Bina D’costa – Australia

Linked with War babies and Bangladesh’s tragedy of abortion and adoption.

Dr Bina D’Costa is the Convenor of the Bachelor Program in Security Analysis and a lecturer with the Faculty of Asian Studies, the Australian National University (ANU), Canberra. She was previously the post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand and the John Vincent Fellow in the Department of International Relations of the Research School of Asian and Pacific Studies at the ANU, here she earned her PhD in 2003. Her research interests are in postconflict peacebuilding, governance, gender and conflict, gender and development and the role of civil society and social movements. She has also focused extensively on both development and human security issues in South Asia. Bina is working with on historical injustices, truth and memory in relation to the strategies of civil society in demanding justice when there is a hostile government in power. This action-oriented research informs her book manuscript titled ‘Burden’ of the State: Gendering War Crimes and National Identity Politics in Postcolonial South Asia’. Bina is Verulam’s Senior Associate Consultant for post conflict and peace building (on the the Verulam Group, their Homepage).

Her bio at the Faculty of Asian Studies, The Australian National University ANU.

… She has contributed to various CSO (civil society organisations)-led projects in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India and worked as a consultant for the UNRISD (United Nations Research in Social Development), and DfID (Department for International Development, UK. Professional Activities:

  • Bina’s research interests and specialisations are in peacebuilding, justice and reconciliation processes; human security and borders; gender and conflict; children and war; and the role of NGOS in social movements;
  • War Crimes and Justice: Bina’s current project is on war crimes, transitional justice and peacebuilding in Asia. She is investigating various ‘justice seeking’ processes in Sri Lanka, East Timor, Cambodia and Bangladesh. She is also revising her manuscript titled ‘Burden’ of the State: Engendering War Crimes and National Identity Politics in South Asia;
  • Human Security and Borders: Bina has been involved in various policy oriented projects on borders, identity and human security, focusing on Rohingya and Muslim refugees from Burma and the Internally Displaced People (IDPs) of the Chittagong Hill Tracts;
  • Children and War: Bina has conducted extensive field research on ‘war babies’ with special attention to the War of Liberation of Bangladesh in 1971. This project has developed largely out of Bina’s activist work. She is currently involved in building a children and conflict network with Dr Katrina Lee Koo, International Relations, ANU.

… (full text).


Bina D’costa – Australia

War Babies: the question of national honour.

Listen this audio: Sarkar Kabiruddin interviews Dr. Bina D’Costa, 5.58 min, Jan. 21, 2007 … In this interview Dr. D’Costa talks about the workshop and its significance for future references and historical documentation.

Read: (Dis) Appearing Women in Nationalist Narratives (Part 1): Interview with Respondent A, Conducted by Bina D’Costa[1], of the Australian National University, January, 2000: (she says). I (Bina) gratefully acknowledge Ms Shahin Akhter’s insights and comments during and after the interview – Opening Note: The following interview was conducted in India. The respondent was not keen to disclose her identity. For the sake of ethical research practice, I kept the interview unedited … (full interview text).

She writes: … The most common form of translating films from Bangladesh is through subtitles. Unfortunately, except for a handful of the movies produced and directed by new age and alternative filmmakers, Bangladeshi productions do not have high-quality subtitles. I am really surprised by it because so many Bengalis are either bi-lingual or multi-lingual. Bangladesh is the homeland of a people who are unique in this world because they fought for their right to speak a language in 1952. The rich history, the beauty and evocative nature of Bengali are a source of pride for the people who speak it, who think in it and who write in it. It is indeed distressing that not enough attention is paid to the translation of dialogues in the movies. The lack of sensitivity and indifference when it comes to interpretation are frustrating! Some of the translations are totally wrong, have no meaning in English or simply do not make any sense … (full text on Bangali (Bengali) Community News Gateway in Australia for World News).

Find her and her publications on Regulatory Institutions Network RegNet /ANU; on Faculty of Asian Studies /ANU; on Google Book-search; on Google Scholar-search; on Google Blog-search.

The book South Africa and Human Rights Violations: Bina D’ Costa argues in his chapter on marginalized identity, that often the language of peace and the language in laws that is meant to restore a post conflict society differs or is not in touch with the reality “on the ground” (D’ Costa 132).  Lamia Karim, in Democratizing Bangladesh, finds a similar issue to the one mentioned by D’ Costa in Bangladesh.  Karim argues that in Bangladesh there is the issue of the “government two-facedly watching.”  To elaborate in Bangladesh, “The rights of a woman to free speech, to free assembly, to vote…are rights under the Constitution of Bangladesh, and the functions of the democratic state is to protect the rights of its (female citizens),” but the state will retreat to the threats of the Clergy and become silent to atrocities committed in the name of religion against women (Karim 293) … (full text, November 24, 2008).

Gender and Global Politics in the Asia-PacificEdited by Bina D’ Costa and Katrina Lee-Koo. RELATED: Asian Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations: This book demonstrates the integral nature of gendered issues and feminist frameworks for a comprehensive understanding of contemporary IR. It uses feminist frameworks and research to both uncover and reflect upon gender and global politics in the contemporary Asia-Pacific. It also brings together, into a coherent and accessible collection, the work of feminist scholars, teachers, and activists in international relations … (full text).

