Under pressure, Nepal moves to help gangraped nun

July 16th, 2011 - 4:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, July 16 (IANS) Under mounting pressure from the National Women’s Commission, ethnic organisations and lawmakers, Nepal’s government finally moved Saturday to help a Buddhist nun gangraped in a public bus last month, ordering the country’s oldest hospital to admit her for medical treatment.

The ordeal of the 21-year-old bhikshuni, Buddhist nun - attacked by five men in a public bus June 24 - had continued till Friday when the Tribhuban University Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu refused to admit her after her family flew her to the Nepal capital from a hospital in India’s border town of Siliguri where she was taken earlier.

It was a deeply distressing experience for the young woman, who has lost weight dramatically, breaks out into uncontrolled peals of screaming and shies away from human touch.

Her elder sister, who accompanied her to the hospital with her father and uncle, said it required three to four people to hold her down in the bed for doctors to examine her.

After ethnic and Buddhist organisations this month began demanding the government decree exemplary punishment for the attackers and foot her medical bill as well as secure compensation, the nun’s case has now also been taken up by the National Women’s Commission and MPs from the women, children and social welfare committee of parliament.

While MPs directed the home ministry to punish the perpetrators, compensate her and pay for her treatment, the commission led protests before the hospital Friday after its emergency department refused to admit the nun.

The pressure finally made the home ministry send a representative to the hospital Saturday to ensure that she would be treated.

“Though government rules say only patients below 15 and above 70 suffering from cancer, Parkinson’s, brain tumour, and kidney and heart diseases can be treated free of cost in government hospitals, this is an exceptional case,” said Dr Ramu Sharma, the health ministry representative.

The nun, who comes from the Tamang community, one of the most disadvantaged communities of Nepal and the worst victims of human traffickers, is also likely to need psychiatric treatment and extensive counselling.

Besides the attack, she now faces the new ordeal of being stripped of her nun’s habit as traditional Buddhist organisations say she can no longer remain a nun since she has lost her celibacy.

She was going home in eastern Nepal after attending a religious ceremony in Pokhara city when the bus she was travelling in became stuck on the road due to heavy rains.

As an old woman was also travelling with her she thought both of them could spend the night in the bus.

However, the old woman vanished and subsequently, the nun was attacked by the driver of the bus, his two helpers and the driver of another bus and his helper.

Though Nepal is the birthplace of the Buddha, the gangrape of a Buddhist nun, the first such incident in the Himalayan republic, did not generate the heat and anger as the victim comes from the Tamang community.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at sudeshna.s@ians.in)

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