The Kayan Tribe is an ethnic group found in the Borneo region of Mayanmar, Indonesia and Malaysia. Added beginning at the age of 5, women and girls of the Lahwi (a sub group of the larger Kayan tribe) are known for wearing beautiful brass rings around their throats, giving the illusion of longer necks. In the past, when seen by visiting tourists, they were often called the "giraffe necked women."
As with many tribal groups, there is often mystery and speculation around the true purpose of the beauty practice. Some say the brass rings protected women from being abducting by other tribal factions by creating physical "deformities." Others have proposed that the brass rings give the wearers special powers of protection against attack and tiger bites by resembling mighty tigers. Yet still others, including women from the tribe say they wear their neck adornments as a symbol of pride, respect for their tribe, and for beauty purposes. From a biologically standpoint, a long exposed neck on women is seen by men as inherently attractive. The thinking here is that these long brass necks exaggerate this naturally attractive feature. By pushing down the clavicle and shoulders, women of this tribe are given the appearance of a longer neck. The neck itself? Never actually grows in length.
While this beautiful tradition, continues in some of the modern pockets of these countries, unfortunately as seen with The Karo Tribe, the traditions Kayan tribe is under attack. As travel and the desire to view increasingly more "exotic" cultures rise, so do the number of Kayan women who are kept in captivity and forced to present themselves to tourists (who are sometimes unaware of living conditions) when tour guides arrive to villages or government sanctioned (in Thailand) hostage townships where trucks rumble through for visitors to stare and photograph the women. The international tourist money generated from these women in this "human zoo-like" atmosphere not only lines the pockets of government officials who see no need to end the practice, but it is also destroying a beautiful tradition as many women are removing their collars in protest. To read more about the plight of these women click the following link found in Marie Claire Magazine.