Monkhood for Thai women: Sexism’s religious barrier
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Monkhood for Thai women: Sexism’s religious barrier

Has the time come for this barrier  to come down? writes Murray Hunter for Asia Sentinel.

Thailand’s gender dynamics have shifted dramatically over the past few decades to where women fulfill many of the major roles in society. The majority of university enrollees are women, the breadwinners in many families are women, corporate executives and civil servants are women, the majority of new entrepreneurial start-ups are undertaken by women, and even many farmers are women.

But even with general acceptance about the emerging importance of the matriarchal role of women in society today, there is still one last bastion – the Buddhist monkhood, something that has been strictly taboo for women in Thailand for the last seven centuries. Although women were given the right to vote back in 1932, they were never given the right to ordination as monks.

There is nothing in the Thai constitution forbidding women becoming monks. However the governing Sangha, or ruling religious council, continues to maintain, based on 1928 rules, that only men can enter the monkhood. The Theravada Bhikkhuni order, or fully ordained female ministry, has never been officially established in Thailand, although it exists in both Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

There is a growing movement to seek ordination for women, however, in a religion that appears to sorely need it. The male-dominated Buddhist religion in Thailand is in crisis, reeling from a series of sexual and other scandals including that of the 33-year-old Wirapol Sukphol, who shocked the county in July with daily stories of lavish excess, promiscuity and alleged crimes ranging from statutory rape to manslaughter. In 2011, monks were exposed for donning wigs and attending karaoke bars for donning wigs and attending karaoke bars while others were charged with rape, phone sex and one was charged with murder and dumping the woman’s body in s rubbish bin.

Continue reading at Asia Sentinel.