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Maoists fool women
Publication Date : 12-02-2013
Progressive women in Nepal who had expected the Maoist males to share power with Maoist females must be disappointed. The Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (UCPN) convention last week in Hetauda in southern Nepal showed them that when it comes to women’s empowerment, the Maoists are little different than the parties with a more conservative tilt, such as the Nepali Congress (NC). Despite clear insistence from the female delegates, the male Maoist leadership didn’t let a single woman become an 'office bearer', let into the top positions in the party. In the powerful central committee, only six out of 98 members - chosen, not elected - are women. This comes from a party that officially advocates for proportional representation of women!
The story in the breakaway Maoist party - the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) - which claims to carry the torch of the revolutionary communist movement in Nepal, is similar. Except for Pampha Bhusal, there are no women officer bearers, and there are only seven women in the party’s central committee.
Why pick on the Maoists alone? The marginalisation of women in other parties is also problematic, but the Maoists have more explaining to do for the apparent failure to make any progress towards their avowed goal of ending patriarchy. Two points are salient: the Maoists still claim to be a revolutionary party, and thousands of women joined the Maoists in their war against the state. Those who joined the armed struggle were promised nothing short of the total destruction of patriarchy. It has been estimated that almost 40 percent of the Maoist guerillas were women. Much was made of the number of women with guns. Just as the presence of minors in the Maoist army generated a lot of bad publicity, the presence of women was taken as evidence that the rebels indeed had support from the most marginalised sections of population.
After 10 years of war followed by seven years of peace (or is it ceasefire?), it’s becoming increasingly clearer that the Maoists suffer from the same patriarchal attitudes that they claimed to fight. At the core, the attitude, in the words of Simone de Beauvoir, comes down to this: the oppressor always attempts to diminish those he oppresses; man intentionally refuses women their chances.
It is not that there are no capable women in the Maoist parties (or other parties), but that the male leadership in all parties is actively obstructing their rise. The male leaders have done so under various pretexts. The females have to compete under standards set by men, who, intentionally, raise the bar higher for females. She has to overcome the common perception that wives in politics are puppets controlled by their husbands, or other males, behind her. She has to show higher integrity than the males in upholding the morals of the time, whether it is in matters of corruption or of sexuality. Often one hears of nefarious rumours, often spread by male journalists that so and so politician is in her position because she has compromised herself. Worst of all, she was to outcompete her male counterparts lest she be accused of being 'like a woman', that is, indecisive and emotional.
When all fails, the male leadership resorts to undemocratic practices to keep the women (and other marginalised) out of power. Had the UCPN (Maoist) held elections to fill the party positions, the results might well have been more in women and other marginalised people’s favour. Instead, the party’s male leadership chose colluding to select their cronies in bhagbanda style.
Outside of the party, whenever compelled to field female candidates in elections, the Maoists and other parties have played an equally dirty trick on women, who are nominated to fight in constituencies where the party has no support and has little prospect of winning. The trickery is doubly useful - it allows the party to field women candidates and portray itself as women-friendly while simultaneously establishing women as incapable of winning elections, thereby diminishing their power within the parties.
Looking ahead, will the Maoists, and the other parties, have to pay a price for the marginalisation of women? It can. For the women to exercise their collective influence, two things need to become more prominent. First, in the realm of identity politics, women’s issues need to transcend class, ethnic and regional identities to create a woman’s movement that addresses the universality the women’s condition, dominated in every sphere of life by men.
Second, and equally importantly, women themselves will have to rise above party affiliations and unite on their common agenda. For now, this could on the solid, and realisable, target of ensuring 50 percent women’s representation in the next constituent assembly elections.