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Debunking the claim of 200,000 rapes in 1971

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Apprentice

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Okay se we all know that rape happened (on both sides) in the 1971 war and we all know that the 2 lakh number has no accounting basis (its been made popular through unquestioned repetition in the media and scholarship). But is there hope for figuring out the true extent of rape in that war?

Lets take a look at what the Bangladeshi journalist Jauhari said soon after the war on the basis of his survey:

"I have spoken to no less than five hundred peoples of different districts and have asked them, ‘Has anyone in your family or among your relatives, friends or acquaintance been raped by Pakistani soldiers?’ None affirmed, everyone said ‘no’. It may be that some of them were ashamed to disclose. Besides, it is not impossible for the Pakistan Army to have a few characterless soldiers. But, how could these produce the figure of two hundred thousand? Moreover’ how was this figure arrived at within a week of the liberation of the country? Who did the survey?"
-Reference: Tirish Lakher Telesmat (The Riddle of Thirty Lakh), Asha Prokashani, 435 Elephant Road,Dhaka -1217, 1994: 14.

So its clear that rape was not endemic or the rule in 1971. The Pakistan Army had to run the civil administration of East Pakistan, feed its people and fight Indian infiltration as well as Mukti Bahini.

Its obvious that the number and stories of rapes have been exaggerated, like the numbers and stories of killings. Dr Sarmila Bose couldn't find any rape cases in her case studies and field work in Bangladesh. Even though she had heard from others that there had been rapes in the cases and villages she was studying, but the on-the-ground witnesses told her the Army did not harm women and children. That also supports the fact that rape was not endemic in 1971 and that there are a lot of lies and exaggerations floating about.

But where did this 200,000 figure come from?

It comes from a certain Australian surgeon called Dr Geoffrey Davis who came to Bangladesh in 1972 for six months to perform abortions. He estimated that 470,000 women were raped and 200,000 became pregnant. This medically impossible claim of almost 50% pregnancy rate gives away his lie. Anyone with a minimum training in female physiognomy would know that conception rates are 20-25%. He also repeated his absurd hypothesis of 50% pregnancy rate resulting from the "war rapes" more than once in his diary "The Changing Face of Genocide - Bangladesh." Bangladeshi academic Dr M Abdul Mumin Chowdhury in his book "Behind the Myth of Three Million" cited Davis' medically ludicrous claim of 50% pregnancy rate to show that Davis was lying. Dr Chowdhury also wondered where all these women were. Despite being a Bangladeshi, he didn't know any woman who had been raped.

In his diary he also claimed that 150,000-170,000 of the 200,000 women had already had abortions by the time he got there.[1] That contradicts his earlier claim in a 1972 New York Times article that 5,000 pregnancies had already been terminated by "crude" methods.[2] He also made other preposterous claims like the Bangladeshi population was 90 million (it was actually ~70 million). He claimed in his 2002 interview with Bina D'Costa that he was doing 100 abortions a day while a "variable number" were happening in other towns.[3] Yet in a New York Times article from 1972 he said he did 100 abortions in Dhaka in his first month while a "variable number" were happening in other towns.[3]

His self contradictions, medically impossible claims and wrong statistics completely nullify his value as a credible source for any claim. His allegations about Tikka Khan also reveal a certain prejudice against Pakistan. He made a number of wild claims, jumping from one wildly high figure to the next using faulty methodologies. In one instance he claimed that since 1.1 million women were of childbearing age it was fair to assume that a third of them were raped. He also claimed that there were 1500 pregnancies per thana. This is contradicted by Jauhuri (a Bangladeshi) who found that he couldn't find anyone in any district who knew about any rape incident. Its obvious that Geoffrey Davis (a foreigner to Bangladesh) was lying.

The National Board of Bangladesh Women's Rehabilitation Program (BWRP) used the following method. It claimed that two women had gone missing from each thana (police station) each day between 26 March and 16 December (270 days). Since there were 480 thanas at the time they multiplied 480 x 270 x 2 to arrive at a figure of 268,200. It then subtracted 68,000 to allow for women who might have been missing for "other reasons." This is how it arrived at a figure of 200,000 women raped.[4]

But this is a baseless methodology. It depends on the premise that 2 girls went missing each day from each thana. This premise has no evidence. How did the Board figure out that 2 women were going missing each day everywhere? Were the thanas keeping records? Moreover, it discounts the fact that women would have been going to India as refugees. As we have seen the Bangladeshi journalist Jauhuri toured the various districts and couldn't find anyone who knew a case of rape.

Nevertheless the claim of 200,000 women has been repeated everywhere just because it was claimed by the Bangladeshi government (with no proper count). It was mentioned by Susan Brownmiller in her 1975 book "Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape." That book was important because it changed how the world viewed rape in general. But she only wrote 7 pages in her book on the 1971 rapes. And she gave no source for her assertion of 200,000 rapes and 25,000 pregnancies. She also gave no source for most of her other assertions. The closest reference she gives to any primary source are some quotations of a couple of girls' cases mentioned by the journalist Aubrey Menen in her New York Times article in 1972.

The Bengali Hindu academic Bina D'Costa (who confesses in her book that she abhors Pakistanis) cites Brownmiller for her claim of 25,000 pregnancies. But she cleverly adds the words "Official documents suggest" to give a veneer of documentation to the unsourced and baseless claim of "25,000 pregnancies."

Its also interesting that the Australian feminist Germaine Greer announced back in 1972 that she was going to Bangladesh to interview Bengali women raped by Pakistani soldiers. She even wrote an article called "The Rape of the Bengali Women" for The Sunday Times back in 1972. Its been cited by feminist scholars such as Nayanika Mookherjee in their works on the 1971 rapes. Yet the same Germaine Greer now says that the story of 300,000 raped women in Bangladesh was "not true." She also says that the idea that the Pakistani commanders used rape in Bangladesh as a policy "was never stood up" and an "urban myth."[5]

Bangladeshis don't know what has happened to most of the "raped women." There are no records of the rehabilitation centres for the rape victims or information of how long they lasted or what happened to their inmates. This shows that the Bangladesh is hiding something. Bangladeshi academic Dr M Abdul Mumin Chowdhury suggests that all this information has been hidden/destroyed because the data does not support the claim of mass rape at the scale which Bangladesh officially alleges. According to Dr M Abdul Mumin Chowdhury one of the later day "myth-makers" in 1974 could only report that 100 of these women had been given into marriage. Sarmila Bose also could not find any report from the rehabilitation centres.

