough that men have created war and war-like situations. It is bad enough that they use brutality to sort conflicts and consider it justified. It is bad enough that they have created tyrannical structures. And it is disheartening that they want to continue to stick to these ways. Further, women have been made the centre of these battles and the sites of these violent acts since time immemorial, even though these were men’s wars to begin with. When will women be released of this all-pervasive, unsolicited burden?


Vara Raturi is a 21-year-old student, writer and researcher. An Ambedkarite feminist, she studies at Sophia College for Women, Mumbai. Her research interests span through feminism, psychology, philosophy, literature and culture. She works as an actor and curator with Mumbai-based theatre groups D for Drama and The Company Theatre. You can find her on Instagram as well as here.  

Featured Image Source: Marva M, Feminism In India

Support us

2 COMMENTS

  1. Loved the piece! Very well articulated. I think men perpetrating this horrific acts of violating women also stems from the patriarchal concept of women being treated as property of men they marry into or daughters of. Suppressed by men in her own home, an extremely strong powerful woman becomes vulnerable for strange men to violate.

  2. The respect for Indian Women is encoded in Indian History !

    These are the rapes of wives of BRAHMINS by HINDOO GODS ! Hindoo Gods raped Hindoo women and wives of Brahmins all the time ! I The Hindoo Gods created Brahmins just to rape their wives ! The best practice model was that the Brahmin used to meditate in the forests and be a celibate – inspite of having beautiful wives ! Y would a beautiful man marry a celibate ?

    The vile of the Brahmin was that he used his wife as bait to tempt the Gods to rape his wife – and then the wife cursed the Gods – with a pardon, contingent upon on a boon to her Brahmin husband, of writing some scriptures and limited immortality ! dindooohindoo

    This is the empirical record !

    Sage Atri – As Shiva,Indra and Vishnu , “raped his wife Anasuya”
    Sage Gautama – As Indra “raped his wife Ahilya”, by stealth he said the following from the Skanda PuranaV.iii.136.2-16
    O beautiful la dy of uncensured features, resort to me, the king of Devas, “Sport about with me”.
    What will you do with this Brahmana “who has become lean and emaciated”, due to his “over- zealousness for purity and conventional rites and austerities” and Vedic studies
    Lord Rama’s father – His wife had “sex with a horse and 11 Brahmins”, to make Lord Rama
    Lord Rama’s Story – “Vishnu raped Tulsi/Vrinda”, as her husband , was a Brahmin – then the “woman cursed Vishnu” to be “born as Rama” and have “his wife raped by Ravana” – all “due to the impotentica of 1 Brahmin”
    What did the Aswins say before they raped the Brahmin Sukanya
    Mahabharata 3.123
    “O divinely beautiful damsel, do thou, forsaking Chyavana accept one of us for husband. It behoveth thee not to spend thy youth fruitlessly…”
    Ved Vyas ,who wrote the Mahabharata, was the “bastard son”, of Rishi Parashar and Satyawa
    As per the Harivamsa Purana,Sage Vashishtha’s daughter , Shatrupa had sexual relations with Daddy Cool

    Then there is Forcing women of enemy soldiers to become prostitutes

    · Matsya Purana 71.26-30 ”Once upon a time thousands and thousands of the demons (Danavas, Asuras, Daityas and Raksasas) were killed in the war between the Devas and the demons.

    o Indra told their “numberless widows and those women” who were “forcibly seized and enjoyed”, to “lead the life of prostitutes” and remain devoted to the kings and the Devas.

    o Indra continued, You should look upon, with equal eye, the kings your masters and on Sudra. All of you will attain prosperity, according to your fate. “You should satisfy those who would come to you with adequate sum of money”, to enjoy your company, even if they be poor.

    And then there is Mr Manu !

    “Good looks do not matter to them, nor do they care about youth; ‘A man!’ they say, and enjoy sex with him, whether he is good-looking or ugly.

    By running after men like whores, by their fickle minds. Knowing that their very own nature is like this, as it was born at the creation by the Lord of Creatures (Prajapati),a man should make the utmost effort to guard them.

    The bed and the seat, jewellery, lust, anger, crookedness, a malicious nature, and bad conduct are what Manu assigned to women.

    There is no ritual with Vedic verses for women; this is a firmly established point of law” — Manusmrti 9:14-18.

Comments are closed.