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Gender, Sexuality and Violence: Permissible Violence Against Women During the Partition of India and Pakistan

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August 15, 1947 marked the division of India and the birth of Pakistan and resulted in a mass migration of Hindus to India and Muslims to the newly formed Pakistan. This day also marked the worst communal violence in India's history. The threats to family, religion, national status and security during the partition magnified the tension over ownership and honor in female sexuality, leading to terrible violence inflicted against the women of both societies. The sexual violence that occurred during the time of the partition of India and Pakistan illustrated an extreme manifestation of the societal view of women's sexuality, namely the need to control and own her. The violence also illustrated how women's sexuality symbolically represented power in the arrangement of gender relations in both the Hindu and Islamic communities in India. This article will address these concepts of sexuality through the examination of the partition of India and Pakistan as a theatre, in which, due to the heightened emotion of the situation, sexuality and power became especially commingled.

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