In her book "Nationbuilding, Gender and War Crimes in South Asia" Bina D'Costa mentions it was extremely difficult for her to find any rape victim or war baby. Another researcher of the same topic, Yasmin Saikia, had the same problem finding "rape victims" and "war babies." Both assumed that this was because rape victims don't want to expose themselves. However, there is also the explanation that they just do not exist at the scale which is alleged, which is why they can hardly find anyone.

A similar explanation can also be given for why, when ten thousand Bengali "freedom fighters" came forward to marry these women, hardly any marriage was reported to have taken place. The Bangladeshi government, according to this New York Times report, [6] blamed it on high dowries demanded by the grooms. But the true reason is probably because the women just did not exist, in those numbers at least.

There are still some survivors of course who testify to being raped. But their existence does not in any way support the claim of 200,000 women raped. With the scale of rape being alleged, one would expect to find many, many more survivors. Especially in a country like Bangladesh where the rape of women during war is still more openly talked about than a more conservative country like Pakistan. In East Punjab we lost an estimated 50,000 girls during Partition of whom around 20,000 girls came back yet its more common to hear of their stories in Pakistan than it is to hear of the supposedly "much larger number" of raped women in Bangladesh.

Bina D'Costa talked to one Bangladeshi social worker Maleka Khan who was active with "raped women" in 1971. Maleka Khan said she made a list of names of 5,000 "war repressed" women. But the list included women impacted by the war through various ways such as widowhood or loss of living. They were not necessarily all raped women. (Conveniently?) Maleka Khan said she had the list destroyed and does not have it anymore. But the same Maleka Khan contradicted herself in another interview with the NGO Nari Progoti Shogho when she said "There were no lists of women because we didn't want to identify the women, and only wanted them to move fast back into normal life."[7] In my opinion, this casts doubt on the credibility of these "social workers."

So can we figure out the real figure? Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report says that a British Medical Team which went to Bangladesh in early 1972 only found that it had 100 abortions to do. The International Commission of Jurists (which was relying on books and newspapers and not ground research for its information) in 1972 said its clear from the fact that "teams" of British and American surgeons were doing abortions that the scale of the raping was large. Then of course, there was Dr Geoffrey Davis who was brought there by the "International Planned Parenthood Federation." All these facts would give the misleading impression that there were multiple teams doing abortions. This is false.

There was only one team carrying out abortions. It consisted of American, British, Indian, Bangladeshi and Australian surgeons including Dr Geoffrey Davis.[8] It was under the auspices of the "International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPFF)" - an organisation which was founded in India. Notable among these surgeons were Harvey Karman, Malcolm Potts (then the medical director of IPPF), Geoffrey Davis and Leonard Laufe. Of these 4 surgeons, only Malcolm Potts is still alive. In his book "Sex and War" he starts his first chapter by saying this "may well have been the largest systematic rape of women in the history of the world." The phrase "may well" shows his uncertainty. But where does his impression that this might have been the largest systematic rape of women in history come from? It comes from his Australian colleague Dr Geoffrey Davis who stayed longest in Bangladesh.

He says his colleague Geoffrey Davis "estimated" that 100,000 women had been raped.[9] Actually, Potts was wrong. His friend Davis had actually estimated at least 470,000 rapes. But note how much these figures of "100,000" and "200,000" and "400,000" vary wildly from each other. It shows a lack of serious accounting and wild estimation. These estimates are all a result of bias. Its natural that seeing the "sheer human suffering" of the few girls who actually had abortions, caused these doctors to become overly emotional and sympathetic for them and start exaggerating the extent of Bengali suffering. It was the same sort of Western sympathy for Bengali suffering after the 1970 Bhola cyclone which caused Western journalists in East Pakistan in March to not fully emphasise in their reports the Bengali nationalist attacks on West Pakistanis and Biharis before 25 March

Malcolm Potts is only a reliable source for the knowledge he is an eye witness of. Not the information he has got and based off hearsay. In his book he says "we offered them abortions and performed hundreds of the operations over several months."10 Note the word "hundreds." Not "thousands." Not "tens of thousands." But "hundreds" only. And that too "over several months." Moreover, its unclear how many of these pregnancies were caused by Pakistani soldiers as opposed to Razakars. For example, he himself in his book gives an anecdote of a Bengali girl who had been impregnated by a Bihari.

In his address to the United States Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, Ninety-third Congress, Second Session [-Ninety-fourth Congress, First Session] (p.582)[see link] to the US Senate, Leonard Laufe, who was part of the IPPF team which did abortions in Bangladesh, said that 200,000 women had been raped. Then he added these were the Bangladesh government figures. Then he says "of these, 20,000 were pregnant."

Of course, he didn't count the pregnancies. He was merely repeating one of the popular estimates, which all differed wildly. For example, the International Commission of Jurists in its 1972 report on East Pakistan merely relayed that the Bangladeshi government claimed that there 70,000 pregnancies. Susan Brownmiller says in her book said that "25,000" is the generally accepted figure of pregnancies. Of course neither counted. As said earlier when reading Laufe's testimony it is essential to separate the facts he directly observed from those which he was told about by others. For instance, he says that the week before his team arrived "300 new-born babies were found floating down the Ganges River." In the next paragraph he says that he knows of at least 250 suicides within the 2 weeks before he arrived.

The question is, how does Dr Laufe know of these cases. He obviously does not know these suicide cases personally since he himself admits they happened before his arrival nor did he himself see or count those babies in the river. Who told him? And how do we know that whoever told him were not exaggerating figures and stories like in so many other things in this conflict? Likewise. Dr Laufe says that "we are aware of literally thousands of criminal abortions that were performed by midwives out in the villages in which breen branches or sticks from trees were cut, inserted through the cervix as a foreign object, and we saw many who came in with these sticks protruding out of their abdominal wall, so that its sights were not nice" Now Dr Laufe obviously also did not see these "literally thousands" of criminal abortions that he claims to be aware of.

