NEPAL: Women and Peace at Grassroots Level in Nepal

Monday, September 12, 2011
Telegraph Nepal
Southern Asia
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
General Women, Peace and Security
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence
Reconstruction and Peacebuilding

The ten year long armed conflict started by the Communist Party of Nepal -Maoist (CPN Maoist), with the objective of establishing a Republican state, claimed more than 13,000 lives and forced millions to live as internally displaced. The signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the Government of Nepal and the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (Maoists) in November 2006 marked the official end of this ten year long bloody armed conflict. The Maoist ''People's War'' started on 13 February 1996, by attacking the police posts of Rukum (Aathbiskot), Rolpa (Holeri), Gorakaha (Chyangli) and Sindhuli (Sindhuligadhi).

As Maoists said, “war is not the bed of roses, it holds cruel faces," devastation, destruction and the demolition of cities and villages along with the pang in hearts of victims of war demonstrated this dark side of war to the Nepalese people. Cruelty and uproar was what all the Nepalese witnessed during the war, showed that even anyone can be brutal and wild when holding arms in their hands. Until the onset of this conflict, no one in this land of Buddha thought that one Nepali could kill another in the name of politics, caste, religion and differences. That very belief now proves to be myth, since the country saw the death of over 13000 Nepali people during the Maoist conflict.
Consequences of Conflict on Women: Another face of this conflict was the fate of women during the war. Many women who had nothing to do with the war were victimized in the name of politics, in the name of punishing their husbands, fathers and sons or other family members. Undoubtedly, the armed conflict impacts are severe on both women and men and the effects are far-reaching. Nevertheless, the challenges faced by women differ greatly from those of their male counterparts and recent research show that women, as compared to men, are disproportionally victimized. During the conflict, women and girls were vulnerable to all forms of violence, particularly sexual violence and exploitation, including torture, rape, mass rape, and trafficking. Likewise, the health consequences for women and girls during the conflict were enormous.
Nepali women have been deeply affected by the ten-year long armed conflict, and, as with many other conflicts, its origin and course had a notable gender dimension. Various factors have provided evidence of this dimension, such as the use of gender violence or the large number of women combatants in the Maoist ranks, as well as the fact that the negotiation process led to the signing of a peace agreement that largely excluded women. Women were absent from the process and did not participate directly in the negotiation and signing of the agreements reached between the Maoists and the government. It must be highlighted that the peace process in Nepal has been characterized by being a long, open process; that is, the signing of the peace agreement was not the culmination of the peace process. Instead, it went on afterwards via other areas of political dialogue.
At the same time, many citizens had lost their lives during the conflict in Nepal. People have been killed from both the rebel and the security side. Many people also went missing or disappeared from both the sides during the period. This has consequently resulted in an increase in the number of single women and women-headed households, not only over-burdening them with the livelihood insecurities but making them the victims of psychosocial trauma. Many are still living in the hope that their husbands or sons will come back while many have lost their lives waiting for their loved ones to return.

Due to the increased responsibility and work burden women are found to be suffering from frustration, depression, anxiety, conversion disorder, psychosomatic pain, shock and fear. They were harassed by the demand of both warring sides for shelter and food and had to face sexual slavery, sexual harassment, rape, and other forms of violence which affected their physical as well as their mental wellbeing. With its adverse effects, Conflict has left behind many things that were not even talked about during the peace process. For an example, there are many mothers and families who are still waiting for their "disappeared" children or other family members. They still have not been able to recover themselves from the psychological trauma they faced, and these kinds of problems were not addressed in the peace process. The Truth commission which was supposed to be formed to identify the actual culprits of the war (including sexual violence) is still not established, because of which the citizens are not aware about the actual culprits and criminals. As the Conflict came to an end, its adverse effects were not forgotten by the people who are still suffering from the psychological trauma they had faced. Prostitution cases also increased when many women abandoned their homes and came to the capital city and other cities during the Conflict.

