The Nepal Digest - June 15, 1994 (2 Ashadh 2051 BkSm)

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The Nepal Digest Wednesday 15 June 94: Ashadh 2 2051 BkSm Volume 28 Issue 4

Today's Topics:
 

        1. TAJA_KHABAR:

                    Arun III Delegation in US
                    Teaching Safe Sex in Nepal

        2. KATHA_KABITA:

                     Yeti Song
                     Brahmacharya in Crisis!

        3. KURA_KANI:

                     I. Social Issues
                            Teachings of Buddha

                    II. Politics
                            Re: Nepal Ko Kabzaa Kiya - Phone Prompts
        4. ENTERTAINMENT:

                     Movie Reviews - Little Buddha

        5. JAN_KARI:

                     Driving License
    
        6. TITAR_BITAR:

                     Yatra Barnan - Glimpse of Nepal Part V.
 
                   
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********************************************************************** Date: Mon, 13 Jun 1994 10:46:00 -0500 Forwarded by: "Sirdar_RJS_Khalifa" <a10rjs1@corn.cso.niu.edu> Subject: yeti_song To: nepal@cs.niu.edu

YETI SONG
(Marlin Spike Werner)

Beyond the Ganges River In the mountains of Nepal There lives my hairy yeti, She's the fairest of them all.

She's lissom and curvatious And as Yeti's go, she's tall She's my hirsute mountain beauty She's the fairest of them all.

Full my heart and gone my reason We have love for every season She's my own, my hairy yeti, Fairest of them all.

Her hair is like angora
>From the first cold nip of fall
But in summer, when she's moulting She has nothing on at all.

Her smile is lost in hairiness, Her nose is cute and small, And her eyebrows are so shaggy I can't see her eyes at all.

Full my heart and gone my reason Love finds fire in any season, She's my hairy yeti, She's the fairest of them all.

High up on Sagarmatha When the cold is hard and blue And the wind is icy needles And I'm frozen thru and thru

My ever-loving Yeti Takes me up in her embrace: The warmth of her four bosoms Draws the frostbite from my face.

Full my heart and gone my reason Love finds fire in any season, She's my hairy yeti, She's the fairest of them all.

She wraps me with her coziness Against the chill monsoon, Or we sit in summer twilight Singing lovesongs to the moon.

She's an international heroine-- Holds Asia in her thrall; She's an undisputed citizen Of China and Nepal.

Full my heart and gone my reason We have love for every season; She's my own, my hairy Yeti, She's the fairest of them all.

Alternate CHORUS: Salute the flag and throw confetti China made the first spaghetti She's my own, my hairy yeti, Fairest of them all.

Copyright 1982,
  by Marlin Spike Werner

********************************************************** Subject: Nepali prompts when calling Nepal To: <NEPAL@cs.niu.edu> From: Sanjay Manandhar <sanjaym@sni-usa.com> Date: Mon, 13 Jun 94 13:02:20 -0400

Dear Readers,
        As far as I know, most of the foreign prompts when calling foreign destinations come NOT from the foreign telephone switch but from your LOCAL switch.
        Hence, if you want to fix the "Hindi" prompt problem, the best way is to contact your international carrier (e.g. AT&T, Sprint, MCI, etc.) company and tell them that the lingua franca of country code 977 is not Hindi, but Nepali and that YOU are willing to make arrangements to find a suitable voice expert (they will not accept just anybody's voice prompt). A would suggest a business letter to the Customer Service Representative should work, especially during these times of cut-throat international service competition.
        Ideological tirades don't help. Pragmatic business solutions go a long way.

Regards, Sanjay Manandhar

****************************************************************** Date: Mon, 13 Jun 1994 15:16:02 EDT To: a10rjs1@cs.niu.edu Subject: Nepali Driving License=International D. License=Mass. Driv. License??? From: isha@titan.ucs.umass.edu (Isha Sharma)

atuladhar@vax.clarku.edu wrote:
: Nepali Driving License: What good is it in Massachusetts?
: ==========================================================

: I have a valid Nepali driving license. Is this the "international" driving
: license one can use to drive legally in massachusetts or US?