All we know from his testimony is that many women came to his team's clinic with sticks protruding out of their abdominal wall. He doesn't specify how many when he says "many." Meanwhile, an obituary in the Los Angeles Times by Elaine Woo [see link] for Harvey Karman, the other doctor who was part of the IPFF team, says that he "was part of a humanitarian mission to terminate the pregnancies of 1,500 Bangladeshi women and girls who had been raped by Pakistani soldiers." Its obvious that the various statistics on the number of pregnancies are all wild speculation and lack an accounting basis. So almost nothing can be reliably said.

In her journal article "Available Motherhood: Legal technologies, `state of exception' and the dekinning of `war-babies' in Bangladesh" [11] Nayanioka Mookherjee says:

‘Medical help’ was organized under the auspices of International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF London) and USAID. These organizations donated money, set up abortion clinics, provided medicines and retained the services of abortion providers and gynaecologists from the US, the UK and Australia – people who not only provided safe abortions for thousands of women who had become pregnant through rape, but also trained local doctors. Notable among them were Harvey Karman, Malcolm Potts (then the medical director of IPPF), Geoffrey Davis and Leonard Laufe, who set up ‘industrial scale procedures’ (Murphy, n.d.) of abortion. These ‘abortion centres’ were set up in middle-class residential areas in Dhaka. They alone terminated 95 percent of the pregnancies in Bangladesh occurring as a result of wartime rape. The centres performed more than 100 abortions in the first month of their existence, and 2500 overall.
So overall there were only 2500 abortions? Yet we have been hearing false claims of 25,000 pregnancies. Going by Mookherjee's word that these were 95% of the pregnancies resulting from wartime rape in Bangladesh, that increases the number of abortions/pregnancies to 2632. Justice Sobhan, who apparently headed War Rehabilitation Organisation in Bangladesh also gave a figure of overall 2,300-2,500 abortions. (But keep in mind that Justice Sobhan might be exaggerating. He is an involved source). The probability of exaggeration even in these figures of 2,300-2,500 abortions is possible. After all when Marcus Franda did ‘Random checks at the local level’ in 1972 he saw that Awami League functionaries had ‘invariably’ exaggerated victim numbers between three and ten times. That was for deaths. It is possible that the same applies for the number of rape victims. If Awami League officials had a habit of exaggeration, such that a foreign observer had to say they had invariably inflated casualty figures, then it is also not far-fetched that a Bengali judge would do the same.

Next comes the issue of war babies. There were Western reporters in early 1972 estimating that 5,000 war babies would be born. However, foreign couples who came to Bangladesh looking to adopt war babies found that the number of "war babies" born was way lower.12 For example, there were only 21 "war babies" in Mother Teresa's shelter of whom 15 were adopted by Canadian couples in July 1972. The remaining 6 were reported to have died later. Its also known that children born in shelters like Deva Sadan and Shishu Bhavan were not necessarily war babies, but also included orphans, foundlings, "illegals" (not necessarily fathered by Pakistani soldiers).[13]

By December 1973 one newspaper article claimed that nearly 200 war babies had already been adopted abroad and about another 50 were still awaiting adoption.[13] Its unclear how the paper figured out that these babies were fathered by Pakistani soldiers (as opposed to others like Razakars). The paper also mentions what I referred to above; that over 2000 pregnancies were terminated in the clinics. (Although we can't be sure that all women seeking abortions were pregnant from soldiers or were seeking abortions for other reasons).

The 15 war babies adopted by Canadian couples in 1972 were obviously part of the 200 "war babies" mentioned above. But it gets fishy when one reads the accounts, in Mustafa Chowdhury's book,[14] of how these 15 children were born in Mother Teresa's shelter. Their mothers who gave birth to them were anonymous women who came to the shelter to give birth and left. They might not have all been rape victims. They might just have been poor mothers trying to get rid of unwanted children or orphans. Could be any reason. Bangladesh did not exactly have a transparent and accurate recording system. Sarmila Bose gives an example in her article "Losing the Victims: Problems of Using Women as Weapons in Recounting the Bangladesh War" of a mental girl (with no memory or recollection of herself) who we really know nothing about but she is still paraded around without evidence as a woman "raped by Pakistan Army."

While Champa was supposed to have received treatment at the rehabilitation centre for two years (the centre was set up in 1972), the register of the mental hospital showed her admission there to be in 1972. The hospital register noted that Champa "might have been raped by the Pakistani army", while Champa said she remembered nothing about that year or how she ended up at the mental hospital. Mookherjee, clearly worried about the implications of what she has discovered, writes, "I must hastily add that I draw attention to these minute disjunctions to explore the assumptions that might have influenced the narrativisation of Champa's 'story' on the part of the journalist."

Mookherjee refers more than once to "200,000 women" raped in East Pakistan with- out questioning the basis for this number, and with regard to Champa, she argues that if forgetting is her way of expressing her trauma (of rape by the Pakistan army - which Mookherjee has just shown is a claim made by others and without evidence), then she should be allowed to remain silent. In conclusion she writes, "This paper should not be read as a negation of the violence of sexual violence of 1971". But, of course, Mookherjee's paper is a negation of the sup posed rape of Champa by the Pakistan army!

All we really know about Champa after reading Mookherjee's paper is that she is a mentally ill woman who has spent several decades at the Pabna Mental Hospital. She says she remembers nothing about 1971 or how she came to be at the hospital. The available evidence does not indicate whether she was raped by anyone. Nor is there evidence that she ever came into contact with the Pakistan army. The elaborate newspaper story about her "rape" and her "eyes brimming with tears" written by the journalist was a fabrication, as Mookherjee conclusively shows. The journalist had not even met Champa. His source was the non-governmental organisation which was trying to remove Champa from the only place she knew as home - the mental hospital - and parade her in Dhaka as a rape victim.
In another interesting anecdote mentioned about Mother Teresa, it is said she went to one of the Pakistan Army's supposed "rape camps" but she could not find any girls. All she found was hair and coats.[15] But we can't take the hair and coats as evidence of anything, There were a lot of forgeries in this war. For example, a Bihari author Aquila Ismail once said in an interview to The Express Tribune newspaper that she and her mother and sister were put in a refugee camp before migrating to Pakistan where the camp organisers told Western reporters that they were Bengali women who had been raped by Pakistani soldiers.[16]

In his book Blood and Tears, Qutubuddin Aziz also mentions how Indians showed some pictures to Western correspondents which "were claimed to be of the Bengali female victims of the Pakistan Army’s alleged atrocity; a close look at the physical features and dresses of the pictured females disclosed that they were West Pakistanis, not Bengalis" God knows how many more fabrications and misrepresentations are out there. Its a very poorly documented and misrepresented conflict where a lot of propaganda went in.

