[Recommended]Protesting Women in the People’s War Movement in Nepal

Protesting Women in the People’s War Movement in Nepal Author(s): Rama S. Lohani-Chase Source: Signs , Vol. 40, No. 1 (Autumn 2014), pp. 29-36 Published…

Protesting Women in the People’s War Movement in Nepal
Author(s): Rama S. Lohani-Chase
Source: Signs , Vol. 40, No. 1 (Autumn 2014), pp. 29-36
Published by: The University of Chicago Press
Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/676891
JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at https://about.jstor.org/terms
The University of Chicago Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Signs
This content downloaded from ������������128.95.104.109 on Fri, 05 Apr 2019 07:31:42 UTC�������������
All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/676891
Protesting Women in the People’s War Movement in Nepal
Rama S. Lohani-Chase
A woman . . . is her body; but her body is something other than herself. —Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex ð½1949� 1974, 33Þ
This rifle is my jewelry. You hurry along with your housewives; we have to
return to our bunkers and carry on our liberation struggle. . . .Nepali women will not be freed by talking nonsense in five-star hotels in Kathmandu.
—Asha Bista, a subcompany commander of the Maoist People’s Liberation Army ðPLAÞ, shouting at journalists covering the Maoists’ celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, 2006, as she points to her AK-47
ðNepali Times 2006Þ
L ike many revolutionary movements, Nepal’s Maoist People’s WarðMPWÞ, which lasted from 1996 to 2006, produced heterogeneousand contradictory effects in society and polity, and a definitive analysis may take decades.1 The long-brewing protest movement started officially
with the United People’s Front’s forty-point set of demands made to the
Congress Party government in February of 1996 and swiftly became an
insurgent movement, sweeping the nation into a full-fledged armed con-
flict.2 Seeking structural changes in the political, sociocultural, and eco-
[Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 2014, vol. 40, no. 1] © 2014 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. 0097-9740/2014/4001-0005$10.00
1 “Maoist People’s War” is a translation of the Nepali Maobadi Janayudda. Because of
space constraints, it is not possible to detail the multifarious protest movements that became
prominent alongside the MPW. I have chosen to portray the MPW as an instigator protest
movement that affected and in some instances fueled other protest movements, like the
Janajati ðindigenous people’sÞmovement, the women’s movement, and civil society protests. Some of the analysis and information provided here are based on my dissertation research
ðLohani-Chase 2008Þ; however, some of the interviews conducted with guerilla women in 2010 were done informally but with the personal consent of the interviewees ðtape on fileÞ. Real names are used in situations where the individual is a public figure and expressed the
desire to be recognized as such.
I am grateful to Asmita, Jayapuri Gharti Magar, and Bidhya Bhandari for talking to me and
sharing their experiences of war and the women’s movement in Nepal and to the Signs team
for being wonderful to work with, especially Miranda Outman-Kramer and Andy Mazzaschi
for their editorial help.MaryHawkesworth has a special feminist place in my life, and I want to
take this opportunity to say thank you, Mary, for practicing what you believe in.
2 The Maoist uprising was preceded by more than three decades of political activism in
Nepal.Until 1990,most activismoperated underground since, under the one-partyPanchayat
system headed by the king, political parties were banned and activists were often persecuted,
jailed, and tortured. In 1990, the political parties unified and led a protest movement, now
S I G N S Autumn 2014 y 29
This content downloaded from ������������128.95.104.109 on Fri, 05 Apr 2019 07:31:42 UTC�������������
All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms
nomic sectors, a coalition of communist parties demanded the election
of a constituent assembly and the formation of a secular and republican
Nepali state. By the time Nepal’s government, political parties, and the
Communist Party of Nepal–Maoist ðCPN-MÞ signed the Comprehensive Peace Accord in November of 2006, the conflict had claimed more than
thirteen thousand lives. Thousands were displaced from their homes, and
hundreds of disappearances remain unsolved. This protest-turned-war gave
rise to three key processes—militarism/militancy, displacement, and altered gender dynamics—each affecting the others and opening up moments of empowerment, agency, and transformation alongside periods of violence,
chaos, and despair ðLohani-Chase 2008Þ. Women emerged as political ac- tivists and guerilla soldiers and as victims of sexual violence and war, ren-
dering gender a significant lens through which to examine the efficacy and
modalities of revolutionary war. Therefore, my objective is to examine the
dynamics of gender and the protesting bodies of women during a revolu-
tionary social movement.My discussion seeks to shed light on the centrality
of women’s gendered bodies to forwarding the MPW and to examine the
war’s intended and unintended outcomes for women.