: The RMV was telling me such a license must be verified by the embassy or
: consul of Nepal. Is there a consul in Boston who can do this, what is the
: process and address or phone numbers?

In Nepal, they have started giving a standard driving licence with both Nepali and English words in it. It is ID size and laminated. I am not sure whether it is international or not!

For yor information, here are some excerpts from the Licensing Rules and Procedures, Mass.:-

"- Upon becoming a Massachusetts resident an out-of-state or an out-of-
  country driver must obtain a Massachusetts Operator's License and
  Registration(number plates). Applicants applying who present a
  license which has not expired ....(for US states and territories only)
  may be issued a license provided: ( conditions given)

"- Applicants transferring an out-of-country license to a Massachusetts
  license must take a written test and a road exam. The road exam
  shall be waived when an applicant is converting a license from a country
  that is party to the "Convention of Road Traffic of 1949".

"NOTE: Any driver's license not in English must be accompanied by an original translation certified by a bilingual notary public, or by a teacher at an accredited college or university. Any driver's license from a foreign country listed on the "Convention on Road Traffic of 1949" must be accompanied by a statement of validity on an original letterhead of the home country's embassy or consulate".

According to the above rules, no matter whether you have an international license or not you have to take a written test. You can only get the road test waived, if you fulfill all other requirements.

A German friend bought and registered a vehicle but did not convert his German driving license because of all the troubles, and operated it for two semesters, as a non-resident is allowed to drive temporarily with his original license. However, he had to pay a very high premium on insurance for his car.

Therefore, though I had a Nepali license, I thought it wiser to take the exam. Insurance company considers for the years you have been driving and gives discounts if you present them your Nepali license. However, you must have a MA. license. Therefore, I would like to advise you to go for one.

Go and get a free copy of Driver's License Manual from the RMV before you go for the written test. They ask all questions from the book only. Prepare yourself for the parallel parking, this is probably the only thing Nepali drivers are not familiar with. You will easily pass the other tests. Just be careful and never try to show off that you are an expert driver. Because one person who drove for years in Saudi Arabia is said to have failed b'cause she drove with only one hand on the steering.

Hope that this will help you!

-NAGENDRA

*********************************************************************** Date: June 13, 1994 Forwarded By: Rajpal J. Singh <a10rjs1@mvs.cso.niu.edu> To: The Nepal Digest <nepal@cs.niu.edu> Subject: Brahmacharya in Crisis!
 

               Brahmacharya in Crisis!
               -----------------------

    "And he took the vedic message accross the seas,
     Boldy, confidently and charismatically, he delivered,
     The cosmic truth to the citizens of every creed ...."

     Such BRAHMACHARYA was Vivekananda ... my mom continues,
     Such control he had over unwanted desires .... my mom stresses,
     And he accomplished all this in his bachelor-hood .... my mom smiled,
     Such a role-model, you oughtta follow .... my mom concluded,
     I was barely eleven years old!

     Too busy playing soccer and hide-'n-seek
     The only stimulation I was aware was during the morning flushings;
     I well remember the giggles in the Junior-high
     As we flipped through the pages under chapter human reproduction,
     "Linga, Birya, Yoni, Sambhog" - all sounded like "sahityik" words
     That I used to struggle during my Nepali and Sanskrit classes.

     High-school days, as I recall, filled with curiosity
     Afraid to ask, limited to my friends and cheap Indian romance books;
     How we used to sit back on the soccer field and joke about it.
     And how one of us would acknowledge of self discovery -
     Victims of tease and sudden burst of laughter - as we all agree.

     University days encountered with sporadic copies of Playboys
     Wondering how our counterpart (women) thought of their sensuality
     And some more adult movies with friends on the VCR -
     I thought to myself - yeah, I know what human sexuality is.
    