Conclusion
Assuming that there were 2632 abortions + 250 war babies adopted by 1973 + (guessing here) an equal number of war babies who were kept that would bring us to around 3132 pregnancies. Given that the average conception rate is 20%-25% we arrive at a figure of between 12,000 and 15,000 rapes.

And this is of course assuming that these figures of two and a half thousand pregnancies and 200-250 war babies for adoption were not in themselves forgeries by the government of Bangladesh which has destroyed all the documents about the women in 1971.

Moreover, its also known that, especially while the Pakistan Army was fighting at the border, the Razakars were active inside. There seem to have been more razakars (135,000?) active than there were Pakistani soldiers. Much or perhaps even most of these pregnancies may have been a result of rapes by Razakars and not Pakistani soldiers.
 
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KaiserX

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Bengladeshis have a tendency to lie with regards to the number of rapes/killings which occured in 1971. Any neutral scholarly source blows there claims away as lies.
 

Signalian

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Such lies had been planned many years ago.

The Illustrated weekly of India (1923-93), had posted an article, titled “The Spymaster” in its December 23, 1984 edition, which stated:

"The first meeting between Indian IB operatives and Sheikh Mujib had taken place as early as 1963, and after RAW was set up in 1968, it anticipated virtually every major military and political development that took place in what was then East Pakistan during a meeting in India with Mrs. Gandhi, at which the master spy (Kao) was also present, Mujib’s successor, Zia-ur-Rahman is reported to have remarked: “This man (Kao) knows more about my country than I do.”
 

Kambojaric

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Hopefully more Bangladeshis with time will become sensible and critical of sources. They have been bombarded with Indian propaganda for decades now so it is not surprising that it is hard for them to accept that there might be an alternate reality. People like Hasina only reinforce the lies they have been fed.
 

Apprentice

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Hopefully more Bangladeshis with time will become sensible and critical of sources. They have been bombarded with Indian propaganda for decades now so it is not surprising that it is hard for them to accept that there might be an alternate reality. People like Hasina only reinforce the lies they have been fed.
That said, how many Bangladeshis on this forum personally know any rape victims? And if they do, how many?
 

-blitzkrieg-

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A simple DNA test of a person born as a result can crack open these lies..I wonder if DNA tests matched for any of the accused people Bangladeshis hanged..
 

peagle

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Okay se we all know that rape happened (on both sides) in the 1971 war and we all know that the 2 lakh number has no accounting basis (its been made popular through unquestioned repetition in the media and scholarship). But is there hope for figuring out the true extent of rape in that war?

Lets take a look at what the Bangladeshi journalist Jauhari said soon after the war on the basis of his survey:



-Reference: Tirish Lakher Telesmat (The Riddle of Thirty Lakh), Asha Prokashani, 435 Elephant Road,Dhaka -1217, 1994: 14.

So its clear that rape was not endemic or the rule in 1971. The Pakistan Army had to run the civil administration of East Pakistan, feed its people and fight Indian infiltration as well as Mukti Bahini.

Its obvious that the number and stories of rapes have been exaggerated, like the numbers and stories of killings. Dr Sarmila Bose couldn't find any rape cases in her case studies and field work in Bangladesh. Even though she had heard from others that there had been rapes in the cases and villages she was studying, but the on the ground witnesses told her the Army did not harm women and children. That also supports the fact that rape was not endemic in 1971 and that a there are a lot of lies and exaggerations floating about.

But where did this 200,000 figure come from?

It comes from a certain Australian surgeon called Dr Geoffrey Davis who came to Bangladesh in 1972 for six months to perform abortions. He estimated that 470,000 women were raped and 200,000 became pregnant. This medically impossible claim of almost 50% pregnancy rate gives away his lie. Anyone with a minimum training in female physiognomy would know that conception rates are 20-25%. He also repeated his absurd hypothesis of 50% pregnancy rate resulting from the "war rapes" more than once in his diary "The Changing Face of Genocide - Bangladesh." Bangladeshi academic Dr M Abdul Mumin Chowdhury in his book "Behind the Myth of Three Million" cited Davis' medically ludicrous claim of 50% pregnancy rate to show that Davis was lying. Dr Chowdhury also wondered where all these women were. Despite being a Bangladeshi, he didn't know any woman who had been raped.

In his diary he also claimed that 150,000-170,000 of the 200,000 women had already had abortions by the time he got there.[1] That contradicts his earlier claim in a 1972 New York Times article that 5,000 pregnancies had already been terminated by "crude" methods.[2] He also made other preposterous claims like the Bangladeshi population was 90 million (it was actually ~70 million). He claimed in his 2002 interview with Bina D'Costa that he was doing 100 abortions a day while a "variable number" were happening in other towns.[3] Yet in a New York Times article from 1972 he said he did 100 abortions in Dhaka in his first month while a "variable number" were happening in other towns.[3]

His self contradictions, medically impossible claims and wrong statistics completely nullify his value as a credible source for any claim. His allegations about Tikka Khan also reveal a certain prejudice against Pakistan. He made a number of wild claims, jumping from one wildly high figure to the next using faulty methodologies. In one instance he claimed that since 1.1 million women were of childbearing age it was fair to assume that a third of them were raped. He also claimed that there were 1500 pregnancies per thana. This is contradicted by Jauhuri (a Bangladeshi) who found that he couldn't find anyone in any district who knew about any rape incident. Its obvious that Geoffrey Davis (a foreigner to Bangladesh) was lying.

