Males and Females in the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam: Why They Joined
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Both males and females were actively involved in the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE.) The thesis analyses whether males and females joined the LTTE for different reasons. The methodology used examines statements from interviews conducted by various journalists and academics that contain references to security and identity, themes central to the conflict, to determine its conclusions. In addition, this thesis uses reports conducted by NGOs, interviews with the civilian population, and academic research. The thesis finds that males and females had different reasons for joining the organization. However, these motivations are surprising and call into question some traditional assumptions of how men and women (should) behave. When females joined after the 1983 Black July riots, a massacre that left approximately 400-3000 Tamils dead, they did so at a time of heightened physical risk for the Tamil minority. Female LTTE members joined because of increased risks to bodily integrity, the experience of being displaced due to war, and after witnessing the effects of violence on their communities. Unlike men, however, women were less likely to speak of their own encounters with the Sri Lankan Defence Forces. Instead, females cited the experiences of their families and ethno-cultural community. Female recruits believed in the LTTE’s definition of gender equality, one which constructed female emancipation as the right to engage in combat. Many recruits felt stifled by Tamil society, but they also needed an avenue to defend their people once non-violent protest became ineffective and their ethno-cultural identity became targeted for oppression. When males first joined the LTTE in 1972-1976, they did so because their access to education and employment was compromised. Until 1983 the LTTE violently protested against what they viewed as unjust educational and language policies directed towards Tamils. These educational and language policies prevented males from securing stable employment and post-secondary education. In the beginning, men conceptualized security as the ability to secure a livelihood, but in response to male militancy the Sri Lankan government responded with military force. As the conflict grew the number of male casualties increased. In an attempt to seek protection from physical harm, males joined the LTTE, an organization they believed would grant them physical security. They relayed to interviewers stories of personal injustices committed by government security forces. Instead of describing the conflict using a gendered framework, male LTTE members believed that the lack of economic opportunity and the increased risk of bodily harm, which included death, detention, and torture, were the consequences of their marginalized ethno-cultural identity. Though males and females joined the LTTE for different reasons, with females believing that gender equality and physical safety were paramount (freedom from fear) and males first joining because they needed access to education and employment to survive (freedom from want), both sexes were led to the LTTE because of Sri Lanka’s institutional decay. LTTE members believed that the Sri Lankan government protected the Sinhalese at the expense of the Tamil population.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
SupervisorWheeler, Ron; Story, Donald
CommitteeDeonandan, Kalowatie; Lovrod, Marie
Copyright DateAugust 2012
gender, international relations