B: In your opinion, why do you think the women remained silent?
GD: Horror, you see. They all had nightmares. You never get over it! A lot of them had tremendous anxiety. Because we were foreign and they didn’t trust anybody who was foreign. They didn’t
know what we were going to do to them…
B: Did you visit any areas where the rape camps were situated?
GD: Rape camps had been disbanded and the Rehabilitation Organisation was trying to get the women back to their village or town. But what
was happening in a lot of instances was that they’d get a wife back to the husband and he would kill her. Because she had been defiled. And in some cases they didn’t want to know about what happened. And there were bodies in Jamuna right up to
the distant parts of the country. And it was that what got people excited in Europe in what was going on.
B: Do you remember
the women? How many you were performing abortion on?
GD: It’s hard to recall the exact statistics. But about hundred
B: In Dhaka or in other parts of Bangladesh?
GD: It is difficult to put a figure in it. About 100 a day in Dhaka and in variable numbers in lot of other towns. And some would go to Calcutta…
B: Do you recall the percentage? For example, class-wise, religion-wise how many women you saw?
GD: It was right across the classes. We didn’t care what they were religion-wise…we had to get them out of trouble. In general, of course the rich ones were able to leave the country as
soon as there was an armistice and go to Calcutta to get abortion and they did that…
B: Were the women asked if they
wanted to have abortion? Were they given the choice?
GD: Yes. Certainly. All the women we received wanted to have abortions.
On the other hand, the women, who had delivered, handed the newborn babies over to the rehabilitation organisation. And that’s how they got to the ISS and other countries. How many, I have no idea.
B: Do you recall women crying or being visibly upset during the abortion procedure?
GD: No, none of them cried. They were very impressive. They didn’t cry at all. They just stayed very quiet. That made it easier for us!
B: You mentioned that you only provided treatment to the women who chose to abort their babies. I just want to return to that point. Who did the women give their consent to: the involved doctors, nurses or social workers
about terminating their pregnancies?
GD: Oh, Yes.
B: Did they have to sign a paper?
GD: I think they had to sign
a document of consent. I am not sure though. The government indirectly organised that. It was organised largely by the Rehabilitation Organisation. And the women who were helping with that. Nobody got near the clinic who hasn’t agreed to have an abortion,
that’s for sure. So, that was not an issue.
B: Did you perform abortion till the very end? Wouldn’t that be at
a stage of advanced pregnancy?
GD: Yes, I terminated pregnancy for all six months I had been there. They had such a degree
of malnutrition that a term foetus of 40 weeks was about the same size as 18 weeks anywhere else.
B: Do you recollect the
women or the children receiving any kind of counselling?
GD: Counselling, yes with the rehabilitation organisation. There
were women social workers who talked to them. I don’t think it helped them. Because they were all malnourished, had horrible deficiency diseases…and they all had venereal diseases of one kind or another. It was pretty dreadful. The country had
very little resources, medicines and facilities to deal with this problem. And the limited resources were kept for the war veterans, etc. There was not much left for the women. We had to bring our own stuff in.
B: Where did you get your supplies? Was it enough?
From England. I was told to bring my own supply. I also took two sets of instruments and the antibiotics.
B: Have you used
only these two sets of instruments for six months to terminate pregnancy?
GD: Yes. The instruments in the local hospitals
were destroyed and there wasn’t much. And medicinal stuff was only for the wounded men.
B: Was it medically safe?
GD: Yes. It was lot less dangerous than going into term with all those diseases, particularly the younger ones.
B: So you were involved in both the abortion programme and the adoption?
GD: Yes. But with regard to the adoption programme, only in handing the babies over to the ISS. Any little ones, even up to toddlers… That was all a bit much. But the numbers involved having abortion or
newborn were huge. The compound where the women had been kept during the war must have been enormous. But they all had been disbanded by the time I got there.
B: What about outside of Dhaka city, in the areas where you had been? What kind of facilities were made available?
GD: Hospitals and the rehabilitation organisation…I can’t remember what it was called! The Bangladesh National Women’s Rehabilitation Organisation or something like that. That was operating in most of the large centres.
And the numbers being done prior to me going there was negligible because no body wanted to do that. Most of the medical staff in the hospital thought it was illegal. However, I had a letter from the Secretary of the State, Rob Chowdhury authorising my work
there. It mentioned that anything I wanted to do was perfectly legal and they will give me all assistance. I can’t find the letter now. It is probably somewhere…Lots of papers from Bangladesh…I thought it was important since I was never
going to see anything like that ever again as long as I lived. So, I better keep those.
It was very hard, horrific at that
B: Did all the women generally agree to have abortion or give up their babies for adoption? Were any of them interested
to keep the baby?
GD: Well…a few of them did…
B: Do you know what happened to them?
GD: I have no idea.
ISS was there to get as many babies as they could. Because there were less and less babies available for adoption in America and Western Europe and they wanted to get as many babies as they could get.
B: International Social Services?
GD: Yes. It’s based
in Washington DC. A major organisation involved for adoption.
B: What happened to the mothers?
GD: After abortion or delivery they stayed for a little while and then went off to the accommodation provided by the Relief and Rehabilitation Centre. They
could stay there for as long as they liked. And then the women went into training programmes. I saw a few of them — making clothes on a promotional basis. In Dhaka, Dinajpur, Rangpur, Noakhali.
“My sincere thanks to Dr. Davis for sharing his account. Before I left, we had an extensive discussion about his revisiting Bangladesh. Our discussion naturally led to future possibilities
of a war-crimes tribunal. Geoff held my hand tightly and placed it on his chest. He had tears in his eyes. He said he’d do anything in his power to help Bangladesh in its effort to seek justice. As a preliminary step, I genuinely hope that this interview
will inspire interested groups to organise for an official documentation of his story.”
“I gratefully acknowledge
the assistance of Mr. Roger Kilham who located Dr. Davis. Sincere thanks to Dr. Hameeda Hossain for her comments on the draft.” — Dr. Bina D’Costa
16 Dec 19/Monday Source: bdnews24.com