     Sex, drugs and rock'n'roll, a cool slogan then it was -
     Heavy metal, sex pistols, Holywood movies and strip tease,
     Suddenly has left me overwhelmed with intense desires -
     And I can't sitback but think - You misled me, didn't you?
     I know now - my BRAHMACHARYA is in deep CRISIS!!!!!!!!

     - Sirdar_RJS_Khalifa
       June 13, 1987

***********************************************************************************************

*********************************************************************************************** Date: Mon, 13 Jun 1994 15:31:12 EDT To: a10rjs1@cs.niu.edu From: anon29b8@nyx10.cs.du.edu (Anonymous) Subject: L.B. Review

THE TEACHINGS OF THE BUDDHA
---------------------------

Just what the original teaching of the Buddha was is a matter of some debate. Nonetheless, it may be said to have centered on certain basic doctrines. The f irst of the Four Noble Truths, the Buddha held, is suffering (duhkha). By this
, he meant not onl

y that human existence is occasionally painful but that all beings--humans, ani mals, ghosts, hell-beings, even the gods in the heavens--are caught up in samsa ra, a cycle of rebirth, a maze of suffering in which their actions (KARMA) keep
 them wandering. Samsara and karma are not doctrines specific to Buddhism. The Buddha, however,
 specified that samsara is characterized by three marks: suffering, impermanen ce, and no-self (anatman). Individuals not only suffer in a constantly changing
 world, but what a

ppears to be the "self," the "soul," has no independent reality apart from its many separable elements. The second Noble Truth i that suffering itself has a cause. At the simplest lev el, this may be said to be desire; but the theory was fully worked out in the complex doctrine of "dependent origination" (pratityasamutpada), which explains
 the interrelation

ship of all reality in terms of an unbroken chain of causation. The third Noble Truth, however, is that this chain can be broken--that sufferin g can cease. The Buddhists called this end of suffering NIRVANA and conceived of it as a cessation of rebirth, an escape from samsara. Finally, the fourth Noble Truth is that a way exists through which this cessati on can be brought about: the practice of the noble Eightfold Path. This combi nes ethical and disciplinary practices, training in concentration and meditatio n, and the develop

ment of enlightened wisdom, all thought to be necessary. For the monks, the notion of offering extends also to the giving of the DHARMA in the form of sermons, to the chanting of scriptures in rituals (which may als o be thought of as magically protective and salutary), and to the recitation of
 sutras for the de

ad. All of these acts of offering are intimately involved in the concept of merit-m aking. By performing them, individuals, through the working of karma, can seek
 to assure themselves rebirth in one of the heavens or a better station in life
, from which they

may be able to attain the goal of enlightenment.

The Academic American Encyclopedia, online edition, Grolier Electronic Publishing, Danbury, CT, 1993.

***************************************************************** Date: Mon, 13 Jun 1994 15:31:49 EDT To: a10rjs1@cs.niu.edu From: anon29b8@nyx10.cs.du.edu (Anonymous) Subject: L.B. Review

