What Would It Take for Women in Nepal to Get Real Liberation?

Revolutionary Worker #1210, August 17, 2003, posted at rwor.org

The following excerpt is from the article, "In Defense of Fighters and Dreamers" which appeared in RW #1206, the special issue "Bad Moon Rising--The War on Civil Liberties: an Emerging Police State in the U.S.?"

People see the gigantic gap between life in the U.S. and impoverished conditions in the Third World. Peasants living in 19th-century conditions. Urban shantytowns where children sleep and play near open sewers and mountains of rotting garbage. Twelve-year-old girls sold into sexual bondage for the price of a goat. Nike sweatshops grinding up lives for $1.56 a day. Women killed for breaking feudal and religious traditions. U.S.-backed regimes tied to death squads and drug barons. Intolerance, war and ethnic strife.

Especially the youth are asking: Is another world possible? Can humanity ever get rid of the inequalities between countries, nationalities, men and women, and different religions? Is there a path for the planet other than McWorld globalization and the jihad of religious fundamentalism?

Defenders of capitalism may answer this question by declaring that "communism is dead" and that the path taken by Mao Tsetung is passé. But the fact is, genuine Maoist people's wars actually address the real, deeply embedded and many-sided aspects of the oppression the masses face.

In Nepal over 85% of the people are peasants living in the countryside. Most cannot feed their families on their small plots of land and are constantly ripped off by landlords, corrupt officials, dirty politicians and moneylenders. Under the rigid and highly discriminatory caste system, many of the 70 different castes and ethnic groups are denied their culture and religion. Women are suppressed and treated as inferior and unequal in every facet of society. A king controls the army and an oppressive monarchy is embedded deep in the ruling structures of society. The whole country is subordinate to, dependent on, and dominated by India and imperialist countries like the United States. A corrupt and reactionary government has done little, if anything, to address basic problems of food, water, sanitation, and health care.

Addressing any one of these problems requires tearing up and discarding all the economic, social and political relationships within Nepalese society and between Nepal and other countries.

For example, what would it take for women in Nepal to get real liberation?

Like in other semi-feudal Third World countries, women's oppression in Nepal is deeply woven into the whole fabric of society. Feudal traditions like arranged marriages, dowries, polygamy, and widows banned from remarrying are upheld and enforced in many different ways and tied to other aspects of society. A mixture of feudal and capitalist rules provides the ground upon which women's bodies are owned, controlled, and bargained over in everything from marriage to the selling of women to sex traffickers. Everyday life in the village is ruled by religious and cultural practices that promote and perpetuate male domination. In such a setup, everywhere a woman turns, her freedom and independence is policed and smothered.

So, in a country like Nepal, in order for women to emancipate themselves--to have land, education, freedom to choose their own husbands--to have real equality--the basic economic relations of land ownership in the countryside would have to be upended. Control would have to be taken out of the hands of powerful religious, political and military forces which back up the tyranny of local landlords, corrupt politicians and moneylenders. The social and cultural institutions which provide a foundation for the patriarchal control of fathers, brothers and mother-in-laws would have to be done away with. The whole education system would have to be revolutionized. And domination by India and other foreign countries would have to be ended.

Those who have seriously looked into what is happening in the liberated base areas where guerrillas have control in Nepal, have seen that this people's war is about building the new as well as destroying the old.

The Maoists in Nepal are already beginning to implement the kind of fundamental changes they want to fully bring about when they come to power. Poor peasants are benefiting from the redistribution of land and there are some beginning forms of collective farming. Women own land for the first time. Oppressed minorities have the right to practice their own languages and culture and participate equally in the new revolutionary governments. Laws and social practices that discriminate against lower castes have been done away with. Arranged marriages, polygamy and other feudal traditions oppressive to women are no longer practiced. Wife beating and rape are severely punished by the people's courts. Women are given the right to divorce, inherit land, go to school, and fight in local militias as well as the People's Liberation Army. And women are equal participants in the new economic, political, and social life of the villages.

This is a real, living example of how a Maoist people's war mobilizes the masses to fight with the aim of taking power into their own hands and building a whole new society that really digs at the deep economic, social and political inequalities laid down and enforced by feudalism and capitalism.

People may argue that such changes could be made without waging a people's war. But the fact is that none of this could have been accomplished in Nepal without an armed struggle that allowed the revolutionary forces to seize political power in the liberated base areas--which then allowed them to establish new forms of people's government. And in order to fully implement such revolutionary changes throughout Nepalese society it will require an armed struggle that overthrows the current ruling class and seizes nationwide power. This is the only way the forces of liberation can really shatter the grip of the monarchy, wrest control of society from the current corrupt ruling government and completely break the exploitative relations with India and other foreign powers.

The special Magazine issue: "Bad Moon Rising--The War on Civil Liberties: an Emerging Police State in the U.S.?"is available: 10 copies for $10 from your local RW/OR distributor or Revolution Books. To order bundles by mail, contact RCP Publications for shipping costs. RCP Publications, P.O. Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654. The RWOR website special page for this issue can be found at: http://rwor.org/badmoonrising.

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