Sunny Hundal in his usual balanced way on these issues discusses the issue of women and partition really well in this article for the Guardian. Sunny demonstrates in his article the way that during the partition of India in 1948 women were used as counters by nationalists- rape and suicide were strategies to attack or protect women on either side. Traditionalists on any side are always keen to 'protect' women, surprisingly often from their own desires. At one end of that extreme lies the emerging problem in the UK of honour killings, at the other more benign end you have a character like Dennis Prager who informed his readers in 2003 that women going to see male strippers were betraying their true nature,
It has told them that equality means acting the same as men. That is how you have the utterly false spectacle of women acting thrilled to have anonymous men strip and rub themselves on them.Mr Prager ought to remember that women are quite capable of working out their sexuality without his help and that furthermore their sexuality will vary. Mr Prager's real concern though in stating this difference is his idea that women are the basis and buttress of the family unit- and consequently can't behave in the way that he perceives them behaving- in that sense like the honour killer he sees the world as one where women are men's property, in mourning what he calls the "death of femininity" what Mr Prager mourns is the period in which a woman's sex life was a way of signifying the virtue of the community in which she lived in.
Look at the conservative or even just the rightwing rhetoric about sex and this is what you come back to again and again. The insidious thing is that this sentiment goes with the division of humanity into groups and tribes and when this collides with a strongly held view of that division and indeed a prejudice based on it, one may slide quickly into the idea that a woman's virginity is a trophy of war. What Sunny chronicles therefore is a mindset which comes in two parts- firstly the nationalism and secondly the sexism- parts which are actually related through the idealisation of women as the signifiers of the virtue of the community. An idealisation which renders them passive and feminine- instead of allowing them to choose their own futures. There is a lot of ground between Dennis Prager and the honour killers- actions are important and Mr Prager would never consider murder- but ultimately there is a continuity of thinking. Sunny is right to draw this problem in India to our attention- right to remind us of the link to honour killing and to the BNP- but he is wrong to stop there- there have been horrible events in other wars in other places- and the mindset that sees women's sexuality as property and passive is one that is still prevalent in the West as well.