The Miserable Life of the Kayan Women Who Have to Carry Brass Coils Around Their Necks


When someone talks about awful cultural traditions, foot binding, the corset and ”giraffe women” pop into their minds. Considering the last tradition, women that belong in the Kayan tribe and especially those who reside at the border of Thailand and Burma have to wear golden neck rings that prolongs their neck and doesn’t allow it to move.

When this tradition started occurring, it was a way for the tribe’s men to make their women less attractive so that men from other tribes wouldn’t come to steal their women. Later on in time, their beauty standards were re-shaped and the brass coils were considered a jewel for the female neck. Nowadays, the women themselves recognize this tradition as part of their cultural recognition and their unique beauty standards.

Every girl starts wearing her first rings at the age of 5

The weight added at a girl’s neck follows her overall wieight and as she grows, the length of the rings are increased. The total weight of rings that each woman should carry on her is 11,5 kilos.

The neck itself isn’t prolonged and the neck won’t break if the rings are removed

Instead of prolonging the neck, the coils push the collar bone down and compress the rib cage. The neck looks longer simply because the clavicle is deformed.


The women never remove the rings, not even when they go to bed

The coils are only removed when bigger and heavier ones need to be worn. The continuous wear of them pushes the collarbone so much that it looks like an integral part of the body. The only reason that women remove their rings is for medical examinations.

In recent years there have been many efforts from the women themselves to break this barbaric tradition

In 2006, many women removed their rings in order to achieve a higher education and protest against this restricting tradition. In 2008, a refugee camp was created for women who wanted to leave their tribe and remove their rings in order to lead a more normal life.


After removing the rings women feel discomfort

The Government of Myanmar has tried to discourage women from wearing their rings and many of them have removed them. However, many older women and young girls in remote villages keep on wearing their neck rings.

The tradition has gained popularity in Thailand since it draws many tourists and therefore generates money for the tribes

The businessmen who run the entrance to the Kayan villages charge 500 to 600 baht ($15-$18) per person. However, almost none of that money goes to the Kayan people. Charlotte Curd, a photographer who visited the area, said that the people didn’t seem that they liked being photographed, but they also didn’t have any other choice.


The Kayan people don’t have electricity, proper sanitation or telephones and their homes are made of wood and leaves.

The tourist guides tell them that tourists want to see them as primitive people, who have dirty roads and nothing modern. A local woman says that she is tired of smiling for tourists, who sometimes insult them and ask the same boring and stupid questions. She also says that she feels like she is ‘owned’ by the businessmen who run her village.

It is very difficult for Kayan women to leave their villages, since the businessmes will try to block their exit


Once again, a certain tribe’s uniqueness is turned into a tourist attraction and the people who run these places are not the only ones to blame. Tourist guides around the world should boycott these places, since it’s clear that they take advantage of people who just need to be left alone. The Kayan women are prisoners in their own homes and they can’t leave because if they do, tourists will stop paying to see them.