THE SPECTRAL WOUND

The source of these guidelines and graphic novel (both in Bangla and English) are the research findings from Professor Nayanika Mookherjee’s book The Spectral Wound: Sexual Violence, Public Memories and the Bangladesh War of 1971. Durham: Duke University Press (2015); Delhi: Zubaan Books (2016)

 

The Bangladesh war of 1971 is particularly significant as in the post-war period the Bangladeshi state publicly honoured the women raped during the war as the ‘birangona’ (brave woman). There has also existed for the last 47 years a public memory (not silence) of wartime sexual violence that is hardly known beyond Bangladesh.

Why is there a need for these Ethical Guidelines
and the Graphic Novel?

Professor Nayanika Mookherjee’s research studies the public memories of sexual violence during the Bangladesh war of 1971. She does so by ethnographically examining the testimonies of survivors, state officials, human rights activists as well as archival sources, visual and literary representations. Most of the research in this area focuses on highlighting the testimonies of violence only.
Interviews with survivors show that with the focus on documentation of the experiences of wartime rape,
(i) inadequate attention is paid to the conditions under which such testimonies are recorded.
(ii) As a result, ethical practices of documentation can be flouted by journalists, human rights activists, government officials, NGO personnel, researchers in their pursuit of recording wartime rape.
(iii) Hence, survivors can experience a double set of transgression in the very process of testifying to their violent experiences during wars.
(iv) Hence, there can emerge a critical disconnect between survivors needs and transitional justice processes. Keeping these sensitive and ethical concerns in mind this website wants to focus on those who record testimonies of wartime rape (researchers, human rights activists, feminists, lawyers, filmmakers, photographers, journalists, writers).

We have co-produced in collaboration with Research Initiatives Bangladesh (RIB) an ethical guidelines and an illustrated guide which can be used by future researchers and activists in this field when recording testimonies of wartime sexual violence. These can be used by those who record testimonies of sexual violence in conflict (researchers, human rights activists, feminists, lawyers, filmmakers, photographers, journalists, writers). The guideline was launched in August 2018 by the Ministry of Liberation War of the Government of Bangladesh.

The Project is funded by the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account and Durham University’s Research Impact Fund.