She writes also: … Men and women journalists, academics and practitioners all have a responsibility to consciously use gender sensitive language, as their outputs have significant impact in shaping norms and practices. Also, ridiculing Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia as “begums” does not necessarily translate into pointing out their failure as leaders. In a twisted way, familial connection has served as an opportunity to access political power for both men and women in Bangladesh. Family connections are important, not only in politics but in every aspect of economic and social life here. Who knows whom, and who is connected to who often determine who gets where. It is important to consider reforms in the society that will allow someone without any connection to show her or his potential. However, ethnic and religious minorities, people living in rural or remote areas, children who do not attending English schools or the best Bangla schools, must be given opportunities that allow them to have access equally. Neither AL nor BNP regimes have consciously improved the condition of marginalised people in Bangladesh. Benefits have trickled down in the name of the poor, but they have never actually been the primary beneficiaries … (full long text).

And she writes: … When this interim government began its drive against corruption, it received overwhelming support from the people. Some powerful lawbreakers were arrested including Khaleda Zia’s son Tareque Rahman, which further raised the expectations of Bangladeshis. According to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), the government has detained or questioned nearly 200 people (see BBC interview with ACC chief Lt General, retd, Hasan Mashhud Chowdhury). However, in its overzealous drive to fight corruption, the government neglected governing the country. The law and order situation deteriorated, prices of food and basic products skyrocketed and millions of people were left to deal with their own insecurities because of the recent floods (A. S. Huque, 27 August, 2007, The Daily Star) … (full text).

Discussion transcript on Pakistani power struggle emerges ahead of elections (she says): … I think there is a little bit of truth to that because you may remember a few months ago, Nawaz Sharif was trying to return, return to Pakistan and at that time Musharraf regime wasn’t very interested but now of course, because Benazir Bhutto suddenly changed her mind and mentioned that she wasn’t going to go into any negotiation with Musharraf so Musharraf thought it would be easier to bring back Nawaz Sharif and have a deal with him. But mind you, the people in Pakistan, they are currently very severely opposed to any sort of deal with Musharraf … and: I would be very surprised if it is a free and fair election but I think the election would certainly be rigged or at least manipulated by the current government … and: Behind the scenes there are quite a lot of conversations happening at the moment in dialogue and Imran Khan he is also part of this dialogue and they realise that only if they join forces, they can ask this current military government … (full interview text).

Security and Strategic Studies B (ASIA2030) – Semester 2, 2008: Dr Bina D’Costa: The purpose of the second semester is to extend understanding of the different dimensions of security in the Asia-Pacific region, nuclear biological and chemical weapons proliferation; economic and energy security; issues such as terrorism and counter-terrorism and trans-national crime as a security challenge; environmental pressures and resource competition; and ethnic conflict and separatism. The course will also look at different approaches to promoting security, and will consider the issues of regional order, alliances, international law, NGOs and civil society, intervention and peace operations as examples of the range of approaches. By the end of this two semester course, students should have a clear understanding of the nature of the major powers in Asia, the key issues that drive their security policies in this region, the most serious points of pressure and international tension and the forms of international tension and conflict that are most likely to characterise this region in the coming quarter of a century (on Korean Studies

The fringe people /Divided waters: Tracing relations between India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, coupled with people’s perceptions and experiences of state practices, the authors demonstrate that state discourses about borders and boundaries in the name of national interest often ignore those people who rely on the ocean for their livelihood. The region’s internecine strife is in many ways a paradox – of history, connections and shared national myths. Similarly, fishing as a hereditary profession has been perceived as ‘polluting’. It has also been understood as an outright ‘crime’, with fisherfolk often being treated as criminals, who must be punished, in order to teach them and their country’s government a lesson for the violation of international boundaries. We hear the stories of Indian fishermen in Pakistani jails and Pakistanis in Indian jails. Paradoxically, the dichotomies of shame and pride, impurity and purity, crime and rights are each reproduced by the fisherfolk themselves, both when they appropriate the languages of the state and when they join across borders as one livelihood community in multifarious ways. The fishermen of India feel irritated when Bangladeshi fishermen cross to their side, and vehemently support state action against those ‘unruly’ fishermen. On the other hand, Sisira, a Sri Lankan fisherman, when asked by an Indian magistrate about his citizenship, states “I live in Sri Lanka. My forefathers lived in India … I work and live in the sea. India or Sri Lanka does not come to me” … (full long text of her book review CONTESTED COASTLINES: Fisherfolk, nations and borders in South Asia, by Charu Gupta & Mukul Sharma, Routledge India, 2008).


Faculty academics in Burma open letter;

Women of 1971;

Feminist blogs: Feminist Theory and Gender Studies; Muslima Media Watch; Global Feminisms Fall 2008; Bangladesh Feminism, and its article: Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hussain and Taslima Nasrin – A Comparative Analysis of Feminism As Desired Role Models for Bangladeshi Women;

the website: Bangali (Bengali) Community News Gateway in Australia for World News (in bengali, with many english annotations);;

Voice of Bangladeshi Bloggers;

More books and articles: Feminism in Bangladesh; Muslim Feminism and Feminist Movement: South Asia;

On the Feminism of the Gift Economy.

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