The National Board of Bangladesh Women's Rehabilitation Program (BWRP) used the following method. It claimed that two women had gone missing from each thana (police station) each day between 26 March and 16 December (270 days). Since there were 480 thanas at the time they multiplied 480 x 280 x 2 to arrive at a figure of 268,200. It then subtracted 68,000 to allow for women who might have been missing for "other reasons." This is how it arrived at a figure of 200,000 women raped.[4]

But this is a baseless methodology. It depends on the premise that 2 girls went missing each day from each thana. This premise has no evidence. How did the Board figure out that 2 women were going missing each day everywhere? Were the thanas keeping records? Moreover, it discounts the fact that women would have been going to India as refugees. As we have seen the Bangladeshi journalist Jauhuri toured the various districts and couldn't find anyone who knew a case of rape.

Nevertheless the claim of 200,000 women has been repeated everywhere just because it was claimed by the Bangladeshi government (with no proper count). It was mentioned by Susan Brownmiller in her 1975 book "Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape." That book was important because it changed how the world viewed rape in general. But she only wrote 7 pages in her book on the 1971 rapes. And she gave no source for her assertion of 200,000 rapes and 25,000 pregnancies. She also gave no source for most of her other assertions. The closest reference she gives to any primary source are some quotations of a couple of girls' cases mentioned by the journalist Aubrey Menen in her New York Times article in 1972.

The Bengali Hindu academic Bina D'Costa (who confesses in her book that she abhors Pakistanis) cites Brownmiller for her claim of 25,000 pregnancies. But she cleverly adds the words "Official documents suggest" to give a veneer of documentation to the unsourced and baseless claim of "25,000 pregnancies."

Its also interesting that the Australian feminist Germaine Greer announced back in 1972 that she was going to Bangladesh to interview Bengali women raped by Pakistani soldiers. She even wrote an article called "The Rape of the Bengali Women" for The Sunday Times back in 1972. Its been cited by feminist scholars such as Nayanika Mookherjee in their works on the 1971 rapes. Yet the same Germaine Greer now says that the story of 300,000 raped women in Bangladesh was "not true." She also says that the idea that the Pakistani commanders used rape in Bangladesh as a policy "was never stood up" and an "urban myth."[5]

Bangladeshis don't know what has happened to most of the "raped women." There are no records of the rehabilitation centres for the rape victims or information of how long they lasted or what happened to their inmates. This shows that the Bangladesh is hiding something. Bangladeshi academic Dr M Abdul Mumin Chowdhury suggests that all this information has been hidden/destroyed because the data does not support the claim of mass rape at the scale which Bangladesh officially alleges. According to Dr M Abdul Mumin Chowdhury one of the later day "myth-makers" in 1974 could only report that 100 of these women had been given into marriage. Sarmila Bose also could not find any report from the rehabilitation centres.

In her book "Nationbuilding, Gender and War Crimes in South Asia" Bina D'Costa mentions it was extremely difficult for her to find any rape victim or war baby. Another researcher of the same topic, Yasmin Saikia, had the same problem finding "rape victims" and "war babies." Both assumed that this was because rape victims don't want to expose themselves. However, there is also the explanation that they just do not exist at the scale which is alleged, which is why they can hardly find anyone.

A similar explanation can also be given for why, when ten thousand Bengali "freedom fighters" came forward to marry these women, hardly any marriage was reported to have taken place. The Bangladeshi government, according to this New York Times report, [6] blamed it on high dowries demanded by the grooms. But the true reason is probably because the women just did not exist, in those numbers at least.

There are still some survivors of course who testify to being raped. But their existence does not in any way support the claim of 200,000 women raped. With the scale of rape being alleged, one would expect to find many, many more survivors. Especially in a country like Bangladesh where the rape of women during war is still more openly talked about than a more conservative country like Pakistan. In East Punjab we lost an estimated 50,000 girls during Partition of whom around 20,000 girls came back yet its more common to hear of their stories in Pakistan than it is to hear of the supposedly "much larger number" of raped women in Bangladesh.

Bina D'Costa talked to one Bangladeshi social worker Maleka Khan who was active with "raped women" in 1971. Maleka Khan said she made a list of names of 5,000 "war repressed" women. But the list included women impacted by the war through various ways such as widowhood or loss of living. They were not necessarily all raped women. (Conveniently?) Maleka Khan said she had the list destroyed and does not have it anymore. But the same Maleka Khan contradicted herself in another interview with the NGO Nari Progoti Shogho when she said "There were no lists of women because we didn't want to identify the women, and only wanted them to move fast back into normal life."[7] In my opinion, this casts doubt on the credibility of these "social workers."

So can we figure out the real figure? Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report says that a British Medical Team which went to Bangladesh in early 1972 only found that it had 100 abortions to do. The International Commission of Jurists (which was relying on books and newspapers and not ground research for its information) in 1972 said its clear from the fact that "teams" of British and American surgeons were doing abortions that the scale of the raping was large. Then of course, there was Dr Geoffrey Davis who was brought there by the "International Planned Parenthood Federation." All these facts would give the misleading impression that there were multiple teams doing abortions. This is false.

There was only one team carrying out abortions. It consisted of American, British, Indian, Bangladeshi and Australian surgeons including Dr Geoffrey Davis.[8] It was under the auspices of the "International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPFF)" - an organisation which was founded in India. Notable among these surgeons were Harvey Karman, Malcolm Potts (then the medical director of IPPF), Geoffrey Davis and Leonard Laufe. Of these 4 surgeons, only Malcolm Potts is still alive. In his book "Sex and War" he starts his first chapter by saying this "may well have been the largest systematic rape of women in the history of the world." The phrase "may well" shows his uncertainty. But where does his impression that this might have been the largest systematic rape of women in history come from? It comes from his Australian colleague Dr Geoffrey Davis who stayed longest in Bangladesh.