LITTLE BUDDA by Roger Ebert
* * Prince Siddhartha ...... Keanu Reeves Dean Conrad ............ Chris Isaak Lisa Conrad ............ Bridget Fonda Jesse Conrad ........... Alex Wiesendanger Lama Norbu ............. Ying Ruocheng
        Miramax presents a film directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. Produced by Jeremy Thomas. Written by Mark Peploe and Rudy Wurlitzer. Based on a story by Bernardo Bertoluccci. Photographed by Vittorio Storaro. Edited by Pietro Scalia Music by Ryuichi Sakamoto. Running time: 120 minutes. Classified: PG (for some disturbing images).
        Bernardo Bertolucci's "Little Buddha" tells the story of a young Seattl e boy who may, or may not, be the reincarnation of a venerated Buddhist teacher. While his American parents try to deal with this possibility, which is explaine d to them by visiting monks from Tibet, the movie intercuts its modern story with a retelling of the life of Prince Siddhartha, who grew up to become the Buddha. The modern sequences lack realism or credibility. The ancient sequences play like the equivalent of a devout Bible story. The result is a slow-moving and pointless exercise by Bertolucci, whose "The Last Emperor" was a much superior telling of a similar story about a child who is chosen for great things.
        Let's begin with a not exactly hypothetical question: If you were approached by a Tibetan monk, in robe and sandals, who explained that your 10-year-old child is a reincarnated Buddhist teacher, and if the monk invited your child to Tibet, how would you expect to react? No plausible answer to that question is contained in this movie.
        Instead, Bertolucci creates a Seattle family which, in its own way, is more unreal than any of the more spiritual families in his story. Chris Isaak and Bridget Fonda play Dean and Lisa Conrad. He is an architect whose ambitious skyscraper project has just gone into bankruptcy. She is a schoolteacher. Their son, Jesse (Alex Wiesendanger), is a bright, pleasant young boy. One day Lama Norbu (Ying Ruocheng), a Tibetan monk now living in Seattle, dreams of a hill with their house upon it, and is drawn to the family. He explains that some nin e years earlier, his wise and holy teacher passed away, and that ever since he an d his fellow monks have been alert to signs of the great man's reincarnation. It now appears that Jesse may indeed be that person.
        Lisa Conrad is home alone when the monk first comes to visit. She invites him into their home, and is intrigued, although unsettled, by his news. Later Dean also hears the story from the monk. At first he is hostile to the news. But then, after his business partner commits suicide, he has some sort of spiritual experience that causes him to question such matters as life and death
, and eventually he agrees to accompany Jesse and Lama Norbu to Tibet.
        The spiritual experience takes place off screen, which is perhaps just as well, because nothing in Chris Isaak's underwritten character is even passingly convincing. The writing, the role, the casting, or all three, never work. The American father comes across as cold, closed-off and not very bright; and he has so little dialogue that occasionally we hope for him to say two sentences in a row, so that we can find out something more subtle from him than how, in a word or two, he "feels" about something.
        The mother, played by Bridget Fonda, is a more interesting character, and it is a shame her character doesn't accompany the father and child to Tibet
-- a shame because Lisa Conrad is more articulate, and also because the movie cries out for answers to the kinds of questions any mother would ask (such as,
"You mean you really want to take my child away from me and take him to live in Tibet?"). Since the Conrads are not Buddhists, it is a bit much to expect them to understand the theology behind Lama Norbu's plans, although the monosyllabic architect does allow, at one point, that he has been "doing some thinking."
        Early in the film the monk gives the little boy a picture book about Prince Siddhartha (Keanu Reeves). This book, which greatly resembles free airport literature, is then read by the boy and his mother, triggering Bertolucci's flashbacks to the origins of Buddhism. (The movie's color strategy
, by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, schematizes these flashbacks by drenching them in warm reds, oranges, yellows and browns -- as opposed to the chilly blues, grays and greens of all the American scenes.)
        What I kept waiting for in "Little Buddha," unsuccessfully, was some clue about Bertolucci's attitude toward his material -- some slight skepticism or detachment. Here we have a fundamental clash between two cultures, presented with the simplicity of a religious comic book. I cannot imagine a Buddhist filmmaker, subsidized with church money, making a film with less complexity or irony -- rather the reverse, in fact. Has Bertolucci become a Buddhist? Does he believe the little boy is a reincarnated monk? Is this movie a holy story, for our edification?
        The scenes in Tibet are astonishingly simpleminded, especially after it appears that two Asian children may also be candidates for the reincarnation of the holy man. These three children (who eventually are said to embody three
"sides" of the dead monk) are given scenes in which they play and talk together
-- all speaking English, of course. The movie is not even interested enough in the complexities of its story to suggest that there might be cultural differences among the children, or their parents. We're in Buddhist Sunday School here.
                COPYRIGHT 1994 THE EBERT CO. LTD.

