The Pingtung District Court has approved a divorce request tendered by the wife of an Aboriginal man on the grounds that her mother-in-law had caused her great psychological stress by asking a tribal shaman to divine why she had not gotten pregnant in more than four years of marriage.
The plaintiff said the mother-in-law employed the shaman in the hope that a ritual would help her get pregnant.
The plaintiff told the judge she had asked her husband why he refused to sleep with her, but he had always evaded the issue until August 2012, when he said he was forced into the marriage by his mother.
The husband was quoted as saying that he would file for a divorce when his mother passed away.
The plaintiff said she was heartbroken upon hearing her husband’s explanation and plans for divorce.
She added that despite explaining to her mother-in-law that she was not pregnant because she had not slept with her husband since getting married, the mother-in-law nonetheless asked a shaman to perform a ritual to determine the “real” reason.
The shaman was quoted as saying that the plaintiff could not conceive a child because she was possessed.
Being forced to go to the shaman’s house for a cleansing ritual caused great psychological pressure, the plaintiff said.
The defendant, the husband, said in court that he had no sexual contact with his wife during the four years they had been married.
He added that he had not explained the situation to his mother, and also stated explicitly he would not agree to a divorce unless the plaintiff gave a detailed financial account of the past four years, as well as returning the bride price.
A Paiwan leader said that in the past, shamans were a cornerstone of Aboriginal society and were inseparable from it, helping the people with every part of their lives.
According to the leader, the progressive way to solve family strife was for the couple to find a mediator, adding that it was generally the older generation that tended to seek advice and help from shamans.
“If the younger generation cannot accept mediation, it may only complicate matters,” the leader said.
Another Paiwan leader, surnamed Chang (張), said there were distinctions between shamans, with the ones of lower rank tasked with medicinal care or performing rites of blessing.