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Kamala Sarup: Female Soldiers And Feminism

Female Soldiers And Feminism

By Kamala Sarup

The historic decision by RNA, to induct women in the armed, non-technical positions including the military police, is a major victory for Nepalese women. In the 1960s, women were recruited in the health services of the Nepali military. Later in 1999, the legal service was opened to women. At present, the RNA's legal section has just four women officers.

Under the military police regulations approved by the cabinet women could be promoted up to officer level. The new regulations shows women are no longer viewed as primarily "nurturing" or "emotional" creatures, but are judged on their individual qualities.

Recently women joined the army for non-combat purposes but they will be able to go to the battle field as well because they will receive basic military training before specialisation. Even at present there are about 400 women working as doctors, nurses, para folders and clerks.

Nepalese feminist have been long demanding the recruitment of women in the army. The hundreds of women queuing at the army headquarters to apply for different vacancies shows the decision will smash the traditional thinking that women are fit only for household chores.

This was a major victory for women whose participation in other areas of social and political lives is almost negligible.

Female soldiers have existed in most parts of the world and at most times. In such cases, the role of women has been both to increase the number of soldiers in general and to serve in roles unique to women.

The issue of Nepalese women in combat is a key element in the ultimate career progression of feminists throughout society. The current plight of women in combat zones "is the consequence of pretending that women and men are interchangeable. The use of the "equal effort" method of assessment assures the presence of a certain quota of females in battlefield units, an important goal of feminist ideologues".

Jan Jindy Pettmann, feminist and professor in international politics, goes as far as to ask: 'Without women's activities, would wars be possible?'"

Nepalese feminist believe although women constitute the majority of the population, they are still inadequately represented in political, economic, social and cultural structures of society. In the armed forces itself, it took a long time before women were accepted as soldiers. Opportunities for women in the Army have major implications for Nepalese women's lives and open new opportunities and challenges in the quest for women's equality and empowerment.

Nepalese feminist believe, women's roles in society change in many ways in conflict situations. Peace, demobilisation, re-integration and rebuilding processes must all be structured to include women. It is important to ensure that their independence and leadership skills are employed so that they can become peaceful social and political actors.

Nepalese women's activist cannot forget how since the beginning of the armed struggle, women and children were victimized. Nepalese women are victims of attacks. Even women's sexuality is treated as dangerous and threatening. The Maoist insurgency has threatened the women at the local level.

I would like to say that the women's peace groups in Nepal continue to speak out on behalf of a just peace. Which Nepalese feminist groups are working on peace? Is there any chance that women will be allowed to participate in the peace process? How the Nepalese conflict is affecting women? The most immediately involved, they pay the price of war and the absence of peace.

Nepalese feminist should determine that the ultimate goal of the peace is a final status agreement and an end to the Maoists conflict.

Nepalese women are not only dying from AIDS and other diseases, but are going hungry and are starving from the effects of war. Women and their dependent children are approximately 75% of those displaced and have suffered severe consequences to their health, nutrition, education and well-being.

Women play crucial roles in resolving conflict. The important question is how to engage women and promote people`s participation in the peace process? One of the potential answers would be to promote peace advocacy/lobbying and massive campaigns at local level in a non- partisan way.

The question I have is whether Nepalese feminist groups can get together across political differences to demand an end to armed conflict?

What can feminist organization do in a situation of this war?


(Kamala Sarup is editor of )

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