November 1, 2006

Worshipping the living goddess: Is it a violation of human rights?

An inquiry in Nepal.

A Kumari is typically chosen at the age of five to six years old, and is deemed ineligible after she starts menstruating around the age of 12 or 13....

Incumbents are cut off from normal life, and have limited contact with their families. They are not allowed to attend regular schools....

Similar "goddesses" are also installed and worshipped in other small Newari towns in the Kathmandu Valley.


Tom T. said...

Over here we call this phenomenon "the Olsen Twins."

Finn Alexander Kristiansen said...

The Tibetan monks pull this type of nonsense as well. Aren't Tibet and China in an argument over some Kiddie Lama double switch that the Chinese are trying to pull?

Doesn't that future Panchen Lama have rights too?

Shanti Mangala said...

The sad part is that a lot of these women end up as sex slaves to the local strong-men. Same is the case with devadasis in India.

Sixty Bricks said...

better than being born an

Revenant said...

Based on the article, it sounds like child abuse to me (and here come the accusations of me being against religious freedom again). The article could be wrong, though, I suppose.

goesh said...

-rather a common cultural thing, really - one's JAP is another's young Medicine Man on say the Pine Ridge or Rosebud Indian reservation kept out of the mainstream and not taught English or put in school so the inherent talents and abilities can maninfest freely without cultural pollution imposed by external forces. This Princess thing is as offensive as telling young minds a rabbit brings candy and colored eggs for a religious holiday and a fat man dressed in red slides down chimneys bearing gifts and is capable of delivering gifts to all the world's children in a single night. A Black Christ anyone?

Edward said...

Ann: Are you more interested in getting our instinctive, personal reaction to this as a human interest story or instead our opinion as to whether the law should prohibit this traditional practice?

Ann Althouse said...

Edward: Why do you assume those are sharply differentiated paths?

dick said...

I remember reading years ago about the Dalai Lama and how the next one is selected when he is a child. From that time he is not allowed to do a lot of childish things and is secluded from all normal life. Under the circumstances, we certainly seem to have gotten a very sane Dalai Lama with the current one. How did that happen or was it just luck? Nurture or nature?

Revenant said...

The Dalai Lama is raised into a lifetime position. His childhood was certainly not that of a regular child, but neither are the childhoods of most children of the ruling class.

The "living goddesses", on the other hand, seem to simply be being exploited for a half-dozen years and then discarded, after which time they have a difficult time living a normal life. That's a different kettle of fish, in my opinion.

Harry Eagar said...

You don't have to go off to exotic Nepal. Try Brooklyn.

The Hasidim do the same, except instead of calling their child victims gods they call them 'zaddik.'

The conviction of Halbrans in the kidnapping and persecution of Shai Fhima tells the tale. Strangely, while Americans are quick to leap to the defense of hapless Nepalese or Tibetan kids, hardly anybody lifted a finger to help Fhima's mother recover her son -- which, despite the conviction, she never did.

It's easier to be morally outraged about Nepalese, who cannot deliver any precincts, than it is about Jews in New York City, no?

Revenant said...


Two minutes on Google reveals that the rabbi who abducted Fhima was tried and convicted of kidnapping.

So much for your Jewish conspiracy theory.

Harry Eagar said...

Quote from my post: 'The conviction of Halbrans . . .'

The sentence on Halbrans was derisory, and there were riots in his favor outside the courthouse.

The crime was reported and ignored for years. There are quite a few Jewish organizations in NYC. None of them paid any attention.'

The Brooklyn DA did nothing to investigate. Some think, because he was pandering for precincts.

The eventual prosecution, pursued unenthusiastically, was the result of private investigations, financed by lawyers.

And by the time it was over, the boy had grown up. As I said, the mother never got her child back.

I did way more than 2 minutes on this one.

And there have been other kidnappings. In fact, Halbrans may have been zaddik'd himself as a child.

TMink said...

Goesh, I am not following you. What does the invasive and seclusive life of these children have to do with the Easter Bunny? Apples and gas tanks in my opinion. The Kumari is a religious practice, Santa is an religious substitute myth, and perhaps economic voodoo. See, one involves the entire person's life, the other involves a few sentences a year for a few years. One is education, social integration, being told you are a goddess until you start to menstrate, the other is a harmless myth. I am not following you at all.

And what about a Black Christ? What are you trying to say?


Revenant said...

I did way more than 2 minutes on this one.

You're whining that we're not displaying outrage at a crime that happened years ago, wherein the guilty party was caught and punished, but *are* showing outrage at current, modern-day crimes that are going unpunished. Grow up.

And there have been other kidnappings.

So find an example of one that isn't being dealt with and link to it. And bear in mind that the worst offenders for kidnapping American children and taking them to foreign countries are Muslims and Mexicans, not Israelis.