Total Number killed during the decade long armed conflict-13,3,44, among them:

Total No. of Men – 10297; Total No. of Women – 1013; Not Verified – 2034
Likewise, Out of 84,969 people abducted, 2087 were women.
Among them, the unknown were 69403.
Out of 1027 people disappeared, 117 were women.
Out of 1157 people being disabled, 76 were women.
Out of 13087 homeless people 131 were women.
There's no data about Sexual violence.

Other Emerging Conflicts:

After the peace process, the international community perceives that the conflict is over in Nepal. But, even after the armed conflict, various smaller armed groups are emerging in Nepal; esp. in Terai region and the eastern part of Nepal. Having various names and sizes, over hundreds of armed groups are active in Terai. Small weapons are frequently used by these groups. All these have direct impact on women, which are unfortunately not a subject of priority at all. Moreover, culture of impunity & silence is almost established, not only in domestic violence, even in rape; and there are very few cases which have concluded the culprits to be punished.

Some Case Studies of Conflict Victims: A Case Study of Ranu Devi

Ranu Devi Mahato, mother of Ramesh Mahato, who died during the first demonstration of the Madhesis in Lahan in January 2007. Ramesh died during a demonstration on the 19th of January, 2007 (Magh 5, 2063 B.S.) which was organized to protest against the arrest of Upendra Yadav as he had attempted to burn out the Interim Constitution on the 16th of January (Magh 2) in Kathmandu. Ranu Devi feels very bad when she recalls the torture that her son's corpse had to undergo. She said, “They didn't let my son's soul rest in peace.” There are many individuals and personalities who have used the name of Mahato during the Madhes uprising to hoist their political image, while neglecting the condition of Mahato's family and especially that of his mother who is still in trauma. Madheshi leader Upendra Yadav went to Majhuara VDC (Ranu Devi and her husband Ravi Mahato's home) at the end of Falgun (March 2007). Ramshovit Mahato, the elder brother of Ramesh said, “Mother cried a lot when she met them while father refused to speak a word. Yadav gave her Rs. 500 and asked her not to think about him much.” Ramesh's parents wanted the culprit to be punished as per law and that their son to be declared a martyr; and they wanted his statute at Lahan bazaar. But Siyaram Thakur, culprit behind the incident, happened to be the cousin brother of Matrika Yadav. Consequently, he did not suffer jail for a long period. As he was connected to politics his case was withdrawn in the name of ''political reason''. Nobody is concerned about her mental trauma. She is still serving food to his son's black and white photo.

In the name of Federalism: Victims are again the women: A Case Study of Kamala Shrestha

There was an encounter between CPN (UML) cadres who were in favor of CA election and the cadres of Limbuwan who were against it on the 18th of September, 2007 (Ashoj 1, 2064). The incident occurred when some members of Limbuwan erased the slogans in favor of CA election painted by UML cadres. Police arrested some of the Limbuwan, and called for a bandh in Eastern Nepal and did not allow the vehicles to ply on the road to protest. Public buses operated amidst heavy escorting by security forces. Limbuwan cadres who were in support of the bandh attacked the buses on the road and in one such incident Kamala Shrestha, passenger in the bus, was injured seriously. Stone hurled from the outside and it wounded a part of her head; the damage was quite fatal. Wet with blood and unconscious, Kamala was rushed to the nearby hospital and was soon declared dead by the doctors. Kamala was with her one month old baby during the incident. The Chief District Officer (CDO) and the police officers got much pressure to release Limbuwan cadres but they refused to do so.