Although the MPW started in 1996, groundwork at the cultural level
had been occurring for years. After embracing Mao Tse-tung’s concept of
Peoples’ War in 1995, the CPN-M mobilized the All Nepal Women’s As-
sociation ðRevolutionaryÞ to organize grassroots campaigns against caste and gender discrimination, alcohol abuse, gambling, domestic violence, and
polygamy. These campaigns worked as a consciousness-raising process
that encouraged women to leave behind their “follower mentality” and
become action oriented.3 Women leaders ðe.g., Parvati 2003, 173Þ on the Left argued that women needed to sacrifice to break the “double chains”
of caste and class, meaning that women should fight as guerilla soldiers
3 This phrase was used by Asmita, one of the Maoist guerilla women I interviewed, to
describe women’s mentality in Nepali society.
known as the Nepali People’s Movement I, and reestablished a multiparty democratic system
with a constitutional monarchy. However, disagreement between the political parties, espe-
cially between the Nepali Congress ða liberal-democratic partyÞ and left communist forces, con- tinued. Governments changed often, and a faction of the Communist Party of Nepal ðUnity CentreÞ led by hard-liners on the Left boycotted the 1995 elections and adoptedMaoism. The defecting communist parties alleged that the Congress Party, which emerged as the major
democratic force after the election of 1991, was not only ineffective in delivering democracy,
good governance, and development but had also become corrupt, power hungry, and insen-
sitive to the suffering of themasses. Studies edited byArjunKarki andDavid Seddon ð2003Þ and Deepak Thapa ð2003Þ are useful for understanding the MPW in Nepal.
30 y Symposium: Gendered Bodies in the Protest Sphere
This content downloaded from ������������128.95.104.109 on Fri, 05 Apr 2019 07:31:42 UTC�������������
All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms
and that women’s martyrdom would establish them as equal to men. Until
then, the party would not take seriously the “woman question,” as stated
by Puspa Kamal Dahal, chairman of the CPN-M in his interview ðKarki and Seddon 2003, 109Þ. However, for the movement to be successful, the need for women to transgress gender roles was as important as the need
for them to perform traditional ones. Although women were told to pick
up arms and shed their dependence, the agency they exhibited was also
paradoxical, since many continued to do what they always had: carry loads,
cook, clean, andmaintain relationships ðGautam, Banskota, andManchanda 2003; Pettigrew and Shneiderman 2004Þ. Close observation of the ways in which the Maoist party mobilized women shows the use of both a pa-
triarchal revolutionary model, in which women are called upon to dem-
onstrate their cultural and nationalist affinity, and an emancipation revo-
lutionary model, in which they are encouraged to evolve as free, individual
citizen-subjects, as theorized by Valentine Moghadam ð2003Þ. Although the importance of revolutionary wars in liberating women and opening
up new opportunities for the reconstruction of gender roles cannot be
denied, as Moghadam also states, many revolutionary movements of the
past have utilized gender scripts in myriad ways for the goal of class de-
volution ðGoldstein 2001; Shayne 2004Þ. This pattern seems to continue even for revolutions undertaken in the twenty-first century.
Jayapuri Gharti Magar, then president of the All Nepal Women’s Asso-
ciation ðRevolutionaryÞ and also party whip of the CPN-M for the Con- stituent Assembly formed in 2008, has stated that women participated in
the war in many capacities, including holding command positions during
battles, and that they made many sacrifices. Yet she has noted that women
militants and party workers were consistently overshadowed in Nepal’s male-
dominated political environment after the war.4 Despite making up one-
third of the Constituent Assembly in 2008, women were not able to have
much influence in the multiple governments that Nepal has had since the
election.5 At the war’s height, during peace talks between the Maoists
and other political parties, no women were at the table. However, women
Maoists publicized the fact that women made up 40 percent of the militia
4 I interviewed Gharti Magar in the summer of 2010. In another interview in 2009, she
expressed her disappointment that the party had done little to “bring ½women� to the central leadership” ðGharti Magar 2009Þ.
5 The first Constituent Assembly lasted for four years and got dissolved in May 2012
without producing a constitution. The second election for the CA was held in November of
2013; the election results indicate that the Maoist party, which came in third place, is no
longer at the helm of political power.
S I G N S Autumn 2014 y 31
This content downloaded from ������������128.95.104.109 on Fri, 05 Apr 2019 07:31:42 UTC�������������
All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms
and served in combat.6 Given the prominence of the woman question dur-
ing the conflict, and given the sacrifices women made through their bodies,
their invisibility in the aftermath of the conflict is indeed discouraging.
