Monday, 1 July 2013

Exploitative traditional religious practices to young Nepalese girls

Nepal being a multi-ethnics, multicultural, multilingual and multi-religious is a very religious country where 126 different caste/ethnicities traditions, rituals, customs, cultural values and norms have been set by religious beliefs. In relation to this there are many social injustice practices and problems that are unethical act of people which hinders societal growth and development include

1. Gender based discrimination and exploitation
- Girl trafficking
- Dowry system
Chaupadi pratha
Deuki system
Jhuma pratha (tradition)
- Kamlari pratha
Badi partha (tradition)Witch craft practicing and exploitation

2. Caste based discrimination and injustice
Untouchability and marginalisation

3. Child labor
4. Drug abuse
5. Corruption

Despite having so many social problems in Nepal here I'm going to discuss about the religious practices that have been exploitation Nepalese young girls in the name of maintaining and preserving culture, custom and tradition in Nepalese society. The prevailing practice that generally one can find in Nepalese society is offering a young girl to gods and goddesses in hindu temples and buddhist monstaries. These include Deuki system in the far western region of Nepal among Hindu community, Jhuma tradition among Buddhist in mountain region of Nepal and Kumari tradition among Newar community in the Kathmandu valley. 

1. Deuki system

The Deuki system, similar to India’s notorious Devadasi or temple slave  and prostitution custom that has been outlawed in all of India in 1988 but still exist as shown in a 2004 report by the National Human Rights Commission of the Government of India, exists in far western Nepal where families “gift” a young daughter to a temple, abandoning her to a fate of poverty, exploitation and often enforced prostitution despite being abolished by the government of Nepal in 1990 considering the deoki practice as human trafficking and exploitation in the name of religion and culture. 

Deuki means to consecrate one's own or a poor family's newly born female child to god in order to fulfill a promise made earlier to gain religious merit [1]. Based on blind belief, the practice of deuki is to offer an innocent female child to the local temple to serve the god or goddess in order to gain a son, to cure a sickness, or to fulfill any other desires. This system has started by the  REIGN of King Nagi Malla of Doti district in the Far-western part of Nepal in the 17th century due to the Natural calamities, drought and cholera consumed his kingdom. Relief would come, the royal priests predicted, if he gave his daughter to the temple of Bhageshwor Mahadev. 
At present the center of this practice is located in Baitadi district's Melauli Devi temple. It is disheartening to know that despite these measures, the number of Deukis is increasing.  According to the UN report the number of deukis increased over 30,000 in 2010 compared to 17,000 in 1992 [2, 3, 4].

Bought from poor families for NPR 10,000 (U.S.$140) to NPR 100,000 ($1400), no one takes on the responsibility to care for these children offered to the temples [1]. 

The flesh trade of the deukis is on the rise. Misguided by their own selfishness, prominent locals spread the blind belief that sex with a deuki will give them religious merit.

Is some cases, it has been reported that the families of those who sell such deukis to the temples have sexually exploited them. 

Girls born from such copulations themselves are sold into deukis, while sons become religious healers.

2. Jhuma tradition

Jhuma is yet another disgraceful traditional practice in the name of religion generally in western  region of Nepal among Buddhist communities. As in the Deuki system, the second daughter of the second daughter of the family is offered to the god in the ghumba and the girl have to spend her remaining life in the care if the  ghumba [3, 4]. This is completely based on blind belief, it sanctions separating a daughter from her family and putting her in the service of a Buddhist monastery. 

No one knows exactly when the Jhuma culture actually started. But because of a hypothetical fear of committing a sin if one's daughter is not put into the service of a monastery, many young girls have been forced to serve from time immemorial.

Jhumas exist in the Buddhist districts of west Nepal like Manang and Mustang, but the custom is also practiced in Kathmandu itself.

Many from the Sherpa community are compelled to make girls into Jhumas, who can be found in monasteries on the western side of Swoyombhu.  These children are sent to the monastery before menses, with a shaved head and dressed in red ochre colored robes.

Though they are not cut off from education and care, their life to some extent resembles to that of the deukis.

It is believed that Poverty has led to the perpetuation of a religious practice—the Jhuma tradition—among Tamangs and Sherpas Buddhist communities of western Nepal.

“As land is scarce in the mountains, families with several children seek to prevent it from being split up,” says Uttam Niraula, executive director of the Society for Humanism Nepal (SOCH Nepal), a non- government organisation campaigning against superstition and paranormal practices. “While the eldest looked after the family, the one in the middle was sent off to become a monk or nun. This is the Jhuma tradition.” [4] 

Buddhists, too, are not ready to see the Jhuma tradition end.  “It will be a violation of our cultural rights,” says Ang Kaji Sherpa, general secretary of Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities. “The government needs to consult the stakeholders and initiate social reforms first instead of trying to impose a law unilaterally.”  

3. Kumari tradition

The Kumari – Nepal’s famous Living Goddess – is the tradition of choosing a girl at pre-puberty, sometimes as young as three years old, as the guardian deity of the city and installing her in her own palace, away from her family. She does not go to school and is not allowed to walk outside. Her reign ends when she nears puberty and is replaced by another young girl.

SOCH Nepal worked with Nepal’s women, children and social welfare ministry to produce a draft law to prevent discrimination and violence in the name of social malpractices, many of which stem from religion, like Jhuma and two more celebrated traditions, the Kumari and Deuki [3].

“All these customs violate a child’s rights and are clearly banned by Nepal’s Children’s Act of 1992,” says Niraula. “The Act says a child should not be separated from the parents, should be allowed to go to school and play and should not be dedicated to god. It specifically says that a child under 16 can’t be made to become a nun or monk. But the implementation is weak. The new act will have tougher deterrents.” [3].

1.  Dahal, Isha, 2006. Deuki: A Stain on Nepalese Civilisation, Traditional custom misguided, exploitative accessed from
3.  Sudeshna Sarkar, Sudeshna (2011), NEPAL: Religious Practices Oppress Women
accessed from
4. Dahal, Isha, 2006.  Old Traditions Die Hard in Nepal:, Jhuma: a disgraceful act committed in the name of religion accessed from  


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