"It's been 45 years but I could never forget the brutality I had to endure. Even my 35-year-old son feels ashamed to call me mother. It would have been better if I had died in the war, rather than seeing the hatred in his eyes.
Now my son lives with his in-laws at their house. Many a night I go to bed hungry, but he does not even bother to ask whether I have eaten.
I have even poured kerosene on myself to commit suicide but could not do it after thinking about my grandchildren.”
Birangana Honufa Begum burst into tears while sharing her life story at a seminar held in RC Mojumder auditorium of Dhaka University (DU) yesterday.
Like Honufa, nine other Biranganas ("brave women”) were present at the seminar on the socio-economic conditions of the women raped by the Pakistani military and their local collaborators in the Liberation War of 1971.
Social organisations Samajik Sahayata Udyog and Aparajeya Bangla organised the programme.
Honufa Begum lived at a rented house in the capital's Manda. She was one of the two-lakh women who had to tolerate immense physical and psychological torture at the hands of the Pakistan army and their collaborators.
"Bangabandhu recognised us as his daughters. But nobody cares about us anymore. No government official visits us. We don't want money. We want recognition and want to live with due respect," said Honufa.
"This condition prevails almost everywhere. They remain uncared for," Dr Abu Md Delwar Hosain, director of Samajik Sahayata Udyog, told The Daily Star.
Dr Delwar, also a professor of DU's history department, said, "The government has already recognised 130 Biranganas as freedom fighters and they are gazetted. Those children who never look after their mothers go to them only to enjoy the grant."
Speakers at the programme stressed that the female victims of war rape live in inhumane conditions, isolated from families and society.
They said the state has not provided the brave women any significant assistance. Bangabandhu initiated rehabilitation activities after the Liberation War, but the programmes were stopped after 1975, speakers said, adding, they could not lead normal lives afterwards and were shunned by the society.
Nayanika Mookherjee, reader in Socio-Cultural Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology, of Durham University of the United Kingdom, presented her key-note speech on The Spectral Wound: Sexual Violence, Public Memories, and Bangladesh War of 1971. “The Biranganas are often rebuked and insulted, which needs to be stopped,” she stressed.
Later, nine of those brave women were given Tk 5,000 each as grants. Prof Salimullah Khan of ULAB, DU Pro-Vice Chancellor (Academic) Prof Dr Nasreen Ahmad, and Liberation War Museum Trustee Mofidul Hoque also spoke.