In December 1971, East Pakistan became the independent nation of Bangladesh after a nine-month war with West Pakistan and their local Bengali collaborators. Faced with a huge population of rape survivors, the new Bangladeshi government – six days after the end of the war – publicly designated any woman raped in the war a birangona (a brave or courageous woman; the Bangladeshi state uses the term to mean ‘war-heroine’) as an attempt to reduce their social ostracism. Even today, the Bangladeshi government’s bold, public effort to refer to the women raped during 1971 as birangonas is internationally unprecedented. Yet the term remains unknown to many outside Bangladesh.
Mookherjee, N. (2015). History and the Birangona: The ethics of representing narratives of sexual violence of the 1971 Bangladesh war