Seven Political parties pressurized the administration to release the arrested cadres mentioning that it was the unanimous decision of the SPA and could not be neglected. This extreme situation and the decision of SPA forced the local administration to release those culprits. Limbuwan parties celebrated the release of their cadres and took it as a successful campaign but no one for a second thought of Kamala who was killed for nothing. Kamala Shrestha (24 years) from Lamidada, Khotang was brought to Biratnagar to give birth to a child as the hospital of Khotang was not well equipped to handle the complicated birth. She gave birth to a child at a hospital in Biratnagar and went to her parental home in Surunga, Jhapa. Dhan Bahadur Shrestha, husband of Kamala, was hurt many fold more by the release of the culprits than the death of his beloved wife. Dhan bahadur is the administration assistant in Rural Access Program (RAP) in Diktel of Khotang. “My child became motherless and I am alone just because of the negligence of some people, and they too are released by the order of seven governing parties.” He added, “If the tendency of impunity and behavior of protecting the criminals like this goes on, we can't count the number of orphans like my child and number of strangled people like me in the near future.”

A Case Study of Laxmi Thapa

Laxmi Thapa is a street vendor at Chipledhunga market, Pokhara (western city of Nepal) who is nurturing her whole family through her small business. She can't move her head properly and the entire back part of her body has suffered severe damage. The difficulty she faces while moving her head forces her to sit up during the night and sleep in that uncomfortable position only. The physical torture and hardship she faces due to the injuries is far less than the mental suffering she endures. This condition of Laxmi Thapa is the result of the bomb blast by Maoists at Chilpledhunga in 28 February 2006 (Falgun 15, 2062 B.S.). Maoists planted a bomb in the carrier of a motorcycle parked in the street. Bomb exploded at noon when there were many people in the market and Laxmi was waiting for the customers on the street. “There was a big explosion and I don't know anything after that. When I gained consciousness, I was lying in the hospital bed,” she said. Chandra Bahadur Thapa, her husband, was a constable in Nepal Police and got killed in Maoist attack of Syangja Police Post on 23 November 2001 (Mangsir 8 BS 2058). Fourteen other police personnel died in that incident. After the death of her husband she was solely responsible for the upbringing of her three children. She then started a temporary street shop for livelihood to take care of the three and herself. This shop is now the only source of income for her. Laxmi suffered from bouts of fright for a long time due to the incident. “She used to scream ‘it exploded' very loudly even when asleep”, her neighbors said. Even now she falls unconscious when she hears a loud noise. You can still find her in Chipledhunga, starving for the truth, ''what was my fault?''

Positive aspects of Conflict:

Previously, women were considered weak, the victimized, the only caretakers of the family, etc. But the Conflict introduced that women can be fighters and take parts in the security forces. When the Maoists included women in the "People's Liberation Army" (PLA), only then Nepal Army made policy to recruit women in their institution. At present, 1.75 % of the total Nepal Army are Women (out of 92753, 1624 are women). Where the society was enclosed between the domestic walls only, Conflict helped to take it out from there and get the society awareness to these things. The Conflict helped to empower women by various things, like attending meetings in the substitution of the male members of their family, etc. Likewise, the looking perspective to the women also changed gradually. Women involvement in every sector of the society/country was also promoted after the Conflict.

There is significant absence of women in peace process.

8 points agreement signed on 16th June 2006 - No presence of women from both the sides (Maoist & Govt)
12 point agreement, 23 Nov 2005 - No women
25 point agreement on cease fire code of conduct signed on 26 May 2006 - No women
Comprehensive peace accord signed on 26 Nov 2006 - No Women

Peace Process: Some Initiatives

33%women representation in Constitution Assembly
Formation of Local Peace committee under Peace - Provision of 33% women representation
Initiation taken by various women groups of rural community towards peace process


The Contribution of women in the peace process has to be recognized, including all levels. Likewise, the women participation in the peace process should also be enhanced. The Government must ensure the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP) on the UN Resolution 1325 and 1820, which concerns Women, Peace and Security. The main issues NAP has identified are Participation, Protection and Prevention, Promotion, Relief and Recovery, Resource Management, Monitoring and Evaluation; which accounts for the entire issues of Women, Peace and Security.