Sunday, September 25, 2011

Thai Nuns (cautiously) lobby for recognition

Amy Lieberman (contributor), Christian Science Monitor
Novice nun Dhammarakhita (center), dressed in adobe-colored robe after her ordination in Sri Lanka, gestures at Songdharmakalyani Temple in Nakhon Pathom, Thailand in this 2002 file photo. Formally known as Varangghana Vanavichayen, Ven. Dhammarakhita, a mother of two who divorced her husband to dedicate her life to Buddhist practice, became the first woman to be ordained as a monk in Thailand (AFP/Newscom File).

Thailand's female monks (cautiously) lobby for legal recognition
A quiet campaign to grant female monks [nuns] legal recognition began this summer. Advocates hope that the minimal fanfare will help the bhikkhunis evade conservative religious opposition.

BANGKOK, Thailand - Ven. 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 Ven. Dhammananda. “If we don’t then who [will]?”

Bhikkhunis (bee-KOO-nees), ordained female monastics, 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 bhikkhus (bee-KOOS).

But Thai nuns have their own limitations, not just because they number only 25 compared with approximately 200,000 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. More

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