Breaking Down the Birangona: Examining the (Divided) Media Discourse on the War Heroines of Bangladesh's Independence Movement

Kajalie Shehreen Islam


Rape, commonly used as a weapon of war, was long seen as an inevitable by-product of battle. Recent research finds that war itself is gendered and that the implications and consequences of violence in battle differ for women and men. Against this backdrop, this article explores the issue of wartime rape during Bangladesh’s liberation movement against Pakistan in 1971. It examines the discourse surrounding the women who were raped in wartime and, after independence, awarded the title of “birangona” or “war heroine.” It explores the representation of the birangona in the postwar Bangladeshi media, the media’s role in challenging or reinforcing the discourse, and the implications of these for war heroines who lacked agency.

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