As readers of this blog may know, one of the international struggles that i have been interested in has been that of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) against the despotic monarchy in that country. I have been especially curious about the role and relationship of women to this struggle, as reports from various sources have indicated that there is a self-consciously anti-patriarchal dimension to many women’s involvement with the CPN(M). Most notably, two texts by Comrade Parvati – one of the few women on the CPN(M)’s central committee – were like shots of fresh air when first read them, full of insights and analysis which was far more advanced than most of what i read coming from the left internationally or here in North America.
Back in March i wrote a summary of what i knew about what was happening in Nepal, and with the CPN(M) specifically. I saw both good and bad possibilities, but was optimistic. Nevertheless, i did note that the Maoists’ attitude towards sex – specifically polygamy and homosexuality – was worrisome. Even in a situation where male polygamy can be a real and serious mechanism by which women are exploited, i was uncomfortable with the Maoist “solution” which often amounted to forcing the “second wife” to leave the marriage.
A recent report by the Jagaran Media Center – an association of journalists from the most-oppressed Dalit (or “untouchable”) caste – sends up more warning flares that simplistic, mechanistic, reactionary and authoritarian attitudes regarding sex and anti-patriarchal struggle may become a serious problem. In this report – Badi Women Beaten by Maoists – the JMC provides a detailed account of a mixed (male/female) group of CPN(M) members singling out women thought to be engaged in prostitution and viciously beating them with wooden sticks.
Not only did the women obviously suffer the beating, but now (as they are no longer working as prostitutes seeing as they probably don’t want to get punished by their “liberators” again) they face starvation. As one of the women, Gomati Nepali, has asked, “How will we feed ourselves if we are not provided with alternate occupation? After we are beaten, we have stopped doing Pesha [sex work] but this has made us slave begging in different villages. No one even gives a hand of rice while begging.”
This action was clearly taken as part of the CPN(M) cadres’ struggle “against prostitution”, but whether this is an isolated incident or not i do not know. (The report notes that non-Dalit prostitutes in the area have not been molested.) Regardless: it should be spoken about and discussed and condemned and – as the JMC suggests – the CPN(M) “should apologize with these Badi Women publicly for this mishap and take strong action against the perpetrators.”
On top of that, and of relevance to those of us who do not live in Nepal and are not in contact with the CPN(M), this kind of misogynist abuse should call attention to the problem in anti-prostitution ideology and campaigns which rely on people who are not prostitutes to formulate tactics, strategies and goals. The left has a very uneven history, and no consistent position, on this complicated and not-at-all monolithic question. Chances are that even in a global revolution (and we ain’t nowhere near there yet!) different communities and peoples, not to mention people and communities of different genders, will approach and deal with this question in different ways.
Nevertheless, diversity does not mean “anything goes”, and it is not only feasible but is also necessary to establish what constitutes a coherent “left” or liberatory approach to prostitution, and what is incoherent, meaning what kinds of approaches end up making things worst for the oppressed.
Clearly, anti-prostitution campaigns which rely on attacking – either violently or by “softer” means – the prostitutes themselves should be rejected and condemned out of hand. Such positions should not be accepted as “one of many” possible approaches to sex work.
Not only are such campaigns reactionary, they have an innate tendency to veer into broader forms of misogynist (and homophobic and even more especially transphobic) violence. The JMC report notes that some of the women who were beaten were not even prostitutes, but they were nevertheless singled out, presumably because somebody had accused them of engaging in sex work.
Now just think: in a patriarchal context, what kind of woman gets accused of being a whore? The same kind who gets accused of being a “slut” or a “bitch” or “unclean”… i.e. any woman who in reality or in somebody’s (normally some man’s) fantasy has broken the rules and needs to be disciplined. It is in this way that anti-prostitute campaigns (which are often but certainly not always the same as organizing against prostitution) can lead to strategic setbacks not only for sex workers but for all women and anyone else who is oppressed by patriarchy.
