Women of the Kayan Lahwi tribe are well known for wearing neck rings, brass coils that are placed around the neck, appearing to lengthen it. The women wearing these coils are known as “giraffe women” to tourists. The Paduang hill tribe, where the women wear huge brass rings around the neck are not an individual tribe, but a sub-group of the Karen hill tribes.
Girls first start to wear rings when they are around five years old. Over the years the coil is replaced by a longer one and more turns are added. The weight of the brass pushes the collar bone down and compresses the rib cage. The neck itself is not lengthened; the appearance of a stretched neck is created by the deformation of the clavicle. Many ideas regarding why the coils are worn have been suggested, often formed by visiting anthropologists, who have hypothesized that the rings protected women from becoming slaves by making them less attractive to other tribes. Contrastingly it has been theorised that the coils originate from the desire to look more attractive by exaggerating sexual dimorphism, as women have more slender necks than men. It has also been suggested that the coils give the women resemblance to a dragon, an important figure in Kayan folklore. The coils might be meant to protect from tiger bites, perhaps literally, but probably symbolically.
Kayan women, when asked, acknowledge these ideas, and often say that their purpose for wearing the rings is cultural identity (one associated with beauty).
The coil, once on, is seldom removed, as the coiling and uncoiling is a lengthy procedure. It is usually only removed to be replaced by a new or longer coil. The muscles covered by the coil become weakened. Many women have removed the rings for medical examinations. Most women prefer to wear the rings once their clavicle has been lowered, as the area of the neck and collarbone often becomes bruised and discolored. Additionally, the collar feels like an integral part of the body after ten or more years of continuous wear.
In 2006 some of the younger women in Mae Hong Son started to remove their rings, either to give them the opportunity to continue their education or in protest against the exploitation of their culture and the restrictions that came with it. In late 2008 most of the young women who entered the refugee camp removed their rings. One woman who had worn the rings for over 40 years removed them. After removing the rings, women report discomfort which fades after about three days. The discoloration is more persistent.
The government of Burma began discouraging neck rings as it struggled to appear more modern to the developed world. Consequently, many women in Burma began breaking the tradition, though a few older women and some of the younger girls in remote villages continued to wear rings. In Thailand the practice has gained popularity in recent years because it draws tourists who bring revenue to the tribe
The famous Paduang or giraffe women hill tribe is located near Ban Nam Phiang Din, in the Mae Hong Son province of Northern Thailand, just at the border of Myanmar (Burma), in a small secluded valley right outside the provincial City “Mae Hong Son” of the Mae Hong Son province.
With the help of the Thai government, they set up the Paduang refugee-village in a small valley of Mae Hong Son province. Today,the Paduang hill tribe in the Golden Triangle of Thailand counts about 485 members.
Nowadays, the small refugee village of the long necked Paduang hill tribe, is completely geared towards visitors and tourists and is seemingly on every tour agency’s day-trip list. The Long-necked Paduang have become the most popular tourist attraction of all the hill tribes in Thailand.
Courtesy : Wikipedia and Google