The Deviant Eelam Tamil Woman

The Deviant Eelam Tamil Woman
An Intersectional Feminist Analysis of the Women Fighters of the LTTE

Written by Rebecca Dharmapalan 2018

Abstract: This article will explore the involvement of women fighters in the Liberation Tamil Tigers Eelam through the lens of an intersectional feminist analysis. It addresses Heathcote’s concept of internal self-determination of non-state armed groups (NSAGs) through the case study of the LTTE as a liberation group fighting for ethnic sovereignty, land, and minority rights in Sri Lanka. As Heathcote writes “Non-state entities, by not qualifying as a state, may be presumed to be outside the scope of [internal self-determination], except insofar as the state with administrative control of the territory must guarantee the rights of minorities.”[1] The international legal framework is yet to address the concept of the right to use of force by non-state actors. This negligence by the international community poses a major threat to minority groups facing oppression by state regimes. This article will then look into Judith Butler’s theory of gender performance in order to understand men as wagers, actors, and solicitors of war and national state armies. According to this theory it can be inferred that the state military is masculine- from dress, to culture, to legitimacy of the use of force. I will complicate Butler’s theory of gender performance with Black feminist theory, introducing intersectional feminism into the conversation of women of color’s involvement in NSAGs. I will then utilize the works of Collins and Crenshaw as a mechanism of understanding this particular form of intersectional feminism. Furthermore, I would like to expand on the idea that the participation of women in Non-State Armed Groups, like the LTTE, occupy a nuanced identity that allows them to participate in a unique intersectional feminism: as women of color who take up arms. Within the case of the women members of the Liberation Tamil Tigers Eelam, I will argue that their participation as armed fighters was an act of emancipation from their usual domesticated life. As articulated by Mazurana in her chapter in Women and Wars “like men and boys, female LTTE members cited their nationalist desires for a free Tamil state and self determination as a significant reason for joining the movement.”[2] This article will also seek to apply the international legal framework on self determination and the use of force by engaging with Frantz Fanon’s justification for the use of violence as a tool of liberation ,[3] theorizing on gender performance and intersectionality within women combattants of color,[4] while providing a textual analysis of ethnographic reports on the women soldiers of the LTTE.


Non-State Armed Struggle for Liberation: The Liberation Tamil Tigers Eelam

A Gendered and Racialized Non-State Armed Group

Self Determination of Non-State Armed Groups (NSAGs) A Legal Perspective

Why Women Join


[1] Gina Heathcote, The Law on the Use of Force: A Feminist Analysis (Routledge 2011)

[2] Dyan Mazurana, Women and Wars (John Wiley & Sons 2012)

[3] Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (Grove Press 1963)

[4] Judith Butler, Gender Trouble (Routledge, 1990)