Following the increased global attention to terrorism after the 9/11
tragedy in the United States, Nepal’s Maoists were dubbed “terrorists,”
and a state of emergency was instituted sporadically for several months at a
time, rendering Nepal a military state under the new king’s dictatorship.
Although most international bodies, as well as the US administration, did
not believe in a military solution to the conflict, in November 2001, the
king, in accordance with the advice of his cabinet, promulgated the Ter-
rorist and Disruptive Activities Ordinance ðControl and PunishmentÞ, giv- ing the military and security forces the right to perpetrate indiscriminate ar-
rests, detentions, and persecution of civilians. Attacks on human bodies in
the formof sexual violence, torture, and disappearances became common. A
police officer I interviewed told me that many security personnel ðin both the police and armyÞ acted in excess, sometimes “raping women in front of their brothers and husbands,” which “instilled a sense of revenge in women
who joined the Maoist army.”7 Asmita, a Maoist commissar who was raped
while in custody, stated, “In terms of personal feeling and experience, one
does not face a bigger ordeal than the one I was forced to go through in jail.
Whatever comes after this kind of experience, they will all pass easily— everything seems easier after this. . . . That’s the limit; there is nothing a woman can resent more. . . .Had I not experienced this sort of death in jail, I am not sure I would have acted with such resolve, such bitterness, to be
on the offensive.”8 As is evident from Asmita and many other women in
the PLA ðPeople’s Liberation ArmyÞ, the gendered bodily experiences of women, often including experiences of violence, gave momentum to the
Maoists’ fight and informed the militant subjectivity women embodied,
a fact publicized by the Maoist leadership ðBhattarai 1995Þ. A significant outcome was that raped women voiced and theorized their experiences of
sexual violence and their embodiment of militancy.
Although patriarchal structural modalities remain strong, the crisis did
empower women in unexpected ways, since different actors and institu-
6 The chairperson of the Women’s Commission in Nepal in 2003 reported at a talk
program that the number was almost 40 percent, which was also the number publicized by
the Maoists ðsee Communist Party of Nepal–Maoist, n.d.Þ. However, in 2008, the United Nations Mission in Nepal counted the total membership of the PLA at 19,602, with women
members numbering only 3,846 ð20 percent; UMNIN 2014Þ. 7 Interview with Bikram, July 2006, Kathmandu, Nepal. 8 Interview with Asmita, July 2006, Khadichour, Nepal.
32 y Symposium: Gendered Bodies in the Protest Sphere
This content downloaded from ������������128.95.104.109 on Fri, 05 Apr 2019 07:31:42 UTC�������������
All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms
tions started to take women seriously as a political, cultural, and economic
force. Even during the militarization of social space and individual bod-
ies, policies regarding women were changing in Nepal. Ironic it may seem,
but laws regarding marital rape, reproductive rights, and property rights
were reformed, at least in principle. The new king’s government lifted a
ban on women traveling abroad as migrant laborers.9 The Royal Nepal
Army’s first women’s battalion was formed in 2003, which women’s rights
groups hailed as a landmark development in Nepali history, stating that
“the decision will smash the traditional thinking that women are only fit
for household chores.”10 Also, the displacement of men who joined the
PLA or emigrated for foreign labor opportunities created social and eco-
nomic vacuums that produced many female-headed households and al-
tered some patriarchal cultural constraints. Although women’s work bur-
den in the rural areas doubled, women activists ðe.g., Gautam, Banskota, and Manchanda 2003; Parvati 2003Þ claim that by roofing houses, plowing fields, refusing to live as widows, and conducting funeral rites for deceased
relatives, women claimed agency and broke gender boundaries.Women also
progressed in politics at the local level both because of the Maoists’ recruit-
ment of local women to disseminate information and because of the Lo-
cal Self-Governance Act of 1999, which mandated a quota of seats for
women.11 A prominent female politician unsupportive of the Maoists’ vi-
olent tactics stated, “Women have become more forceful at the grassroots
level, more conscious of their rights, and they have been able to present
themselves with more confidence. . . . Also, the marginality of women in the constitution has been made clear during the crisis, and Nepali wom-
en’s exclusion has been internationalized through the United Nations.”12
Women indeed made gains in political and cultural capital as the crisis
waxed, not because male-dominated political parties wanted to further
women’s progress but because it was no longer possible to ignore women
as an electorate or as a constituent power within and outside the political
9 In August of 2012, Nepal’s government again banned women under thirty from working
in Gulf countries due to the prevalence of sexual violence against domestic workers, many of
whom are trafficked illegally. 10 Chairperson of the National Women’s Commission, reported in Sanjaya Dhakal’s “Activ-
ists Hail Nepal’s LandmarkMove to RecruitWomen in Army,” available at http://www.onenet
.world. 11 Local Self-Governance Act, 2055, no. 5 of 2056, April 30, 1999. 12 InterviewwithBidhyaBhandari, formerminister and seniormemberof theUnitedMarxist-
Leninist Party of Nepal, Kathmandu, July 2006.
