Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thailand's female monks lobby for legal recognition

From CSM:

By Amy Lieberman, Contributor / September 8, 2011
Bangkok, Thailand

Dhammananda Bhikkhuni grips a wobbly stack of feminine hygiene products and sorts them on a long table. Her followers watch before mimicking her quick movements.

“We will bring these donations to women who are in the local prison,” explained Ms. Dhammananda. “If we don’t, then who?”

Bhikkhunis, ordained female monks, in Thailand consider their gender to be an essential bridge to the women they help through charity work and spiritual guidance, since women are forbidden to be alone with male monks, known as Bhikkhu.

But Thai Bhikkhunis have their own limitations, not just because they number only 25 compared with the approximate 200,000 male monks here. They lack legal recognition – a denial that accompanies various withholdings of public benefits, and it highlights a persistent issue of discrimination for women across the country.

A revived campaign to grant Bhikkhunis legal recognition launched quietly at the end of July, with advocates hoping that minimal fanfare would help them evade the conservative religious opposition that has prevented the movement from strengthening for more than 80 years.

“This is a basic human rights issue,” says prominent former senator and lawyer Paiboon Nititawan, an organizer of the Bhikkhunis’ rights movement...

Continue reading from Christian Science Monitor here.

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