Nepalese chant star gives refuge to nun shunned after gang rape


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The Independent Online

A Buddhist nun facing ostracism from her religious community in Nepal after she was allegedly gang-raped, has finally been offered sanctuary by an internationally renowned colleague.

Ani Choying Drolma, known around the world for her performance of Tibetan chants, offered refuge to the woman at a school in Kathmandu operated by a charity she established to help nuns who had fallen on difficult times.

"She is a human being like everybody else. This could have happened to anybody," Ms Drolma told The Independent last night.

"It could have happened to me, to my sister. Right now, the most important thing is to treat her like a human being and then later we can look into the matter of whether she is still a nun."

The sad, twisting story of the woman Ms Drolma has stepped in to help began last month when the 21-year-old was reportedly attacked while travelling by bus in the east of the country. When the bus got stuck in bad weather she was obliged to spend the night on the vehicle. It was at that point that the woman was allegedly attacked by the driver, two helpers and two other men. The young woman's possessions were also stolen.

While there was anguish in Nepal that the young nun had been attacked, some members of the country's Buddhist community said that because of what had happened she could no longer be deemed a virgin and could not continue as a nun.

"Such a thing never happened in the Buddha's lifetime," Norbu Sherpa, an official with the Nepal Buddhist Federation, told the Times of India. "So he did not leave instructions about how to deal with the situation. Buddhists all over the world adhere to what he had laid down: that a person can no longer be considered ordained in case of having a physical relationship. It's applicable to both men and women."

But such comments sparked an international outcry. From around the world, Buddhists insisted that the religious authorities should allow the young woman to continue as a nun if she chose to. Under intense pressure, the federation subsequently issued a statement saying she would be accommodated back at her nunnery when she left hospital.

For now, the woman is staying at the Arya Tara school, established by Ms Drolma with funds earned from the sale of Tibetan chants. She has also set-up a bank account in Kathmandu for the woman and donations are said to be arriving all the time.

If Ms Drolma risked controversy by her actions then it was nothing new. The 40-year-old has long faced criticism from some quarters for her global tours, big cars and love of Hindi films and songs. Despite this, she has continued to appear in magazines such as Marie Claire and wrote a biography, using the proceeds to fund a clinic to treat kidney disease.

Ms Drolma said that she had spent time with the young woman now in her care.

"She looks OK but she is suffering from shock," Ms Drolma said. "We are trying to make things as normal as possible for her. It's tough."