The Orders Were To Rape You

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Tigresses in the Tamil Eelam Struggle

Meena Kandasamy

  • ISBN: 9788194865445
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Number of Pages: 104
  • Size: 129 x 198mm
  • Weight: 220g

In 2009, the genocidal war of the Sri Lankan state against Tamils ends. In 2012, Meena Kandasamy, who grew up with poster-size pictures of Tamil Tigers and Tigresses, decides to make a documentary on the violence faced by the female fighters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in the aftermath of the brutal war. She meets the women who had survived the Sri Lankan camps where the orders were to rape them—women who are now refugees in distant lands, pale shadows of their blazing selves. Her documentary never gets made. But Kandasamy exhumes old hard drives to piece together their shattered lives.

Kandasamy also translates and presents us the poetry of three Tamil women combatants—poetry as op-ed, poetry as resistance, poetry as a call to arms, poetry as a call to poetry.


Meena Kandasamy is a poet, fiction writer, translator and activist. She has published two collections of poetry, Touch and Ms Militancy, and three novels, The Gypsy Goddess, When I Hit You and Exquisite Cadavers.


In the media

‘A meaningful attempt to communicate the collective experience of trauma and enrich it with posterity, significance and dignity’—Scroll

‘Crisp and vivid … records the gruesome first-person experiences of the Tamil Eelam struggle’—The Hindu

‘A book not only about Tamil women and the sexual violence they experienced, but also about the author’s relationship with Tamil nationalism’—The Wire

‘One moment burning with a fire that could burn down empires and the other, agonising for their people and self’—Feminism in India

An interview with Meena about the book appeared in

‘Never have Tamil women burned so bright, never have they dazzled so much, as when they were Tigresses… but nothing had prepared me to brace for the reality that these powerful women would be so vulnerable.’