Nepali Times
Women declare independence


Charitraheen Cheli (The Women of Ill Repute) is an underground group of women aiming to 'rip apart the veils,' who meet regularly in Kathmandu and engage in all kinds of guff, from high-minded politics to raucous pandherni' watertap gossip. At a recent meeting, they released a statement declaring their independence, which reads:

"With all respect to the women who have rebelled before us, the women who rebel alongside us, and the women who will rebel after us: we refuse to be good."

They say the word 'good' is treacherous because it usually upholds the patriarchal standards of our society, and add: "We rejoice in our ill repute. We refuse to limit ourselves to what patriarchy deems to be serious, worthy, right and correct for women to think, speak and do. We think, speak and do anything and everything that we feel like, when we feel like, in the way we feel like, led by the wishes of our independent minds and hearts and bodies."

The Chelis' 40-point declaration of independence states:
1. To have or not to have an agenda is our liberty. We take on agendas as we wish, without accepting the burdens that others would like to saddle us with.
2. We are underground because its fun down there. We are everywhere around you, on the streets, in your office and even in your home. You are being watched!!!
3. Our thoughts are utterly uncensored. We speak in soft, melodious tones, and also scream, shout, yell and roar. We laugh loud and often. We wail. We whistle, hum, sing. We speak freely. Nobody silences us.
4. We behave freely. We do not bow, scrape, or act tamed or humbled - unless we want to be, for our own purposes. We chew paan in public. We exchange blows when we need to. We buy contraceptives openly. We eat, drink and smoke anything, depending on our whims. We are the only ones who control our actions.
5. We wear combat boots, paint our toenails silver, have buzz-cut hair and wear leopard-spotted matching bra and panty-or no bra and panty at all. The clothes we wear, our shoes, our haircuts, our jewelry and makeup are all for our own comfort and pleasure.
6. We move about without restriction. We walk where women are not supposed to walk, leaving our homes, offices and neighborhoods far behind to enter spaces where we are not allowed, welcomed or expected.
7. We work in all professions, no matter how 'unwomanly'.
8. We redefine family roles so that they do not impinge on our individuality. Our identities are not based on our being the daughters of our fathers, the wives of our husbands, the sisters of our brothers or the mothers of our sons. We have individual identities of our own.
9. We may have breasts, vaginas, clitorises and wombs; we also have kidneys, livers, lungs, stomachs, hearts, pancreases, intestines, fingers and toes, nails, arms, legs, pubic-hair, skin, eyes, ears, mouth, lips and tongues. There are more similarities than differences between women and men. Most importantly, all people have independent minds, spirits and souls.
10. We have sovereignty over our bodies.
11. All children should be valued equally, and female fetuses should not be ultrasounded and discarded. Girls should receive the same care and opportunity as boys. No man should ever be called 'Raja'.
12. Boys and men must share in all household tasks. Men should be encouraged to stay home, cook, clean, look after children and change dirty diapers, while women work outside the home without any apologies. Also, we demand regular massages after a long day's work with no attached conditions.
13. We see menstruation as natural. We refused to be ashamed of it. Neither do we view women who have given birth as polluted. All women should be pampered and honored during menstruation and during pregnancy, childbirth and after. This will combat Nepal's shamefully high maternal mortality rate.
14. We demand easy access to cheap, safe and effective contraceptives and urge men to learn to love condoms.
15. We know we have the right to sexual pleasure, including, but not limited to, orgasm.
16. We reserve the right to choose sexual partners to fulfill our desires (regardless of class, caste, ethnic identity, nationality, religious belief, age or sexual orientation).
17. We also reserve the right to develop emotionally and intellectually fulfilling friendships with anyone we like.
18. We say no to advances that are not to our liking. We know that 'no' means 'no'. Do you know that 'no' means 'no'? If not, consult the dictionary.
19. Marriage does not license sexual misconduct or rape. Men: if a woman says she has a headache, she has a headache. Reach for a Cetamol, not a condom.
20. Incest and sexual exploitation of children is unacceptable. It must be exposed and punished. We should admire the courage of victims who come forward and support them.
21. Only pathetic losers harass girls and women. Harassment on the streets, in public vehicles, during festivals like Holi, in offices and workplaces and in the family are all unacceptable. Harassment, including seemingly innocent 'only teasing' makes us feel vulnerable. Then we get mad. Let's make it illegal and publicly shame all perpetrators.
