Gangraped Nepal nun now faces expulsion from nunnery
Sudeshna Sarkar, TNN Jul 11, 2011, 12.46pm IST
KATHMANDU: From one of the most disadvantaged Adivasi communities of Nepal, a 21-year-old Buddhist nun who was gang-raped by five men last month in a public bus, now faces the additional ordeal of being stripped of her religious habit and turned out of the nunnery where she had been apprenticed for almost 10 years.
The young woman's family told TNN that she was still in a state of shock after having wavered between life and death in a hospital in India's border town of Siliguri. But she could no longer be considered a bhikshuni (Buddhist nun) after the rape, Nepal's Buddhist organisations said.
While condemning the attack and deploring the communist government's ignorance of a "rarest of rare" crime in Nepal, the birthplace of the Buddha, 15 Buddhist organisations said that as a result, she had lost "her religion" and could be no longer regarded as fit to be a nun.
"Such a thing never happened in the Buddha's lifetime," said Norbu Sherpa, an official of Nepal Buddhist Federation. "So he did not leave instructions about how to deal with the situation. Buddhists all over the world adhere to what he had laid down: that a person can no longer be considered ordained in case of having a physical relationship. It's applicable to both men and women."
Now the victim, whose family is already reeling under the burden of paying the Indian hospital nearly Rs 3 lakh for her treatment, can no longer go back to the nunnery in Pharping, the little town in central Nepal with a concentration of Buddhist monasteries, where she had been admitted when she was about 12 years old.
Asked if it was not a gross injustice to the woman who was a victim, Sherpa was regretful but firm. "A vessel that is damaged once can no longer be used to keep water," he said. "Buddhism all over the world says this. Even the Dalai Lama says you can't be a monk or nun after marriage."
Regarded as one of the most progressive religions in the world, this is a little-known face of Buddhism that is more a matter of interpretation by the followers of the Buddha than probably the teachings of the compassionate one himself. Compared to the interpretation, the church, still vilified in Nepal despite the former Hindu kingdom becoming secular five years ago, supports its wronged nuns and monks with compassion.
Pastor Robin Rai of the Catholic church in Nepal said the church would not throw out a raped nun. "She is the victim," he told TNN. "To us, she is still a virgin. She remains a nun as long as she belongs to Christ."
The Nepal Tamang Lama Gedung added a sympathetic note, saying it would provide care for the victim.
The 21-year-old was raped on June 24 in a bus while travelling in eastern Nepal. Due to the rains, the bus arrived at the destination very late and she was forced to spend the night inside it. Her attackers are the driver of the bus, his two helpers, and the driver and helper of another bus. They also looted the money she was carrying with her.
The woman belongs to the Tamang community, one of the worst victims of human traffickers and suffering from a high degree of illiteracy and abject poverty.