Badi Women Beaten by Maoists
Nepali people had to bear lots of problems during the 10 years long armed conflict. Maoist rebels used armed weapons, which up to some extent affected feudal society. But in the name of challenging traditions and old social customs, they have several times violated human rights. For instance, Maoist Cadres have recently beaten 16 women of Badi Community this 10 of May 2006.
After the royal takeover of 1st February 2005, the political scenario of the country was totally disrupted. Maoists and Seven Party Alliance then came in understanding and brought about 12 points understanding. People’s Movement 2006 made King move steps back and House of Representative (HoR) was reinstated. A result of this historic achievement, country is now in the path of constituent assembly and there is seize fire declared from both the parties.
Maoists who have declared that they would respect human rights have once again violated the human rights. 30 households of Badi of Mudha, Kaliali were involved in forceful prostitution as they do not have any other alternate occupation to live their live for. Civil society and local organizations of Badis itself are working to end this occupation and for their rehabilitation but the state never supported them and brought about any special programs for their rehabilitation. Finally, this community has to rely in this occupation only. But in the 10 May ’06, 8 Maoists came to village and beat the 16 women out of which 13 were involved in Pesha (the forceful sexual occupation in local language is called ‘Pesha’) and other 3 were not involved in Pesha. This should not be forgotten that Maoists were quiet in the incident when few guys of ‘Shahi’ surname were there in Mudha and burnt the house and hand of a woman when she asked for money of her occupation.
2. Place of incident:
Dododhara VDC – 7, Mudha, Kailali (Beneath tree of Simal)
3. Date and time of incident:
10 May 2006 at 16:30 hours
4. Victims of the incident:
1. Meenu Nepali – 20 years
2. Man Kumari Nepali – 20 years
3. Sarita Nepali – 32 years
4. Goma Nepali – 28 years
5. Sushma Nepali – 23 years
6. Sanchi Nepali – 22 years
7. Suk Maya Nepali – 23 years
8. Manju Nepali – 21 years
9. Sani Nepali – 32 years
10. Gomati Nepali – 36 years
11. Juthi Nepali – 40 years
12. Bhawisara Nepali – 41 years
13. Hira Nepali – 24 years
14. Butti Nepali – 26 years
15. Ramkali Nepali – 35 years
16. Reeta Nepali – 40 years
8 Cadres of CPN (Maoists), including Com. Tufaan and other 4 males and 3 females.
Area Incharge of the area is Com. Kasam and Com. Anu looks after this village, Mudha.
6. Modes of beating:
Sticks, boxes and kicks.
7. Details of the incident:
8 Maoists beat the 16 women of Badi community living in the Mudha Bazar of Kalilali district. The victims were not even given water to drink when they asked while they were severely beaten by the Maoists.
At 4:30 pm, 8 Maoists came to the Mudha Bazar and ordered all the women who are engaged in Pesha, to stand in a line beneath the Simal Tree. They were then beaten with the wooden sticks. 41 years old Bhawisara Nepali said, “I am woman with husband and children; I am never engaged in Pesha, but they did not spare me.” All the victim women said that they requested to not beat them in hands to the women who have put Norplant (a medicine for family planning which is kept in arms) but Maoists hit in the same place more badly.
All the 16 women said jointly that they were not even given water to drink when they asked. Maoists threatened them by saying that they may die if they are given water to drink while being beaten.
As per the saying of victims and seeing nature of wounds, it can be easily assumed that they were wounded in sensitive organs as well. Meenu Nepali and Manju Nepali further said that if it was possible to show, we would show you but ……….. Even after the 10 days of the incident, there were clear sign of black spots at the back, arm and leg of the victims.
The incident took place in the presence of non-Dalits neighbors but none were there to speak in favor of those victims. Local resident Dinesh Nepali (Badi) said that the ex-teacher Purna Bahadur Thapa threatened that if this incident will be revealed to Human Rights defenders and journalists, it will be danger for all of you as well them and also we will snatch the cameras, pens or whatsoever they bring along with them.