S I G N S Autumn 2014 y 33
This content downloaded from ������������128.95.104.109 on Fri, 05 Apr 2019 07:31:42 UTC�������������
All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms
parties.13 However, analyzed in the context of other socialist revolutionary
movements around the world, women’s condition in Nepal is not unique.
In their study of “body-knowledge” relationships in Jewish-Israeli pro-
test movements, Orna Sasson-Levy and Tamar Rapoport ð2003, 398Þ state that women’s bodies figure centrally. As I argue above, the People’s War
channeled women and their bodies into the service of a revolution that
affected heterogeneous “political fields” ðRay 1998Þ in varied ways. How- ever, although women made gains in representation and on the cultural
front, the muting of their voices in the current political scene is symptom-
atic of past revolutionary movements, in which women became simply the
reserve army of labor that was relegated to domesticity in the aftermath of
war ðKannabiran, Lalita, and Melkote 1989; Randall 1994; Kampwirth 2002Þ. Likewise, analysis of social transformation through violent revolu- tionary wars in the twenty-first century should consider the side effects and
collateral damage these wars cause for generations of people and should
account for the geopolitical forces that eventually control the gains of these
movements. On a subjective bodily level, individual women may have been
empowered in the process of becoming militants. They lived under hard
conditions, entered a domain that was considered a male prerogative, wore
clothes with associations of power and masculinity ðcombat uniformsÞ, and performed activities that were previously not sanctioned, thus freeing
themselves from female gender roles. Yet, examined from an antimilitarist
feminist perspective, women’s empowerment through militancy or military
subjecthood seems antithetical to the feminist cause because by joining the
military-industrial complex, women are leveraging the institution that they
want to undo ðEnloe 1983Þ. Women militants may feel a sense of personal agency, yet that agency is also gendered, and how that militant agency is
extracted and exchanged in the market of transnational capitalism and
hegemonic militarism is up for analysis. The question arises about the limits
of empowerment in the transnational biopolitics of human labor and capi-
tal and whether women’s embodiment of traditional militarism or militancy
will change the larger patriarchal military-industrial complex or keepwomen
hostage to it.
Psychology and Sociology Department
Union County College, New Jersey
13 International nongovernmental organizations, including the United Nations, have
played a critical role in enforcing polices that have helped to empower women to some extent.
34 y Symposium: Gendered Bodies in the Protest Sphere
This content downloaded from ������������128.95.104.109 on Fri, 05 Apr 2019 07:31:42 UTC�������������
All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms
References
Beauvoir, Simone de. ð1949Þ 1974. The Second Sex. Trans. H. M. Parshley. New York: Knopf.
Bhattarai, Baburam. 1995. “Interview with Dr. Babura Bhattarai by the Nepali
NewspaperThe Independent.”The Independent 5ð41Þ, December 13–19. http:// www.humanrights.de/doc_en/archiv/n/nepal/politics/131295_interview
.htm.
Communist Party of Nepal–Maoist. n.d. “Incidents and Statements Involving Com- munist Party of Nepal–Maoist: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009.” http:// www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/nepal/terroristoutfits/index.html.
Enloe, Cynthia. 1983. Does Khakhi Become You? The Militarization of Women’s
Lives. London: Pandora.
Gautam, Shova, Amrita Banskota, and Rita Manchanda. 2003. “Where There Are
NoMen: Women in the Maoist Insurgency in Nepal.” In Thapa 2003, 93–124.
Gharti Magar, Jayapuri. 2009. “Interview with Comrade Jayapuri.” Interview by
World People’s Resistance Movement ðBritainÞ, September 6. http://www .wprmbritain.org/?p5728.
Goldstein, Joshua S. 2001. War and Gender: How Gender Shapes the War System
and Vice Versa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kampwirth, Karen. 2002. Women and Guerilla Movements: Nicaragua, El Sal-
vador, Chiapas, Cuba. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.
Kannabiran, Vasanta, K. Lalita, and Rama Melkote, eds. 1989. We Were Making
History: Life Stories of Women in the Telangana People’s Struggle. London: Zed.
Karki, Arjun, and David Seddon, eds. 2003. The People’s War in Nepal: Left Per-
spectives. Delhi: Adroit.
