The Role of traditional rituals for reintegration andpsychosocial well-being of child soldiers in Nepal

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Genocide and Mass Violence: Memory, Symptom, and Recovery




© Cambridge University Press 2015. Raj became a soldier in the Maoist People’s Liberation Army when he was fourteen years old. He joined after Maoist youth threatened to kill his father. Raj deserted hisbattalion after two years in the Maoist army. Maoists and the Nepal government signed peace accords ending the decade-long People’s War shortly after Raj’s return home. The end of war and return home did not abate Raj’s suffering. Memories of his friends’ deaths in combat plagued him. Prior to joining the Maoists, he had been a shamanic healer. However, the actions he committed as a Maoist soldier such as touching dead bodies and eating with other castes disturbed his ancestral deity. Without the protection of this deity, Raj lost his healing abilities, and his family became vulnerable to physical and spiritual afflictions. To free Raj from his war memories and restore his healing abilities, Raj’s family summoned a traditional healer. The healer performed a ritual of man baadhne – binding the heart-mind. The ritual temporarily abated his distress and partially restored his healing abilities. When members of a nongovernmental organization (NGO) aiding childsoldiers asked Raj what assistance he required, he requested funds to participate in additional rituals to appease the family’s ancestral deity, enabling his full recovery and assuring his family’s well-being.Maya joined the Maoists voluntarily when she was fourteen years old. She returned home after a year of service. Maya was concerned that she had abandoned her parents. She did not participate in any rituals upon returning home; she had nodesire to participate in them. She was particularly reluctant to consider the Swasthani ritual. This ritual, performed only by women, is a month-long fast to atone for one’s sins and assure the well-being of male relatives. Adult women advised that girl soldiers participate in the Swasthani to prevent negative consequences of their sins committed as Maoist soldiers such as traveling with men, interacting with other castes, and being physically active during menstruation. If girl soldiers did not perform this ritual, they endangered their future husbands and sons, according to elder women. Maya dismissed their concerns. She focused on opening a small store in her village. It would be the first store in her village operated by a woman of her ethnic group. Maya asked NGO workers for a loan to help start the business.

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