********************************************************************** Date: Mon, 13 Jun 1994 14:31:07 -0600 (MDT) From: Ajaya Sharma <ccasharm@antelope.wcc.edu> Subject: To: nepal@cs.niu.edu

I saw the following posted on somebody's office door. Found pretty funny. Thought I'd share with you all.

                        Why Worry!

             There are only two things to worry
             about. Either you are well, or you
             are sick. If you are well, then
             there is nothing to worry about.
             But if you are sick, there are two
             things to worry about. Either you
             will get well or you will die. If
             you get well there is nothing to
             worry about. But if you die there
             are only two things to worry about.
             Either you will go to heaven or
             hell. If you go to heaven there is
             nothing to worry about. But if you
             go to hell, you'll be so damn busy
             shaking hands with friends, you
             won't have time to worry.
             
********************************************************************** Date: Mon, 13 Jun 1994 16:23:21 -0500 (CDT) From: Padam Sharma <sharma@plains.NoDak.edu> Subject: Kurakani by Padam Sharma To: Nepal Digest <nepal@cs.niu.edu>

  Glimpses from Nepal ...V: Political Kaleidoscope

  During my visit to Nepal, I had no time to get deeply involved in details
  of contemporary political culture. However, during casual conversations
  with friends and acquaintances of different political background, I
  gathered the following perceptions of their respective positions. Some
  wordings are theirs while most of the spin is my own political
  soul-searching. The conclusions are definitely mine.

                                  Congressis
   
   I don't hear any good news about Nepal in the US. What is going on?

   We were left with a corrupt and inept bureaucracy by the Panches. We
   are going through a transition time of leadership development and
   bureaucracy streamlining. Current crisis of personalities are expected
   due to party members wanting to share the power of the government and
   general frustrations by those who are not in the power.
    
   Is there a hope for the future? Yes, we have to patiently wait for the
   old guards to retire. We are optimistic that young leaders will have the
   vision to lead the country unscrupulously.
   
   What about the charges of corruption, congressization of bureaucracy,
   and Indianization of the county? Due to prolongued one party rule during
   the Panchayati regime, corruption was ingrained in our bureaucratic and
   political circles. It was important to remove those old guards of the
   Panchayati era who were corrupt to the hilt. We also had to reduce the
   cost of the government by downsizing the departments. Of course,
   some of this purge was done with a political ferver to reward our supporters.
   
   Our citizens from Terai and other minorities were discriminated during
   the Panchayat regime. We are trying to correct it by promoting some
   bureaucrats from Terai and moving them in Kathmandu and other districts.
   Unfortunately, this has given a perception that we are Indianizing the
   country.
  
   Another factor that is contributing to the perception is our policy of
   inviting investment from foreign capitalists. Indian capitalists have a
   traditional cultural foothold in our country. The free-market policies
   have visibly increased the flow of capital and number of capitalists from
   India. When Nepali capitalists can not compete with their Indian
   counterparts in a free market economy, complaints and emotional outcry
   that the present government is favoring Indians are quite natural. We can
   not culturally and economically isolate ourselves from India and become
   prosperous on our own. Working with them is the only way to negotiate a
   better position for our national development.
  
   Will you win the next election? We think we will. We offer the best
   political and economic model for the country. Communism has failed
   around the world, and we can not experiment with it in Nepal.
   Prajatantris have no direction for the future of this country except
   taking us to the past. Unfortunately, the leadership squabble at
   the center is hurting us. We are working in a transition stage
   plagued with personal greed, old habits and cultures.

   There is still a lot of goodwill towards us and the general public
   has not lost faith in us. We anticipate that the electorate will
   give us some more time to shape the course of the country. It
   will take some more years for democracy and economic development to
   establish root and bear fruit in Nepal.

                               Communists
   
   In light of the fall of communism around the world, what is the status
   of communist movement in Nepal? Will all the left-centrist-progressive
   forces and underground-above ground personalities ever unite?
   