He says his colleague Geoffrey Davis "estimated" that 100,000 women had been raped.[9] Actually, Potts was wrong. His friend Davis had actually estimated at least 470,000 rapes. But note how much these figures of "100,000" and "200,000" and "400,000" vary wildly from each other. It shows a lack of serious accounting and wild estimation. These estimates are all a result of bias. Its natural that seeing the "sheer human suffering" of the few girls who actually had abortions, caused these doctors to become overly emotional and sympathetic for them and start exaggerating the extent of Bengali suffering. It was the same sort of Western sympathy for Bengali suffering after the 1970 Bhola cyclone which caused Western journalists in East Pakistan in March to not fully emphasise in their reports the Bengali nationalist attacks on West Pakistanis and Biharis before 25 March

Malcolm Potts is only a reliable source for the knowledge he is an eye witness of. Not the information he has got and based off hearsay. In his book he says "we offered them abortions and performed hundreds of the operations over several months."10 Note the word "hundreds." Not "thousands." Not "tens of thousands." But "hundreds" only. And that too "over several months." Moreover, its unclear how many of these pregnancies were caused by Pakistani soldiers as opposed to Razakars. For example, he himself in his book gives an anecdote of a Bengali girl who had been impregnated by a Bihari.

In her journal article "Available Motherhood: Legal technologies, `state of exception' and the dekinning of `war-babies' in Bangladesh" [11] Nayanioka Mookherjee says:



So overall there were only 2500 abortions? Yet we have been hearing false claims of 25,000 pregnancies. Going by Mookherjee's word that these were 95% of the pregnancies resulting from wartime rape in Bangladesh, that increases the number of abortions/pregnancies to 2632. Justice Sobhan, who apparently headed War Rehabilitation Organisation in Bangladesh also gave a figure of overall 2,300-2,500 abortions. (But keep in mind that Justice Sobhan might be exaggerating. He is an involved source).

Next comes the issue of war babies. There were Western reporters in early 1972 estimating that 5,000 war babies would be born. However, foreign couples who came to Bangladesh looking to adopt war babies found that the number of "war babies" born was way lower.12 For example, there were only 21 "war babies" in Mother Teresa's shelter of whom 15 were adopted by Canadian couples in July 1972. The remaining 6 were reported to have died later. Its also known that children born in shelters like Deva Sadan and Shishu Bhavan were not necessarily war babies, but also included orphans, foundlings, "illegals" (not necessarily fathered by Pakistani soldiers).[13]

By December 1973 one newspaper article claimed that nearly 200 war babies had already been adopted abroad and about another 50 were still awaiting adoption.[13] Its unclear how the paper figured out that these babies were fathered by Pakistani soldiers (as opposed to others like Razakars). The paper also mentions what I referred to above; that over 2000 pregnancies were terminated in the clinics. (Although we can't be sure that all women seeking abortions were pregnant from soldiers or were seeking abortions for other reasons).

The 15 war babies adopted by Canadian couples in 1972 were obviously part of the 200 "war babies" mentioned above. But it gets fishy when one reads the accounts, in Mustafa Chowdhury's book,[14] of how these 15 children were born in Mother Teresa's shelter. Their mothers who gave birth to them were anonymous women who came to the shelter to give birth and left. They might not have all been rape victims. They might just have been poor mothers trying to get rid of unwanted children or orphans. Could be any reason. Bangladesh did not exactly have a transparent and accurate recording system. Sarmila Bose gives an example in her article "Losing the Victims: Problems of Using Women as Weapons in Recounting the Bangladesh War" of a mental girl (with no memory or recollection of herself) who we really know nothing about but she is still paraded around without evidence as a woman "raped by Pakistan Army."



In another interesting anecdote mentioned about Mother Teresa, it is said she went to one of the Pakistan Army's supposed "rape camps" but she could not find any girls. All she found was hair and coats.[15] But we can't take the hair and coats as evidence of anything, There were a lot of forgeries in this war. For example, a Bihari author Aquila Ismail once said in an interview to The Express Tribune newspaper that she and her mother and sister were put in a refugee camp before migrating to Pakistan where the camp organisers told Western reporters that they were Bengali women who had been raped by Pakistani soldiers.[16]

In his book Blood and Tears, Qutubuddin Aziz also mentions how Indians showed some pictures to Western correspondents which "were claimed to be of the Bengali female victims of the Pakistan Army’s alleged atrocity; a close look at the physical features and dresses of the pictured females disclosed that they were West Pakistanis, not Bengalis" God knows how many more fabrications and misrepresentations are out there. Its a very poorly documented and misrepresented conflict where a lot of propaganda went in.

Conclusion
Assuming that there were 2632 abortions + 250 war babies adopted by 1973 + (guessing here) an equal number of war babies who were kept that would bring us to around 3132 pregnancies. Given that the average conception rate is 20%-25% we arrive at a figure of between 12,000 and 15,000 rapes.

And this is of course assuming that these figures of two and a half thousand pregnancies and 200-250 war babies for adoption were not in themselves forgeries by the government of Bangladesh which has destroyed all the documents about the women in 1971.

Moreover, its also known that, especially while the Pakistan Army was fighting at the border, the Razakars were active inside. There seem to have been more razakars (135,000?) active than there were Pakistani soldiers. Much or perhaps even most of these pregnancies may have been a result of rapes by Razakars and not Pakistani soldiers.
Very well done, and thank you, you have my gratitude.

But, I think you should also have mentioned rapes by the Mukti Bahini and Indian army soldiers, killing and rapes were done by them as well.

If West Pakistani and Behari women were being shown as Bengali women, and so many other smoke screens, then how many of these rapes could have been done by the Mukti bahani and Indian soldiers?
 

Apprentice

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Very well done, and thank you, you have my gratitude.

But, I think you should also have mentioned rapes by the Mukti Bahini and Indian army soldiers, killing and rapes were done by them as well.

If West Pakistani and Behari women were being shown as Bengali women, and so many other smoke screens, then how many of these rapes could have been done by the Mukti bahani and Indian soldiers?
Yes the rapes of Bihari and West Pakistani girls occurred first. Some mass rape cases of Bihari girls before 25 March are mentioned in Blood and Tears. It is said in many places that rapes by some of our troops were actually revenge acts. Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report refers to rapes by Pakistani soldiers as "act of revenge." I am doing further research on this. Perhaps @Cuirassier can be of help. He has mentioned that the wives of West Pakistani soldiers were raped by the rebel Bengali officers.

General Mitha was told by a rebel Bengali military officer that he and his men had stripped women from West Pakistan, raped them and forced them to dance nude. During her research, Sarmila Bose was told the name of this particular Bengali military officer by three Pakistani officers she interviewed. She verified it as she asked them the name independently.

