Thursday, September 1, 2016

Gender, Equality, Empowerment (Theravada)

Ajahn Brahm (Buddhist Society of Western Australia, 18-20 Nanson Way, Nollamara 6061, Western Australia, MAP (; Amber Larson, Seth Auberon, Wisdom Quarterly

("Girl Rising") CNN Films' documentary follows 9 girls in 9 countries struggling for education.

Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women in Theravada

It's not so bad, it's not so...
On December 1, 1955 in Montgomery Alabama, an African-American woman refused to obey a bus driver’s order [and racist law] to give up her seat on the bus to a white passenger.

That simple [planned] act of defiance for the cause of social justice became one of the most important symbols of the modern Civil Rights Movements in the USA. That woman was [activist] Rosa Parks.

Civil rights activist, Buddhist Rosa Parks

The US Congress called her “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement.” December 1st is commemorated in the states of California and Ohio as “Rosa Parks Day.”

Ven. Ajahn Brahm (
Rosa Parks became a Buddhist before she passed away in 2005 at the age of 92. One can speculate that this female icon against discrimination chose Buddhism because it is well suited to advancing social justice issues.
How might Buddhism advance the particular social justice issue of Millennium Development Goal No. 3: Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women?

There is a need for Theravada Buddhism’s current male leadership to clearly demonstrate its own commitment to MDG 3 through acceptance of female full monastic ordination (nuns/bhikkhunis).

Only then can it use its considerable influence to make our world more fair, one where people are judged on their character and not on their gender.

Gender Inequality in Australia and the Contributions of Buddhist Leaders
In a report on gender equity issued by the Council of Australian Governments on November 19, 2013 the median salary of new female graduates in Australia was found to be 10% less than that of male graduates.

Even though they were equally qualified, women received less pay than men. Thus, even in a developed country such as Australia, gender inequality still persists. In less developed countries it is far worse.
My colleague, Ajahn Sujato, attended the 2013 Religions for Peace World Assembly in Vienna, sponsored by the government of Saudi Arabia. He reported in his blog:

One panel was devoted to the role of women in religion and that was, predictably, powerful and moving. Rape, domestic violence, trafficking in women, forced prostitution, maternal mortality: these are all-too-painful realities for many women, and meanwhile male-dominated religious morality obsesses about correct doctrine and stopping gays. The suffering of women is rarely featured in religious discourse and, as one of the delegates said, when it is mentioned, it is tepid and equivocal. Yet, as those working in development know well, empowerment of women is the single most effective means of lifting countries out of poverty.
As Buddhists who espouse the ideal of unconditional loving-kindness and respect, judging people on their behavior instead of their birth, we should be well positioned to show leadership on the development of gender equality in the modern world and the consequent reduction of suffering for half the world’s population.

Moreover, if Buddhism is to remain relevant and grow, we must address these issues head on. But how can we speak about gender equality when some of our own Theravada Buddhist organizations are gender biased? More

No comments: