Nuns and Rape: some links and a message

A Facebook ’cause’ page has now been set up. You don’t need to be on Facebook to access it. Thanks to Matt Frazer for this.

Some new articles:

Debate grows in Nepal about gangraped nun

Assaulted Nun May Be Expelled From Order

Several sources have claimed that bus drivers have gone on strike due to this. It is unclear whether their strike is to demand the release of the drivers accused of the rape, or the release of the impounded bus.

Here are some links for people to contact. Thanks, Ayya Adhi.

‎”Nepal Gov. Offices to CC (Carbon Copy) in your e-mail:”Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation

Ministry of Information & Communication

Ministry of Law and Justice

Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare”

You can also contact Avaaz and ask them to take up the issue.

Also, some writing from Ayya Tathaaloka (from the Alliance For Bhikkhunis Face Book Page) re. this issue:

Sometimes cultural traditions may differ, even gravely, from what the Buddha taught.

Many of the Buddha’s great disciples had been married before they entered monastic life, including the Buddha himself, and his foster-mother Mahapajapati Gotami, credited with founding the Bhikkhuni Sangha. According to Buddhist canonical texts, one of the Buddha’s two foremost women monastic disciples, Khema Theri, a great teacher and leader of the Sangha, was also married before she entered into Buddhist monastic life. There are numerous other examples in the Buddhist texts.

Of course, if a monastic commits an intentional and grave sexual misconduct, they are no longer a monastic. However, Vinaya offers many protections for both women and men from both false accusation of sexual impropriety and from there being circumstances that might provoke others to behave improperly towards a male or female member of the monastic community. Due to no fault of their own lust, if the monastic is raped, they are considered blameless. In both Bhikkhu and Bhikkhuni Parajika One, the Vinaya mentions several instances of this happening — to both men and women — and affirms that the monastics are blameless. This is affirmed in the Mulasarvastivada, Dharmaguptaka and Pali-text Vinayas.

In the case of a woman, even if a child is born, the bhikkhuni is not to laicized (unless it is her wish to disrobe), but rather the monastic community is to provide her with a bhikkhuni companion to support her and help her raise the child, *without* her having to leave monastic life. Then, as a great exception, even with child, she may live the monastic life.

The Buddha was very kind, compassionate and understanding, meanwhile upholding and exemplifying an excellent discipline. But these days many people, even those who are ordained Buddhist monastics, do not know this discipline well. And in places where there is no longer a Bhikkhuni Sangha, the sparse 8 or 10-precept nuns’ discipline can sometimes provide meager protection and guidance for such renunciate women.

I pray that knowledge and right practice of the Buddha’s teaching of both Dhamma and Vinaya may rise and increase once again in our Buddhist monastic communities, along with all of the fruits and benefits that come together.

With compassion and metta

Ayya Tathaaloka

11 thoughts on “Nuns and Rape: some links and a message

  1. Thanks Bhante for keeping us updated, and to everyone or the links that have been provided. Also, the facebook page link does not seem to work.

    • Matt,
      Kudos for your efforts and to see the change of heart and your name posted in an article in Times of India.
      One for the Lions.

  2. In the same “issue” of the Buddhist Channel news service, I found yet another unhappy deviation from the Buddha’s compassionate teaching of tolerance which is very disturbing to me.,10324,0,0,1,0

    Monks teach maleness to ‘ladyboys’
    Sapa-dpa, July 19, 2011
    Chiang Khong, Thailand — The 15-year-old aspiring “ladyboy” delicately applied a puff of talcum powder to his nose – an act of rebellion at the Thai Buddhist temple where he is learning to “be a man”.

    << Christophe Archambault / AFP – Getty Images
    Buddhist novice monk and aspiring ladyboy Pipop Thanajindawong looks outside from his room at the Wat Kreung Tai temple, in Thailand's northern border town of Chiang Khong. The Kreung Tai temple has run a course to teach masculinity to boys who are "kathoeys", the Thai term for transsexuals or ladyboys,

    "They have rules here that novice monks cannot use powder, make-up, or perfume, cannot run around and be girlish," said Pipop Thanajindawong, who was sent to Wat Kreung Tai Wittaya, in Chiang Khong on the Thai-Laos border, to tame his more feminine traits.

    But the monks running the temple's programme to teach masculinity to boys who are "katoeys", the Thai term for transsexuals or ladyboys, have their controversial work cut out.

    "Sometimes we give them money to buy snacks but he saved it up to buy mascara," headteacher Phra Pitsanu Witcharato said of Pipop.

    Novice monks' days pass as in any other temple – waking before dawn, collecting alms and studying Buddhism – but every Friday attention turns to the katoeys at the attached school.

    "Were you born as a man or a woman or can you not specify your gender – not man or woman?" asked Phra Pitsanu at a recent assembly. "You cannot be anything else but your true gender, which is a man. As a novice you can only be a man."

    Controlling behaviour

    The temple has a stricter interpretation than others of rules governing behaviour during Buddhist training that is a key childhood experience for many Thai boys.

    Pupils are banned from using perfume and make-up and prohibited from singing, playing music and running.

    "We cannot change all of them but what we can do is to control their behaviour to make them understand that they were born as a man… and cannot act like a woman," said Phra Pitsanu.