Anthony Mascarenhas, who toured East Pakistan in early April, also reported some rape cases of the wives of West Pakistani soldiers, for example the Colonel in Chittagong whose eight month pregnant wife was raped. He also mentioned that the bodies of many West Pakistani girls were found with Bangladeshi flags poking out of their wombs.

Qutubuddin Aziz mentions in Blood and Tears that the womenfolk of West Pakistani military officers were raped in Mymensingh Cantonment on 27/28 March. I think the slaying of the West Pakistani officers in Mymensingh Cantonment is mentioned in the White Paper, but not the rapes. But Sarmila Bose visited Mymensingh and the locals confirmed to her there that the West Pakistani women were raped and abducted once their menfolk (the West Pakistani officers) were killed.

There are a few stories I have heard on this forum which indicate that our side's rapes were revenge for what happened to our women, but I cannot recall exactly who recounted these incidents here. I think it was one Bangladeshi member who was in the military.
 
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peagle

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Yes the rapes of Bihari and West Pakistani girls occurred first. Some mass rape cases of Bihari girls before 25 March are mentioned in Blood and Tears. It is said in many places that rapes by some of our troops were actually revenge acts. Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report refers to rapes by Pakistani soldiers as "act of revenge." I am doing further research on this. Perhaps @Cuirassier can be of help. He has mentioned that the wives of West Pakistani soldiers were raped by the rebel Bengali officers.

General Mitha was told by a rebel Bengali military officer that he and his men had stripped women from West Pakistan, raped them and forced them to dance nude. During her research, Sarmila Bose was told the name of this particular Bengali military officer by three Pakistani officers she interviewed. She verified it as she asked them the name independently.

Anthony Mascarenhas, who toured East Pakistan in early April, also reported some rape cases of the wives of West Pakistani soldiers, for example the Colonel in Chittagong whose eight month pregnant wife was raped. He also mentioned that the bodies of many West Pakistani girls were found with Bangladeshi flags poking out of their wombs.

Qutubuddin Aziz mentions in Blood and Tears that the womenfolk of West Pakistani military officers were raped in Mymensingh Cantonment on 27/28 March. I think the slaying of the West Pakistani officers in Mymensingh Cantonment is mentioned in the White Paper, but not the rapes. But Sarmila Bose visited Mymensingh and the locals confirmed to her there that the West Pakistani women were raped and abducted once their menfolk (the West Pakistani officers) were killed.

There are a few stories I have heard on this forum which indicate that our side's rapes were revenge for what happened to our women, but I cannot recall exactly who recounted these incidents here. I think it was one Bangladeshi member who was in the military.
I have a printed copy of the Hamoodur Rahman commission report, and Dead Reckoning by Sarmila Bose, which other books or pieces would you recommend I purchase or read. Thanks again.
 

Apprentice

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I have a printed copy of the Hamoodur Rahman commission report, and Dead Reckoning by Sarmila Bose, which other books or pieces would you recommend I purchase or read. Thanks again.
Blood and Tears by Qutubuddin Aziz, Behind the Myth of Three Million by Dr M Abdul Mumin Chowdhury, Wastes of Time by Professor Syed Sajjad Hussain and The Last Days of United Pakistan by Golam Wahed Chowdhary. The latter three are all Bengali authors. There are also some articles by Sarmila Bose such as

  1. Anatomy of violence: Analysis of civil war in east Pakistan in 1971
  2. Losing the victims: Problems of using women as weapons in recounting the Bangladesh war
  3. The question of genocide and the quest for justice in the 1971 war

 

Apprentice

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To add further to my article above about the distortion of the history of rape in 1971, lets look towards the testimony of Dr Syed Ahmed Nurjahan in Yasmin Saikia's book Women, War, and the Making of Bangladesh: Remembering 1971 . She says she did many abortions. In fact, 200 in one day. But when you read on she says
" I think most of the pregnancies happened a few weeks before and after December 16. Most of these women came from refugee camps, a good number of them were orphans. They were all Bengali. I did not ask them who had raped them, nor was I interested in hearing their life stories. But sometimes they told these stories on their own. In the case of married women, the general pattern in their story was that their home was raided, their husband was killed, and they were raped. In the case of unmarried girls, generally we heard stories that their parents were killed, and they were raped thereafter."
A few points to note here.

1. She says she did not ask who raped them - so for most of these women we don't know who were the actual rapists.

2. Most of these pregnancies happened a few weeks before and after December 16. We know that in the weeks preceding December 16 the Pakistan Army was facing a full blown Indian invasion and suffering many casualties. Its unlikely that they were doing much rape at this point in time. It is possible that these rapes were committed by others i.e. Razakars.

3. She further says most of these women came from refugee camps. If they were mostly pregnant a few weeks before and after December 16 and they came from refugee camps, its very likely they became raped and impregnated by someone in these refugee camps (in India) and not by Pakistani soldiers or even by Razakars.

4. The fact that Dr Syed Ahmad Nurjahan says that she thinks that " most of the pregnancies happened a few weeks before and after December 16" shows that there must have been non-Pakistani perpetrators also (as Pakistani troops couldn't possibly have raped after 16 December). And if there were non-Pakistani perpetrators after 16 December then its also likely that there were non-Pakistani perpetrators before 16 December. This seems more likely given the extent of Indian infiltration in East Pakistan at the time as well as the overstretched concentration of a small number of Pakistani troops over a large area.

In his war memoir "Memories of a Lacerated Heart (1971): A War Memoir (From East Pakistan to Bangladesh)" Major Iftikhar ud Din Ahmad Bhatti narrates that in November he came across Bengali Muslim refugee families returning from India with daughters who had been impregnated in the refugee camps in India. It is possible that many of these women who were impregnated in the few weeks before and after 16 December had actually been raped in these refugee camps also. It is also possible that Indian troops and rebels advancing were the ones raping women.

Major Iftikhar also mentions that there were Pakistani soldiers who were given punishments for raping women. The Hamoodur Rahman Commission, which was otherwise very critical of the military, says that cases were brought to its attention where men who raped were given punishments.

