In their manifesto ('Women declare independence', #186), the Chariraheen Chelis (CC) seem to want their personal freedom but are using societal issues to give it an aura of objectivity and judicious concern toward society. Why?
1. The CC are most likely some well-to-do women from Kathmandu who can afford to go to discos and drink and dine out regularly. They obviously do not have economic constraints, and therefore don't represent the majority of Nepali people, let alone Nepali women. Their only worry seems to be a culture that raises a finger to them for their 'unwomanly behavior'. But is this really true? Is our culture really stopping them from partaking from these 'fair shares of life's bounties' and thereby hindering them from being equal to the males?
2. Smoking and drinking is not necessarily a male vs female issue. In elite society and ironically also in the lowest rung of our society, women smoke freely. Except in some ethnic classes, women often drink with men in their homes.
3. Sexuality is an immensely personal and intimate topic and it can be handled only with the profound understanding between husband and wife. CC have commodified sexuality by demanding it to be available anywhere, anytime, and from anybody. They have not even felt the necessity of marriage as an institution.
4. The points regarding economic justice and equal opportunity are commendable. But these societal issues need massive economic reforms. Education and free markets are some key tools. When women are educated, they can be independent and strong both economically and physically. Free markets will bring the competition between everybody and not necessarily just friction between males and females. In some jobs females will surpass men, in other jobs men will do better. The invisible hand of the economy will decide which job is good for whom. The CC are only using serious societal issues as a free ride to serve myopic, self-centered, and self-defeating interests.
5. On a philosophical note, the manifesto is a reaction to the maladies of our very complex society. To portray these issues in stark male vs female terms and initiate a campaign based on vengeance and nihilism is to do great injustice to our very tolerant and flexible culture and society. I only hope one of the wishes of the CC will come true: that they always remain underground.
. Congratulations to the Charitraheen Cheli for their declaration of independence, Rosy Chhetri's piece was one of the most interesting, honest and pragmatic write ups I have read in your paper. Thanks to Nepali Times for boldly publishing such a write up. Unlike other declarations made by politically-motivated feminist groups focusing on petty issues that really did nothing good for women except serve the vested interest of the feminist group themselves.
Rajeeb L Satyal,