National / World

Nepal's Buddhist nuns rally behind gangraped 'sister'

By Sudeshna Sarkar

Kathmandu, Aug 3 (IANS) While established organisations dragged their feet on the fate of a 21-year-old Buddhist nun who had been gangraped, the republic's ignored community of nuns came forward to throw a mantle of protection over her.

Choying Drolma, a 40-year-old nun who today is also one of the best-loved singers of Nepal and a philanthropist, said she had opened the doors of Arya Tara, the school she founded for educating neglected nuns, to the victim so that she could be healed.

Choying, who herself chose to embrace the life of a nun when she was still a child to escape her violent, abusive father, became an eminent figure in Nepal after she used her earnings from concerts at home and abroad to open the school for nuns and recently, a centre to treat kidney diseases in Kathmandu valley.

On Tuesday, Nepal's National Women's Commission (NWC) and other NGOs, who have taken up cudgels on behalf of the raped nun, escorted her to the nuns' school in Pharping where Choying said she would be happy to look after the distraught young woman.

Though discharged by the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital Tuesday, the 21-year-old is still in deep trauma.

"I told the nuns at the school, this could have happened to any of us," Choying told IANS. "We can't treat this as a case of so and so being attacked. It's our own sister who's been attacked and it's our duty to go to her aid."

Choying said the attack on the nun was also an attack against all women.

"All of us might have to travel alone some time," she said. "This becomes an issue of safety and security for all women and we have to raise this issue."

Along with the NWC, Forum for Women, Law and Development, and Nepal Adivasi Janajati Mahasangh, Choying is now lobbying politicians, police officials and rights organisations to ensure that the five men arrested for the attack are not set free.

"The worst is yet to come," she said. "It will come when the trial starts and the accused hire lawyers to get them acquitted. They will then try to say that the nun incited them. You see it in the movies all the time.

"My prime concern is how this will affect her emotionally."

The nun was raped last month while travelling home in eastern Nepal. The bus she was travelling in was stuck due to bad weather and she was persuaded to spend the night in the vehicle.

She was attacked by the driver, his two helpers and two other men, who also looted her belongings.

Later, orthodox Buddhist organisations, while condemning the incident, said she had lost her religion as she had lost her celibacy.

But the stand triggered condemnation worldwide with Buddhists from abroad citing incidents from the Buddhist scriptures to show how the Buddha absolved a nun of blame after she was drugged and raped by a monk.

Pressured by the outcry, Buddhist bodies in Nepal said they would take her back as a nun.


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