‘Invisible Counterparts’ of the ‘Warrior Gentlemen’: Tracing Out the Mobilities of Gurkha Women

Sanjay Sharma

The paper portrays how the literature regarding military migration is highly gendered. It argues that the voices of women from migrant-soldier families are lost amidst men’s stories of wartime bravery. By building on the experiences of “silent partners,” the paper works towards understanding the agency of women during emigration and links it with a larger literature on gender, migration, and the military/war. The paper is based on an overview of the literature and archival research about the Gurkhas and their families. From the vast amount of literature about Gurkha soldiers, this study traces out the “Gurkha women”.

On the one hand, the whole idea of family- and marriage-migration is guided by the notion of “male breadwinner” where women have very little say over the type of mobility and choice of destination. On the other hand, the paper attempts to debunk the popular understanding that women are “left behind” in the migrant household when men migrate or are mere passive followers of their highly mobile male counterparts. Based on the existing literature and archival research, the paper suggests that Gurkha women were highly mobile when women’s international migration (as opposed to internal and cross-border migration) was largely unheard of in the Nepali society. The paper cites various instances of women being involved in the British regiments in Southeast Asia and the UK where they contributed in military, educational, and medical institutions (for example Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps and St. Thomas Hospital). Also, Gurkha women were involved in recreations and community support activities. However, they just remained invisible in the literature under the shadows of their warrior husbands.

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