The presence of large numbers of women in the Tigers has forced the mostly male leadership to change some of its rules. One of the biggest debates was about hair: Tamil men historically treasure long, straight hair on women, yet it hinders the women's movement during battle. In the early '90s, Prabhakaran declared that the women would be permitted to crop their hair.
"There were huge debates on whether women should be allowed to cut their hair," said Rohan Gunaratna, a Sri Lankan scholar who has written extensively about the Tigers.
Some women, like Seetha, jumped at the chance to trim their locks, but others couldn't break with the old style. One combat veteran, a 24-year-old woman code-named Banu, let her jet-black hair grow down her back. If she goes into battle, she braids it and wraps it around her head. Others don tight black caps.
"Sometimes during an attack, when I am going through a fence, my hair gets caught in the barbed wire," Banu said.
-- Los Angeles Times, 2/21/2000