Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Frustrated and Confused: Mapping the Socio-Political Struggles of Female Ex-Combatants in Nepal

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Frustrated and Confused: Mapping the Socio-Political Struggles of Female Ex-Combatants in Nepal

Article excerpt

The Context

As we recall this history, the period of February 1996 to November 2006 in Nepal is noted as one of the most severe crises brought by the armed insurrection, waged by the Communist Party of Nepal Maoist (CPNM) against the State. The armed insurgency was popularized with the phrase "People's War" with the aim of establishing a 'People's Republic' (Timalsina, 2014; Upreti 2090). Before waging the bloody armed conflict, the CPNM submitted a list of 40 Points of demands to the Prime Minister with the ultimatum of 15 days. However, the CPNM started the insurgency by attacking police stations in different districts even before their deadline expired (Subedi, 2013; Upreti 2009; Lamichhane 2015).

One of the vehement claims of the CPNM during the time of insurgency, was to enhance equality and emancipate women from gender-based social and cultural forms of discrimination and violence, and to promote socio-political and economic empowerment of women. Hence, women and girls mainly from rural remote areas and discriminated and marginalized communities were attracted to the CPNM slogans; they joined the insurgency to achieve their emancipation (Upreti et. al., 2017).

Once young girls and women entered into the insurgency mission, they were required to perform new roles as combatants, informers, organizers of cultural events, cooks, logistics suppliers, nurses to treat wounded fighters (Bhatt 2010; Kolas 2017), and even to play the role of girlfriends for the male insurgents (Bhattarai 2016:130; Adhikari 2016:120). Several push and pull factors contributed to women's participation in the insurgency. Discriminatory behavior in their communities, sexual and other forms of harassment by security forces and local feudal elites and hooligans, poverty and inequality, feelings of retaliation, ideological indoctrination, romanticism to join the war, motivation to join by other women of their communities, and finally, fear from the insurgents--especially when the CPNM declared its "one house one combatant" rule, and asked every household to send their son or daughter, or be ready to bear the Maoist punishments (Murthy and Varma, 2016; Kolas 2017; Khadka, 2012; Arino, 2008).

When the blaze of conflict began in Rolpa, Rukum and Sindhuli districts, these demands affected large parts of the country and posed challenges for various aspects of social, political, cultural and religious dynamics (Gellner, 2015) including death, displacement, dislocation, migration and disappearances of people, physical and social infrastructure (Bhatt and Upreti, 2016; Bhatt 2010). Table 1 offers an overview.

During this ten-year period, abductions, killings, torture, and threats became rampant, making the country more hollow and anarchical, each day. The ones who suffered the most were children, young girls and women (Macours, 2011). Thousands of people lost their spouses and were displaced internally; family separation rates increased, and substantial male migration took place afterwards (Rodgers, 2015). The insurgency acquired such a hostile form that it can be characterized as a period of one of the most outrageous human rights violations in the history of Nepal. Table 2 shows the damage to infrastructure during the conflict.

The CPNM fighters had targeted the army bases, police posts, government officials, and banks, bridges, schools, government offices and many other vital features of the infrastructure during the time of the insurgency. The key actors causing human casualties and damage to the infrastructure were the CPNM combatants (and the retaliation of the security forces). Many analysts were surprised with the courage, brevity and tactics of the Maoist combatants who were neither trained professional fighters, nor experienced in such an insurgency. Even more surprising was the participation of young women fighters, who, many said, constituted up to 40 percent of the combatants, although verification by the United Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) confirmed the number as 20 percent of the total fighters (Upreti 2016). …

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