In their book "" by Ritu Menon and Kamla Bhasin, the authors write about the violence committed against women during Partition. When I read some of the accounts of the suffering of the Muslim, or the Hindu-Sikh women, for a moment I feel as I learn more about the Partition experience that I'm further diving into a deep abyss of a never ending extent of human depravity which is hard for me to ignore or mentally block from my own daily life. The accounts have left a deep wound in my own psyche and I keep remembering the tragedies suffered by Punjabi women.
Menon and Bhasin opens the book with one woman’s testimony that recalls an especially gruesome detail: she saw patterns of tooth-marks disfiguring the skin of many rape victims. In Borders and Boundaries, the authors detail cases in which women’s bodies were tattooed with symbols of their attackers’ religions. Several attacks included men carving political slogans, such as “Pakistan Zindabad” (Pakistan forever) or “Jai Hind” (Long live India) into a woman’s skin—demonstrating the ways that women’s bodies formed living trophies of war.
Link to further reading:
Writer Arunima Dey further writes about this in the research paper here (PDF download):
As stated previously, there were two forms of violence against women during partition. The first form was violence inflicted on women by men of the rival religious group. The most common ways in which this type of violence was manifested on female bodies included mutilation or branding of genitalia with religious symbols, ripping out their wombs, being paraded naked on the streets or in places of religious worship, and finally, rape. Moreover, it must be asserted that every violent act served as a metaphor that was “an indicator of the place that women’s sexuality occupie[d] in an all-male, patriarchal arrangement of gender relations, between and within religious or ethnic communities” (Menon and Bhasin 1998: 41). The violent acts on women’s bodies were not targeted at them as individuals. In fact, women’s mutilated and raped bodies were a way to send out a threat to the men of the religious group to which the women belonged. A woman’s body became a site where one group tried to prove its religious supremacy over the other. Jisha Menon in The Performance of Nationalism: India, Pakistan, and the Memory of Partition explains the relevance of the female body in communal conflict. She states (2013: 121): “The female body served as the terrain through which to exchange dramatic acts of violence. The gendered violence of the Partition thus positioned women between symbolic abstraction and embodiment.”
Moreover, when one interprets the symbolic meanings behind various violent acts, one can claim that branding a woman’s body with symbols of the other country or religious group implies that the woman has been tainted by the sinful religious Other. Branding becomes a permanent reminder for the woman, whose shame at losing her honour remains forever ingrained on her body. Also, the parading of naked women at places of worship is a double-edged attack; it is the simultaneous humiliation of one’s religion and of women, who are meant to safeguard the purity of that religion. Amputating breasts, burning vaginas and ripping out wombs serve an even more sinister purpose. For Menon and Bhasin (1998: 44), these acts “desexualise a woman and negate her as wife and mother; no longer a nurturer.” In a culture that continues to see women as only fit to be mothers and caretakers in their husbands’ households, amputating women’s sexual organs essentially makes their very existence inconsequential.