Matani Shakya (3) and child abuse in Nepal

Nepal has ridden itself of the divine right of a monarch to rule.  Traditions associated with that corrupt rule however continue, one of which is the practise of selecting an infant girl to be a goddess (Kumari a virgin girl) till she starts menstruating, only then being returned back to her family. Because with menstrual bleeding divinity ends.

Matani Shakya, just three years young was chosen for this supposed accolade, to the sounds of buddhist and hindu mantras. Flower and grains of rice washed over her nimble frame as she was escorted from the bosom of her family to her new home at the ancient palatial temple in the capital Katmandu. With a silk scarf, like a chain, around her neck.

The selection process:

A panel of judges conducted a series of ancient ceremonies to select the goddess from several 2- to 4-year-old girls who are all members of the impoverished Shakya goldsmith caste.

The judges read the candidates’ horoscopes and check each one for physical imperfections. The living goddess must have perfect hair, eyes, teeth and skin with no scars, and should not be afraid of the dark.

As a final test, the living goddess must spend a night alone in a room among the heads of ritually slaughtered goats and buffaloes without showing fear. [Washington Post]

Having passed these tests she will be worshipped as the incarnation of the deity Taleju (from whom the King’s power was said to come from), her feet touched by the forehead of devotees. She will be wheeled around in a chariot by devotees. With menstruation she will be cast out, coming back to earth as all too human. Superstition claims that men marrying such a woman will have a short life. The life of such a woman is one of relative hardship and adjustment.

There is talk about these practises violating even Nepal Child rights laws. The United Conventions of Human Rights of the Child has said that this practise had almost ended when it reported in December 2002, stating that she has basic facilities and a teacher with a normal life once she retires. Yet with the fall of the King and the rise of the Maoists the practise continues in 2008.

Yet supposed child’s rights seem not worth the paper they are printed on. Children found in brothels, often end up in “protective custody”:

In Nepal, 85% of children and young people interviewed in prisons reported abusive treatment while in the custody of police or security forces, and 58.6% reported torture with methods such as electric shocks, beatings with hard objects, beatings with their hands tied,and beatings while blindfolded. [Unicef]

A culture of child abuse has developed in the country through adoptions:

The intercountry adoption business in Nepal has created a culture of child abuse including the abduction, trafficking and sale of children, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and a non-governmental organization (NGO) said in a report released today…

“The vast majority of children in centres don’t need to be there,” said Joseph Aguettant, Tdh Country Representative in Nepal.

“They have family… The first priority, therefore, should be to reunite 80 per cent of the children in institutions with their families, not to re-open intercountry adoption.” [UNHCR]

If you are concerned about such such child abuse in Nepal, whether in Matani Shakya’s case or indeed the plight of children in Nepal please contact the Nepal embassy to voice your concerns and encourage them to ratify the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (1993) and tell them that the world is watching.

eon@nepembassy.org.uk (London)

info@nepalembassyusa.org (USA)

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