   We will remain diverse in our political philosophy, modus operandi, and
   personalities. The UML will provide a forum for free exchange of ideas
   and, hopefully, we will emerge with program and policies for the
   development of the country.
   
   Do you have a political philosophy, macro economic model and social
   policy for the country? Will it be private sector oriented economy or
   state control all the way? We are still building consensus over these
   vital issues, but a compromise close to the Chinese model will perhaps
   emerge.
 
   Will you then purge the views and opinion of non-communists and
   dissenters? Not neccessarily. We will work within the framework of
   current constitution and make social and economic progress like the
   Marxist state governments of West Bengal and Kerala in India.

   Are you satisfied with your role in the opposition? Yes we are, and we
   have done a good job of keeping the Congress Party and GP government in
   check.

   Are you ready to win the next election and govern the country? Not yet.
   We still want the country to go downhill so that the foundations of a
   grass-root leftist revolution will be laid solid.

   What are the positives and negatives of a possible UML government in
   Nepal?
   
   Positives: We can mobilize grass root support for decentralized
   infra-structure development. We can also break the vicious circle of
   corruption and nepotism that has plagued the country so severely during
   the Rana and the Panchayati regimes. Instead of eradicating this corrupt
   culture, the Congress government has introduced its own hierarchy of
   scrupulous individuals in the bureaucracy. We hope to purge the
   corrupt bureaucracy, hopefully, with honest and hard working individuals.
   
   Negatives: We will have difficulty in harnessing capital resources needed
   for the development programs due to skepticism from western donors and
   the media. We will also have difficulty raising revenues needed for our
   promise of social programs of employment, health , education and
   welfare. We will also create chaos in the country in our effort to
   eliminate corruption from bureaucracy which may make the work impossible.
   We may have tensions with India due to fervent anti-Indian
   feeling within our rank and file and the perception that we are
   aligned with the Chinese.

                        Prajatantris (royalists and ex-Panches)

   What is your perception of the country now?

   The congressis have sold the country to the Indians. Scores of Indians
   are now buying lands and opening industry in Kathmandu and other parts
   of the country. We are loosing our national and cultural identity.
   People are frustrated with multi-party democracy that has brought the
   influx of Indians and displaced the Nepalis.

   Are not you confusing our own Marwari citizens and people from Terai as
   Indians? Some of them, but most are pure Biharis. You have to visit
   old-Baneswar for proof.

   What is your alternative program for the country then? Congresis kowtow
   to Indians and the communists might take us north towards China. We will
   restore national pride by standing firm between the two giants. We
   believe that we can negotiate a better deal by staying neutral.

   Do you have any economic agenda different from the Congress? Not yet. We
   do favor Nepali capitalists over Indians.

   What about corruption and nepotism? Previously we had few individuals
   taking bribes and misusing their power but always with fear of authority.
   These days, everybody is the sucker and there is a free for all for full
   fledged corruption. One reason is lack of job security for the
   bureaucrats. There is an urgent need to restore a sense of discipline
   and uplift the morale of the bureaucrats.

                                   Conclusion
  1. The Nepali Congress rank and file is filled with talkers and dreamers
   who don't work hard and opportunists who take advantage of the power.
   The decision making process is still entrenched in the "Ji-Hazuri"
   mentality and nokarshahi culture of government and shadow-government
   personalities. I noticed that those opportunists who gained by chanting
   "Jaya Desh Jaya Naresh" during the Panchayati Raj are still at the
   forefront. Only the slogan has changed to "Jaya Nepal". The country is
   going down the drain with mismanagement, corruption and ineptitude.
   Nepalis are born optimists but the onset of democracy has not brought a
   flicker of light at the end of the tunnel. Hey! If the old guards are
   the problem, then throw the bums out.
 
