Nepal scraps ‘living goddess’ tradition – she has to go to school!

A centuries-old tradition in Nepal of worshipping a virgin girl-child in a palace as a “living goddess” has been scrapped after it was condemned as outdated by the country’s supreme court, which has ruled that the supposed deity must go to school.

Earlier this year, religious authorities started a search for a new Kumari, chosen from a handful of three-year-olds, after it was revealed the current living goddess is going to retire later this year.

However, that process looks as if it will be halted after the country’s highest court accepted the argument from a lawyer that keeping a young girl locked up in a medieval palace in Kathmandu was a violation of her fundamental rights.

The court ruled against the rights of the Kumari being “violated in the name of culture”.

“There should be no bar on the Kumaris from going to school and enjoying health-related rights as there are no historical and religious documents restricting Kumaris from enjoying child rights,” the court said.

The short answer is, of course, “overdue!” More complex decisions will tightrope through traditions and a theocracy that was interwoven with the old royal family.

Modern influences, Eastern and Western, shouldn’t be as restricted under the new government – compared to monarchist days. But, local politicians usually being what my cynical experience tells me, it’s still going to be a long difficult road ahead for Nepal to build a progressive economy and education system, civil service and vital parliamentary democracy. Certainly, I hope they succeed.

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