area of manly pride and honor? The female body simply is the nation: bycontrolling it, men control India, even if they don't.This widespread image of the female body as the nation helps to explain why, during the waves of communal violence at the time of independence, possession of women was such an important issue tothe contending sides, as Muslims established Pakistan, and as Hindus and Muslims killed one another inlarge numbers during the mass migrations surrounding the separation of the two nations. Women wereraped in huge numbers; often they were abducted as well and forced to bear the children of the Muslim or Hindu who had abducted them.9 The rationale of these rapes and abductions is easy to connect with theearlier history: if the female body symbolizes the nation, then in the struggle of two emerging nations thepossession and impregnation of women is a potent weapon in consolidating power. Even when womenwere not abducted but were raped and then brutally murdered, this too was an act symbolizing the power of one group to damage the domain of rule of the other group, dishonoring the group in the process.To move from the time of Sarkar's book into the present day, the legal separation that helped to producethis situation was permitted to survive untouched in India at independence, with the result that reform infamily law is extremely slow and cumbersome. Christian women in India, for example, won the right todivorce on grounds of cruelty only in 2001. All four religious systems of personal law contain significantinequalities between the sexes; the control over women's bodies continues to be a rhetorically andpolitically potent issue that can block change. Each group continues to some extent to see the femalebody as a symbol of the nation, which its men must control in order to preserve manly honor. The struggleof the men within each group not to cede to women any sphere of rule that might weaken them in relationto the men of any other group is a major impediment to feminist reform.10This history goes some distance toward explaining the events in Gujarat, with their insistent focus on theviolation of the female body. If the Muslim female body is a part of the nation that is currently dominatedby one's adversary, then one must possess it to possess secure control over the nation. Murder, andhence destruction of the source of offspring, is one sure way of depriving the adversary of control over his"kingdom." If in the process one dishonors the adversary, all the better.
The identification of the female body with the nation takes us some way into the grim darkness of Gujarat,but questions remain. If woman symbolizes nation, why are women brutally and sadistically torturedrather than abducted and impregnated? To be sure, many people were murdered at partition, and in thegeneral violence many women were used simply as objects of the desire to maim and kill. On the other hand, the logic of colonial possession was also amply evident in that case, since men really did want totake these women to their country and force them to bear their children. And in large numbers, they didso. In Gujarat, we hear nothing of this sort. Women were simply tortured and killed. So we wonder howthe idea of woman as symbol of nation and national rule could possibly lend itself to this particular type of violence, what the connection can possibly be between seeing a woman as a symbol of what one lovesand honors and seeing her as an object that one can break up, withindifference to her pain. Shouldn't we say that it's only to the extent that men had lost the connectionbetween woman and nation that they were able to treat women in this hideous way, not even permittingthe survival of the body itself, but first torturing it and then, usually, burning it to cinders?In short, how can one maim, burn, and torture the venerated body of the nation?The feminist concept of "objectification" provides essential insight here.11 Objectification is treating as amere thing what is really not a thing. It has multiple aspects, including the denial of autonomy andsubjectivity and the ideas of ownership, fungibility (one is just like the others), and violability (it's all right tobreak the thing up or abuse it). Not all forms of objectification possess all these features: for example, onemay treat a fine painting as an object, thus denying it autonomy and subjectivity, without holding it to befungible with other paintings and without holding that it is all right to break it up. In the domain of humanrelations, however, sinister connections begin to be woven among these different aspects. At the heart of all of them, I would argue, is the idea of instrumentality: a thing, unlike a person, is an instrument or means to the ends of persons; it is not an end in itself. The objectification of women is primarily a denialthat women are ends in themselves. It is because one has already made that denial, at some level of one's awareness, that it becomes so easy to deny women autonomy, to deny that their subjectiveexperience matters, and, even, to begin to ignore qualitative differences between one and another, aspornography so easily does.What is relevant here is that the logic of instrumentality also leads powerfully in the direction of seeingwomen as violable. What you have already conceived of as a mere tool of your own ends, not an end inherself, can so easily be understood as something that you may beat, abuse, burn, even break up at will:it is yours to use, and to abuse. Even a precious painting has legal rights against such abuses only invirtue of its connection with a human maker: the "moral rights" of artworks under contemporary European