  2. Over booze and sekuwa in smoke filled rooms, the communist
   intellectuals and leaders are coming of age in political thinking and
   maturing the art of cynicism. In the mean time, the proletariat is
   getting poorer and desperate. I wish they would stop procrastinating
   and produce a viable alternative program for the country. The
   country needs a fundamental change of direction based on the
   realism of Nepal but not on the idealism of Marxism-Leninism.

  3. The ex-Panches are riding high on the negativism of Congress, skeptism
   of the Communists with a fervent anti-Indian pitch (This pitch is also
   used in full force by the communists). They do have
   a strong nationalistic and `things were so good during our
   days' message for the electorate. They are lead by individuals who
   had their hands in the cookie jar during the Panchayati Raj and they
   miss that taste of power. The King is very popular, and on
   his coat tail, they might stage a comeback in the next election. If
   this coalition of nationalists and corrupt interests win, the country
   will then take a giant step backward.
  
                   LORD PPNATH....PLEASE WAKE UP!

************************************************************************** Date: Mon, 13 Jun 1994 15:05:35 PDT To: a10rjs1@mp.cs.niu.edu From: "VIVEK S. RANA" <RANA@CCIT.ARIZONA.EDU> Subject: Taja_Khabar:ForTND Publication

                         Arun III Delegation in U.S
                         --------------------------

 
        A high level delegation consisting of 3 Secretaries and a World Bank representative are in Washington to finalize the deal of Arun III. The finance Secretary, Water resources and Law secretary along with a World Bank representative are in Washington to expedite the approval with the World Bank.
 
        The approval is expected to be reached by the end of this week
 
********************************************************************** Date: Mon, 13 Jun 1994 17:18:43 -0500 Subject: Nepal combats AIDS by teaching safe sex to the young (7998 bytes) From: dkhanal@nyx.cs.du.edu ([Master of the Universe]) Subject: Nepal combats AIDS by teaching safe sex to the young

     ELECTRONICALLY REPRODUCED WITH THE PERMISSION OF: THE EDITOR
"DEPTHNEWS ASIA" PRESS FOUNDATION OF ASIA P.O. BOX 1843 MANILA PHILIPPINES.

NEPAL COMBATS AIDS BY TEACHING SAFE SEX TO THE YOUNG
----------------------------------------------------

KATHMANDU (Depthnews) -- Alarmed at the steady spread of infection with the human innunodeficiency virus (HIV) among her people, Nepal has begun modest efforts to teach the virtues of safe sex to young students.

This is a major shift from the previous official position stressing only abstinence from sex to prevent HIV infection. HIV causes the deadly acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).

The new approach is viewed as much more realistic and practical in a country where sexual promiscuity is common and widespread.

Under the new scheme, aside from abstinence, blushing school children -- some as young as 10 years of age -- are given lessons on physiology and biology, including the reproductive system.

"We are catching them young, well before they become sexually active (and faced) with the firk of infection out of sheer ignorance," says Dr. Aruna Uprety, an Ukraine-educated medical doctor with the Women's Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC) in this city who is conducting sex education classes for young students.

"Mothers and fathers are being encouraged to explain the reproductive system to their children...(to give the youngsters) a better understanding of the situation," she said.

Even carpet factory workers are being invited to discuss how to reduce the risk of infection. Information about AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) is given to them. They are also taught the use of condoms for safe sex. Atht e same time, they are encouraged to undergo HIV testing voluntarily.

"I would not say it has started working and is perfect, but a modest beginning has been made to enlighten citizens about the fatal disease," said Dr. Upreti.

The programme to include AIDS education in school curricula is being developed by the Curricula Development Centre (CDC) of Nepal's Ministry of Education and Culture. The CDC has already prepared a resource book on AIDS for school teachers which gives basic information on the disease.

"The curricula on AIDS education is expected to be ready soon so that it could be tested and introduced from the next academic year (which begins in February 1995)," said Dr. Subedi.

