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The Rape of Women in Draupadi, by Mahasweta Devi, and Open It,”by Saadat Hasan Manto

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The Rape of Women in “Draupadi,” by Mahasweta Devi, and “Open It,” by Saadat Hasan Manto


Where there is war, there is the rape and abuse of women. From the Trojan War to the Middle East conflict, rape has been a tactic of war. Rape is commonly viewed by society as a symbol of female degradation, female submission, and the stripping of honor and humanity. In the stories “Draupadi,” by Mahasweta Devi, and “Open It,” by Saadat Hasan Manto, the rape of women is a common theme. In Manto’s “Open It,” a young girl, Sakina, is raped by young men of her community, while in Devi’s “Draupadi,” a tribal rebel is raped by authorities of the state. While the storylines of these pieces are rather similar, the portrayal of the rape and the reactions of the young women are exceedingly different. Both authors use the disrobing of garments to create a dramatic climax. However, the respective climaxes convey contrasting ideas about the rape and degradation of women. In “Draupadi,” the unveiling of garments reveals immense female power. In “Open It,” the disrobing of garments reveals helpless female submission. Despite these differences, however, both acts of disrobing result in a striking male reaction and symbolize the remarkable survival of these battered and abused women.

The circumstances of the rape and the personalities of the rape victims are very different in “Open It” and “Draupadi.” In Manto’s story, a father is desperately looking for his daughter, Sakina, in the midst of the chaos and disorder of Partition. He asks self appointed social workers of the community to help him find Sakina. When Sakina is approached by these men, her initial reaction is one of fright: “The moment she heard the truck, she began to run” (Manto 360). ...


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...r remarkable survival. Although society will always have preconceptions of rape and how a woman should and will react to being raped, it is apparent through “Draupadi” and “Open It” that being raped is a very personal experience. It is an experience unique to women that can yield very different reactions. Rape can make a woman, like it did Dopdi, or it can break a woman like it did Sakina. Because being raped is such a personal experience, a woman’s reaction to such a trauma should not and can not be judged. Whether a woman is strengthened or weakened through rape, it does not matter. What matters is that she survives.

Works Cited

Devi, Mahasweta. “Draupadi.” In Other Worlds. Ed. Chakravorty Spriak. New York and London: Routledge, 1987.

Manto Hasan, Saadat. “Open It.” Stories about the Partition of India. Ed. Alok Bhalla. New Delhi: Harper Collins, 1999.


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