Lohani-Chase, Rama S. 2008. “Women and Gender in the Maoist People’s War in
Nepal: Militarism and Dislocation.” PhD dissertation, Rutgers University–New Brunswick.
Moghadam, Valentine. 2003. Modernizing Women: Gender and Social Change in
the Middle East. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner.
Nepali Times. 2006. “Women’s Day.” March 17–28. http://nepalitimes.com /news.php?id511314.
Parvati ðHisila YamiÞ. 2003. “Women’s Participation in People’sWar.” InKarki and Seddon 2003, 171–73.
Pettigrew, Judith, and Sara Shneiderman. 2004. “Women and the Maobadi: Ide-
ology and Agency in Nepal’s Maoist Movement.” Himal Magazine, January 7,
19–29.
Randall, Margaret. 1994. Sandino’s Daughters Revisited: Feminism in Nicaragua.
New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
Ray, Raka. 1998. “Women’s Movements and Political Fields: A Comparison of
Two Indian Cities.” Social Problems 45ð1Þ:21–36. Sasson-Levy, Orna, and Tamar Rapoport. 2003. “Body, Gender, and Knowledge
in Protest Movements: The Israeli Case.” Gender and Society 17ð3Þ:379–403.
S I G N S Autumn 2014 y 35
This content downloaded from ������������128.95.104.109 on Fri, 05 Apr 2019 07:31:42 UTC�������������
All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms
[Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 2014, vol. 40, no. 1] © 2014 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. 0097-9740/2014/4001-0006$10.00
Shayne, Julie D. 2004. The Revolution Question: Feminisms in El Salvador, Chile
and Cuba. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
Thapa, Deepak, ed. 2003. Understanding the Maoist Movement in Nepal. Kath-
mandu: Martin Chautari.
UNMIN ðUnited Nations Mission in NepalÞ. 2014. “Arms Monitoring.” http:// www.satp.org/satporgtp/countries/nepal/terroristoutfits/index.html.
y
Queer Pride and Protest: A Reading of the Bodies
at Uganda’s First Gay Beach Pride
Stella Nyanzi
W earing army-style camouflage pants, I marched alongside male bod-ies wearing stylish stilettos, bikini bras, flashy facial makeup, andgomesi, or delicate miniskirts. Beside us, female bodies stomped ma- jestically, wearing mustaches, cologne, and kanzu, or boxer shorts, flash-
ing above low-cut pants. The sexy bodies of drag queens gyrated, twirled,
and pulsated rhythmically to local beats. Queen Bad Black, in a lacy scarlet
bra and green kaffiyeh over boxer shorts, danced barefoot on the dust
path. Dancing seductively, Princess Nature Raymond, whose hairy chest
was sprayed with thick paint, wore only boxer shorts and knee-high socks
in rainbow colors. Sister Kelly Daniels’s breasts were covered only with rain-
bow squares worn above a rainbow sarong. Donning men’s pants under a
black kanzu with a diagonal rainbow ribbon, Pepe, a trans man and long-
time activist for LGBTIQ rights in Uganda, operated a camera.
Ahead, a truck carried an amplifier. Heavy-duty speakers blasted music.
Atop the truck was beautiful Cleo, a trans woman in a huge Afro wig, dark
glasses, a lime-green sash wrapped around her bosom, and snug shorts.
The truck also carried Sandra, a trans man flaunting a rainbow umbrella
over his dreadlocks, a rainbow flag covering his T-shirt, square shorts, knee-
high socks in rainbow colors, and sneakers. Gender conformers mingled
with gender benders and gender blenders. Some were draped only in rain-
bows. Rainbow accessories abounded. We waved our rainbow flags and a
few miniature Ugandan flags too.
Our handmade posters read “Killing Gay People Solves Nothing,”
“African and Gay, Not a Choice,” “Too Gay to Think Straight,” “We Are
Gay and Proud,” “Say No toHate,” and “Marching for ThoseWhoCan’t!”
Many wore T-shirts with “We Are Here” inscribed on the back. The front
caption read “Beach Pride UG 2012.” It boasted the sketched head of a
36 y Symposium: Gendered Bodies in the Protest Sphere
This content downloaded from ������������128.95.104.109 on Fri, 05 Apr 2019 07:31:42 UTC�������������
All use subject to https://about.jstor.org/terms

The post Protesting Women in the People’s War Movement in Nepal appeared first on ExpertCustomWritings.
Assignment status: Solved by our experts

>>>Click here to get this paper written at the best price. 100% Custom, 0% plagiarism.<<<

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *