JBS Vol 16. Num 1_2. 2014 - Mapping Transnational Narratives of Gender Violence and Human Rights Advocacy

Elora Halim Chowdhury

In this paper, I argue that to truly understand the complexity and “high prevalence” of acid violence against women in Bangladesh, we must pay attention to the confluence of political, economic and historical forces that make certain social groups more vulnerable to such extreme violence and suffering. By tracing the life history narrative of survivors of gender based violence, I hope to make it evident that acid throwing — a form of gendered violence — has to be understood beyond a “culturalist” framework, which explains this phenomenon as a product of harmful patriarchal cultural practices, seemingly more prevalent in certain South Asian cultures. Rather, I argue, acid violence has to be understood within a boarder “structural inequality” framework, which maps the vulnerability of the victims onto their life trajectory shaped by the complex forces of globalization, neoliberal development, patriarchy and poverty. Focusing on the systemic oppression faced by vulnerable social groups, whether embedded in family, kin and community structures or the global capitalist system, I argue that mapping a trajectory of suffering can aid in imaging a more nuanced and humane transnational analysis and response with regards to violence against women.