Victim Gomati Nepali said, “This country has not yet made us its citizen; how can we think of rehabilitation. Due to our caste, we are always socially boycotted. Still, we are not able to touch and use the water-tap used by non-Dalits. We always had this problem with us and even Maoists have added one more, beating us like animals. How will we feed ourselves if we are not provided with alternate occupation? After we are beaten, we have stopped doing Pesha but this has made us slave begging in different villages. No one even gives a hand of rice while begging. Our livelihood management should be now done by Maoists.”
Out of the total 16 victims, 13 treated themselves in Tikapur while other 3, Butti Nepali, Ramkali Nepali and Reeta Nepali did not medicate.
8. Eyewitness of the incident:
i. Hikmat Nepali:
We have our sisters in the Syaule Bazar of Kailali also. They are also engaged in Pesha. The Maoists of that area used to visit them everyday, counsel them and requested them to leave Pesha. But here, 8 Maoists came all of sudden at 4:30 in 10 of May and told to gather those females who are engaged in Pesha and started beating them with sticks, kicks and boxes. When asked for water to drink, water was not given. Some sisters who are not engaged in the Pesha were also hit, even they were not spared. It is matter of great insult to us that the male Maoists kicked our sisters in their sensitive organs in front of us. Our sisters were not given the level of human beings.
ii. Dinesh Nepali:
This incident took place because of these villagers. Otherwise, no one was beaten in this area till this date. All of them were beaten all of sudden. They were beaten in 10th May and today after 10 days, there is still the sign of wounds. Who will be responsible for their treatment and their alternate occupation to live life for? This is to be publicized as soon as possible. We youths will work for our sisters to leave this occupation.
9. Uma Devi Badi – President, Community Assistance Committee, Tikapur, Kaliali:
We condemn this activity of Maoists. No one has right to beat human beings as animals. It would rather be a good step if all of us join hands together for their rehabilitation from this Pesha. It is not maturity to use power to tell them to leave Pesha until there is any alternate occupation for them. Our organization is ready to lead those victim women if they want to raise their voices. We will protest against such type of inhumane activity. If we talk about Kailali district alone, women from other castes are also involved in this type of Pesha but in good hotels. No one uses their power to stop them and our sisters have no other occupation then this and they are beaten instead. It is good to make women leave this Pesha and our organization is also working since a long time for the same.
10. Perpetrator – Com. Tufaan:
We several times circulated the notice to not continue this occupation. Area In charge Com. Kasam and Com. Anu who is responsible for this area have several times suggested these Badis to leave Pesha but they never agreed and finally we had to beat them. I agree that it was me along with other 7 comrades beat them. This action from our party is for their goodwill. They got hands and legs which work; they should be able to choose alternate occupation themselves for their livelihood.
11. Current situation of victims:
No one was ready to speak a word about the incident when this reporter was there to investigate. Exactly at the same time, 3 Maoists among those 8 came there to ask them to attend their program in nearby village the following day. This reporter then had a dialogue with these Maoists and asked them on which ground did they beat these women. Only then victims came in front and cried out their pains.
Wounds and sign of wounds can still be seen. They have completely left the Pesha from 11 of May and are now begging in different villages by forming groups. Victims say that they do not get anything from begging but are rather being insulted everywhere. There is always problem of hand to mouth. They say they are rather made ‘Slaves’ now.
Dalits were sandwiched during the state of armed conflict. Now during the state of cease fire also, they are victimized. In the discriminatory social structure, Dalits are always victims and are always loaded with problems.
Having seen the nature of incident, Dalits are brutally beaten and their human rights violated. Sanchi Nepali, who was pregnant of 4 months, has also not been spared and was beaten severely. Nepali people are now not ready to accept the same old way of treating and taking action against them when there is law and order in the country now. It is illegality of Maoists who call themselves people oriented organization and don’t allow people to drink water while beating them. Maoists should apologize with these Badi Women publicly for this mishap and take strong action against the perpetrators.