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Gender Rights Advocates Look to Challenge Ban on Ordaining Female Monks



Buddhist bhukkhini (female monks)

Buddhist bhukkhini (female monks)

BANGKOK – Gender rights advocates in Thailand are looking to possibly challenge the Sangha Supreme Council (SSC) in court over its ban on ordaining female monks.

Sutada Mekrungruengkul, coordinator of a network campaigning for revival of the Bikkhuni, or female monk order in Thailand, said the group is considering taking their fight to the Administrative Court.

She said the SSC order made on Dec 11 last year that forbids Thai Bhikkhus, or male monks, from ordaining women should not take precedence over other laws such as the constitution or the principle of equality.

“We will study the proposal that the SSC’s order be contested in the Administrative Court,” she told a recent forum on the SSC’s order. “Women’s rights should also be protected and those whose rights are violated should be rehabilitated.”

The controversial SSC resolution is based on a 1928 order by the Supreme Patriarch who banned women from being ordained as either Bhikkhunis, Sikkhamanas (female apprentice monks), or Samaneris (female novice monks). It also calls on foreign Sangha orders to seek permission before holding ordination ceremonies in Thailand.

The order was made in response to a ceremony held at Thippayasathandhamma Bhikkhuni Arama in Koh Yor, Songkhla, in late November, during which male and female monks from Sri Lanka ordained eight Bhikkhunis and 47 Samaneris.

Constitution Drafting Committee member Paiboon Nititawan said the SSC’s order was not only contrary to rights and civil liberties recognised by the charter, but also against Lord Buddha’s permission for females to be ordained. He supported the proposal to fight the order in court.

Mr Paiboon added the Bhikkhuni clergy was not abolished in Thailand, but extinct, so it was possible to revive the order by following the Buddha’s rules governing female ordination.

By Penchan Charoensuthipan

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