Nepalis start sexual activities early, marrying as young as 10 years of age and starting to bear children at 16. An apparent attempt to discourage this in the 1970 Marriage Registration Act which fixed the minimum age of marriage at 18 years for girls and 21 years for boys. Nepalis are now eligible to vote at 18 years, instead of 21, thanks to the revival of multi-party democracy in 1990.

WORDC is one of two dozen non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which are undertaking HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns among high-risk groups. The NGOs offer village girls income-generating opportunities through a financial grant from the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR).

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been asked to strengthen the efforts of the NGOs towards an integrated approach to HIV/AIDS prevention and control. UNDP assistance is being sought to promote access of NGOs to high-risk groups, and to make available a combination of economic, social and educational interventions to help slow down the pace of transmission of the disease.

"It is taking longer time than we expected," said Dr. Bal Krishna Subedi deputy chief of the National AIDS Control and Prevention Programme in Kathmandu. He added that approval of UNDP assistance will take a little time.

The idea of offering sex education at school was initially met with some opposition. Parents expressed fears that sex education so early could lead to early or increased sexual activities among young people.

A 1992 study on sexual behaviour shattered the popular myth that Hindus in Nepal are genetically strong and culturally incorruptible to be at risk of infection with HIV.

It showed that sexual promiscuity is common: 23.2 per cent males and 14.9 per cent females admitted having had premarital sex. Some 20.5 per cent admitted engaging in extra-marital sex. The average age for the first sexual encounter was 10 for girls and 13 for boys.

Since HIV test is not mandatory, fewer than 80,000 persons have undergone the examination. The health ministry said 191 of those who came for tests (including 97 women) tested positive; 24 were found to be full-blown AIDS cases. Of those with AIDS, 11 have already died. Most victims are aged between 20 and 40 years.

Fears have been expressed that because of poor surveillance, AIDS could sweep Nepal's entire hills.

Initially, infections were mainly among female sex workers. They have since spread to males with high-risk behaviour. This indicates that infection is now spreading to the general population, probably mainly through sexual contact.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says HIV cases in Nepal are under- reported as only a few have turned up for test. It estimates HIV positive cases to be as high as 5,000 at present. HIV infections could total 100,000 by the year 2000.

"We are seeing the number of AIDS patients doubling every six months," says Gene Valdies, an international consultant. "That means if we go by the WHO estimate, there will be 80,000 cases of AIDS in Nepal by December 1994. In other words, Nepal is a low prevalence country on the brink of a major AIDS epidemic."

HIV test facilities are available in only 12 of 75 districts. The Nepal Red Cross Society runs an additional 16 blood centres. But the existence of the test facilities has encouraged an increasing number of people to undergo tests.

WHO provided US$1.8 million for a three-year medium term plan to help improve AIDS test facilities in Kathmandu, Pokhara and Biratnagar which are known to have big "floading ppulations" which create a demand for sex workers.

"Nepal has the most conducive factors for the rapid transmission of the disease," says Dr. Bal Gopal Baidya, member of the influential National Planning Commission in charge of health and population, among other things.

A major risk factor is the estimated 200,000 Nepali sex workers who are lured into the world's oldest profession by "dream merchants" who sell them to brothels in India for anything between US$200 and US$500. Once they test HIV positive, they are sent back to Nepal.

Another risk factor is the heavy migration across the open, common border with India by Nepalis in search of unskilled jobs. In addition, there are about 15,000 intravenous drug users who share infected needles. Nepalis infected with STD are also more vulnerable to AIDS.

Also a possible source of HIV infection are Gurkha soldiers and policemen returning home after taking part in UN peace-keeping operations in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. A ranking military medical officer claimed that so far, no cases of infection have been found among army people.

"Each one of the army personnel returning home from abroad undergoes HIV tests...and we are happy to let you know that we have not found any of our personnel suffering from AIDS until now," said Brig. Gen. Dr. M.m. Malla, director of the medical services of the Royal Nepal Army.

Creating greater awareness about AIDS appears to be the main challenge for Nepal while numbers are still low. -- (Depthnews Asia)

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