    The Kreung Tai temple has run the course for boys aged between 11 and 18 since 2008, after former principle Phra Maha Vuthichai Vachiramethi devised the programme because he thought reports of katoeys in the monkhood had "affected the stability of Thai Buddhism".

    He said he hopes the teaching methods will be rolled out to other temple schools to "solve the deviant behaviour in novices".

    It is an attitude that enrages gay rights and diversity campaigner Natee Teerarojanapong, who said trying to alter the boys' sense of gender and sexuality was "extremely dangerous".

    Social stigma

    "These kids will become self-hating because they have been taught by respected monks that being gay is bad. That is terrible for them. They will never live happily," he said.

    Gay and katoey culture is visible and widely tolerated in Thailand, which has one of the largest transsexual populations in the world, and Natee said the temple's programme is "very out of date".

    But Phra Atcha Apiwanno, aged 28, disputed the idea that society accepted ladyboys and said he joined the monkhood because of social stigma about his sexual identity.

    "The reason I became a monk is to train my habits, to control my expression… I didn't want to be like this," he said.

    Monks have had limited success in their project – three of the six ladyboys to have graduated from the school are said to have embraced their masculinity, but the remaining three went on to have sex changes.

    Pipop said he has struggled with his sexuality at the temple.

    Family pressure

    At home in Bangkok he dressed like a girl, putting on make-up and taking hormones until he developed breasts, but he has since stopped the treatment and wears only a surreptitious dab of powder at the temple.

    He does not believe he will live up to his family's hopes that he will become more manly.

    "I can make them proud even (if) I'm not a man," the teenager said, adding he had given up his ambition to be an airhostess and now aspires to work in a bank.

    He thinks he will have a sex change after graduation.

    "Once I leave the monkhood the first thing I want to do is to shout, to scream out loud saying: 'I can go back to being the same again!'"

  3. The recent blog re:Katoey culture has inspired me to share my growing awareness of an issue that has come to my attention over the last few months.

    I am a Biology teacher in a small New Zealand High school. As part of a ‘students in focus group’ we accepted a lovely person,who had been bullied for years, into our school. He has now communicated his wish ( and intention) to attend classes as a 17yr old girl. After much discussion the school has almost unanimously agreed to do everything they can to make this wish possible. It has been a time for much growth amongst staff and no doubt amongst the rest of the school community when the change over occurs.

    As a Biology teacher I researched the issue of transsexualism and wish others, particularly Buddhist monastics to do the same. The article ‘Monks teach maleness to ladyboys’ was a little sad. The latest research suggests a genetic, physiological and hormonal connection to reverse gender identity in Katoey and any teaching of maleness will probably be in vain. I will include a number of quotes at the end of this note re: latest research.

    “Many transsexuals, therapists, human sexuality researchers, religious liberals, and others believe that transsexuality is determined before birth. Some believe that it is determined by one’s DNA at conception. others hold to the theory that it is caused by irregular levels of sex hormones to which the fetus may be subjected. These beliefs are grounded in research into genes and traits of transsexuals.”

    “There is a social stigma that transsexualism is simply a lifestyle choice, however our findings support a biological basis of how gender identity develops ” Professor Vincent Harley, researcher

    It is known that longer versions of the androgen receptor gene are associated with less efficient testosterone signaling. This reduced action of the male sex hormone may have an effect on gender development in the womb, the researchers speculated.
    We think that these genetic differences might reduce testosterone action and under masculinise the brain during foetal development,” said researcher Lauren Hare from Prince Henry’s Institute of Medical Research.” BBC News

    “The present findings of somatostatin neuronal sex differences in the BSTc and its sex reversal in the transsexual brain clearly support the paradigm that in transsexuals sexual differentiation of the brain and genitals may go into opposite directions and point to a neurobiological basis of gender identity disorder.”

    I hope this info is of use.

    May all Beings find happiness, peace and freedom.


    • Think about taking form too – we have been male and female and maybe the rebirth process as one takes on the new form has a different path and outcome – indeed it does for a lot more than we realize. For example, the stats say that about 1 in 1500 births are hermaphrodite – this was discussed a lot when South African world champion athlete Caster Semenya was “accused” of being male and forced to undergo humiliating tests to determine her sex. 1 in 1500 at birth cannot be determined to be male or female x the poulation of Thailand – or India – or China – that’s a lot of fellow Dhamma farers. I am not an expert in this area so feel poorly trained to discuss it. But throwing the data out there to add some perspective…here’s a link to some stats compiled in the US – where they keep this kind of info.

    • PS. Did not mean to suggest that hermaphrodites have anything in common with “ladyboys”. What I meant to suggest was the development of physical sex materiality in humans is not perfect (see weblink above) – so the physical material rebirth transition is not a uniform experience among homo saps – likewise the mental rebirth transition into male or female form from the previous will not be uniform – and then add the social/enviro influences in life – plus genetic – hormonal exposure in the womb issues – etc and it really does get quite complex.
      If we believe in rebirth surely we must understand tha we are not always transitioning from male to male or female to female – we must understand that there is some kind of transition and that it is not always going to go according to the wishes of the environment we arrive in.

  4. Hello, a fellow Kiwi, this is nice;) – thanks for your writing about this important issue here. . .

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