" 𝘊𝘢𝘴𝘦𝘴 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘦𝘯 𝘣𝘳𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘯𝘰𝘵𝘪𝘤𝘦 𝘸𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘴𝘦 𝘨𝘶𝘪𝘭𝘵𝘺 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘢𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢𝘥𝘷𝘢𝘯𝘵𝘢𝘨𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘪𝘵𝘶𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘵𝘰 𝘨𝘳𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘧𝘺 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘪𝘳 𝘰𝘸𝘯 𝘭𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘸𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘥𝘶𝘭𝘺 𝘥𝘦𝘢𝘭𝘵 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘭𝘺 𝘱𝘶𝘯𝘪𝘴𝘩𝘦𝘥. "

Some may dismiss this as a Pakistani account. But there is eveidence for this even form non-Pakistani sources. On 20 July 1971 an Indian newspaper "The Statesman" published an article called "Pak Military Documents Reveal Looting and Rape." The article claims that the Indian government had gained possession of some Pakistani military documents from captured Pakistani soldiers. One of the documents was a confidential letter from Brig. Maj. Hg. 131 Brigade in Sylhet No. 109070/G.S. (OPS) dated 7.5. 71. (This was from early May, which was one of the two most violent phases of the conflict, late March-early May. The other most violent period was towards the end of the war.)

The article says "this document admits that there had been reports of looting of property and assault and rape of girls and that the commandant had taken a serious view of them. The commandant directed that in future anyone found guilty of such crimes would be punished."

Of course, the Indian correspondent merely uses this to prove that rape happened in East Pakistan. But what it obliquely concedes is that the Pakistani military even in the middle of 1971 intended to punish anyone who committed rape. So this adds to the veracity of the statement in the Hamoodur Rahman Commission Report as well as the statement in Major Iftikhar Bhatti's memoir that punishments were given to men who raped.

1617006923834.png



Another interesting passage in Yasmin Saikia's book is this:

In rare cases when documents are available, they are suppressed, neglected, and glossed over. In a regional office in the town of Sylhet, in northeast Bangladesh, I found a moth-eaten list after going through a number of unmarked files hastily dumped in the “to be cleared” section of the office. Initially, I was not permitted access to this section. On repeatedly requesting, the director reluctantly let me speak with the clerk warning me that my effort to search for traces of institutional memory would not produce positive results. The clerk showed me the files “to be cleared” repeating the same warning as the director that I wouldn’t find anything there. One file in the pile surprisingly produced an enormous wealth of material. It contained the names of over five hundred Hindu and Muslim women, ranging between the ages of twelve to forty-seven, who were victims of sexual violence in the war. Some were married women, others were single, and some were widows. They were Muslim, Hindu, and Manipuri women from the Kamalganj Thana, Maulvi Bazaar, and Sylhet districts. Interestingly in the survey that these women returned, not one of them used the word dharshan (rape) but used terms like osohay (helpless), bhoi (fear), and nirjatika (brutalized) to explain their reasons for seeking help from the government. When I inquired why the office had not taken better care of such an important historical document, the director apologized that “probably no one thought it would be useful.”
So Yasmin Saikia starts off by asserting that these 500 women "were victims of sexual violence in the war" (of course we know nothing about who raped them). But later on contradicts herself by saying "Interestingly in the survey that these women returned, not one of them used the word dharshan (rape) but used terms like osohay (helpless), bhoi (fear), and nirjatika (brutalized) to explain their reasons for seeking help from the government."

So if not one of the women in the survey used the word "rape" how did Saikia conclude they had all been victims of sexual violence and not other forms of suffering such as widowhood, lack of male providers, injured etc? The answer is it was her own presupposed conclusion.

To further show how weak much of the information in books and media reports of the time are on this topic of rape is this example. A few articles from October 1971 claimed that 563 impregnated girls were being held by the Pakistan Army. There are two such reports making the same claim. One in a "New York Times" article (dated 14 October) and another in a "Times" article (dated 25 October).[link] The "New York Times" article says there is a "widely believed" story that 563 girls were being held in the military cantonment and were pregnant.[Link]

The journalist was basically relaying a popular rumour. Its well known from Sarmila Bose's research that inaccurate and fabricated information became popular through repetition of local East Pakistani hearsay in the international media. (For an example, the picture of the Jessore massacre which was published in the international press in reputable media houses such as the New York Times and Washington Post which inaccurately captioned a massacre of Punjabis by Bengalis as a massacre of Bengalis by Pakistan Army).

In the next sentence in that New York Times article it repeats hearsay that Bengali gynaecologists are "known to be" performing abortions without any witness statement for that specific claim. The second "Times" article repeats the same story of the 563 girls and says they were seized in the very first days of the fighting. It says there were girls among them who were seized from Dhaka University. This alone gives away the lie.

Its known there were no girls in Dhaka University on March 25-26. Begum Akhtar Imam who was the provost of the female hall in the Dhaka University has testified that there were no girls in Dhaka University except 7 and even they were not raped or abducted. So how could these girls have been picked up from Dhaka University in the early days of the fighting?

Most people will not have enough knowledge to cross-check and compare the media reports of that time which are the basis of biased scholarship today.

A major problem is that most people are surface readers who can't distinguish hearsay, unsubstantiated claims and witness accounts or subjective estimates and real surveys. For example, one old New York Times article by the Indian journalist Khushwant Singh claimed that "most" social workers gave a conservative estimates of the number of rapes being 50,000. No information was given on who these social workers were and how they arrived at these estimates.

The only agency he named was a Roman Catholic Relief Agency which gave a lower estimate of 4,000 rapes (although even how they arrived at that number is untold). Lots of wild subjective speculations with no real accounting basis were made at the time by journalists. For example, in one New York Times article it was said that journalists were predicting the birth of 5,000 war babies. Later, foreigners who came looking to adopt such children were told by Bangladeshi official Zerina Rashid that the number of children born were actually lower than what various sources were saying [link].
 
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khansaheeb

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It's easily provable. Just do DNA testing of the entire Bangladeshi population and we will have a definitive answer instead of wild conjectures.

Anyone with Pakistani DNA can have free Citizenship of Pakistan or compensation. Can't get any fairer than that?
 
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