22. Which moron made the Civil Code? (And which morons have perpetuated its discrimination thus far?) We demand equal citizenship. Women should be able to pass along citizenship to their husbands and children. Our fatherless children, children we adopt, children born by artificial insemination, test-tube babies and off-springs of our frozen eggs and cloned genetic material should all be granted citizenship.
23. Which idiots would think women should have the permission of their fathers/ husbands/ guardians to obtain passports, or to travel and work abroad? (The same idiots who framed our Civil Code, that's who). Having reached the age of 18, we exercise the right for complete freedom of movement. Instead of curbing this freedom, the state should fulfill its obligation to provide women with protection, via consulates, in the foreign countries in which we travel, work and reside.
24. We refuse to return our share of our family inheritance to our brothers post-marriage. IT IS ALL OURS!
25. Single women should be legally allowed to adopt children.
26. We want girls and young women to pursue their studies without any hindrance, growing up to become mechanics, surgeons, editors, judges, electricians, mathematicians, diplomats, taxi drivers, woodworkers, priests and dhamis, etc.
27. Women's labour is as valuable as men's, and should be paid equally. Household work should be recognized as a form of labor. Labor laws created to help women, such as the provision of child care services and maternity leaves, should be made more practical.
28. We demand legal action against the traffickers of girls and women. Sex workers should never be arrested, only their pimps and brokers. Sex workers should be empowered to protect themselves from all forms of monetary, social and psychological exploitation and sexually transmitted disease.
29. Men who commit violence against women are anti-national elements. Six out of ten of Nepal's sitting judges have said, in a widely-known study, that it is okay for men to slap around their wives to keep them in line. (Dear judges: shame, shame, puppy shame; all the donkeys know your name!)
30. Men with two or more wives must not enter public office. We shall judge men in public office on their private as well as public morality.
31. Dowries are a joke, and if you have given a dowry for your daughter's wedding, you are a joker. Ha, ha, ha!
32. We like women with power and express solidarity with boksis and kichkannis.
33. There should be no colour coding for widows. They should love and marry and have any kind of relationship they choose to have.
34. Women must have quick and easy access to social and legal justice, as well as clean indoor toilets.
35. Why only twenty percent? Half of all government jobs should be reserved for women. But equality and justice should be in practice, and not just in paper. Paper should be relegated to the above-mentioned clean indoor toilets.
36. We are not loyal to any political party if the party is not loyal to us. If you want our support, you'll have to work for us. Put women in half the leadership positions of all the political parties. But we only support women who have women-friendly politics. Not even women can take our support for granted. We are fed up with being used. Enough is enough.
37. We demand to have women in the post of prime minister, and as Ministers of Home Affairs, Finance; Foreign Affairs, Defense, Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, Tourism and Civil Aviation; Sports and Education, Water Resources and Physical Planning, Industry and Commerce, Science and Technology, Land Reform and Management; Information and Communication, Agriculture and Cooperatives, Population and Environment, Forest and Soil Conservation, Labour and Health. We also demand to have a woman Chief of the Army Staff.
38. We are tired of old ways of activism. Marching from Bhadrakali to Singha Darbar with a placard is mostly a waste of time. It is also polluting our lungs. We will use other means of exercising our politics, including non-violent guerilla tactics.
39. We do not hold double standards. We do not say one thing in public and practice something else in private. We speak the truth. Our characters are ISO 9002-certified!
40. We recognise that women are not a homogenous group and that there are differences of class, caste, ethnic identity, nationality, religion and sexual orientation between us. We respect and celebrate our differences and we pledge not to let elite women overshadow women who are less privileged.

In conclusion, patriarchy creates hierarchies. We reject all hierarchies.

There is no high and no low, no superior and inferior in our sisterhood of sovereign souls. We call for the support of all like-minded people in committing to taking action-big and small, public and private-to realise liberty, equality and camaraderie.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)