Debate grows in Nepal about gangraped nun

TNN, Jul 16, 2011

KATHMANDU, Nepal -- As the 21-year-old Buddhist nun from Nepal who had been gang-raped in a public bus returned to Kathmandu after initial medical treatment in India's border town of Siliguri, a debate finally began to grow about the attack in the Himalayan republic, that had so far remained largely silent on her suffering.

"We are discussing the formal Buddhist policy that says a nun who loses her celibacy, even though involuntarily, can't remain a nun any more," said Ang Kaji Sherpa, general secretary of the Nepal Adivasi Janajati Mahasangh, one of the first indigenous organizations to protest at the attack. "Though the conservative Buddhist sects adhere to this belief, yet the Nyingma sect allows its monks to marry."

Founded in the 11th century, the Nyingma Sect, also called the Red Sect, is the oldest school of Tibetan Buddhism. Sherpa said he has had discussions with three monks from the sect, who are now mulling whether the nun could be offered sanctuary in a nunnery run by the sect in Nepal. "Buddhism is a very forgiving religion," Sherpa told TNN. "The Buddha forgave Angulimala, the robber who was a ruthless killer. So it should show compassion to a victim."

Nepal's National Women's Commission has also taken up cudgels on behalf of the nun, who still remains emotionally disturbed and unable to talk coherently. Mohna Ansari, member of the commission, said while her organisation was earlier looking into women's issues and rights collectively, the gang-rape of a nun and its fallout showed it was time to delve into community-based issues as well.

On Friday, the commission wrote to the prime minister's office, and the ministries of health as well as women, children and social welfare, asking them to bear the costs of the nun's medical treatment and subsequent psychiatric counseling as well as pay her compensation.

This week, the women, children and social welfare committee in parliament also directed the government to punish the nun's attackers and assist with her recovery as well as rehabilitation. It was finally a minor triumph for the nun's family Saturday after the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital admitted her as a patient, a day after its emergency department had turned her away.

The nun was traveling home in eastern Nepal last month when she was forced to stay in the bus overnight due to bad weather stalling the journey. She was reportedly raped by the bus driver and his two helpers as well as the driver of another bus and his helper. Though police have arrested five people, with the victim still in a state of shock, the organizations supporting her say they are not convinced all the culprits have been apprehended.