Sanitsuda Ekachai: Cracking the religious wall of prejudice

Here’s a recent article, front page on today’s online Bangkok Post, by senior editor and tireless bhikkhuni advocate Sanitsuda Ekachai. She is scathing in her assessment of the recent debacle at the UNDV, and its implcations for the wider Thai Sangha. Here’s an excerpt; but you really should read the whole thing.

The ban shows how deeply Thai Buddhism is mired in the culture of patriarchy that refuses to see men and women as equal. Ask mainstream monks why women suffer, and their standard answer is because women sinned in their past lives.

“Make more merit,” is also their standard recommendation. “So you will be born men in your next lives.” The best merit, they would continue, comes from donations to monks.

It confounds me how most Thai women still take this nonsense submissively and continue to give their hard-earned money to build big temples only to be told that they cannot enter the temple’s most sacred area because women menstruate, thus are “dirty”.

It also confounds me how some pro-democracy advocates strongly defend this sexist practice on the ground that it is part of local culture, and thus must be preserved.

After the May 22 coup, the incurable optimists among us are busy preparing recommendations on all sorts of reforms to the military junta. Some advocates for Sangha reform believe the military should amend the draconian Sangha Bill to end the clergy’s feudal system which is deeply authoritarian and corrupt.

According to research by Nada Chansom of the National Institute of Development Administration, 37,075 temples nationwide receive between 100 and 120 billion baht in donation money each year. Abbots have total control of this tax-free temple money with no monitoring from the Supreme Sangha Council nor from any government agencies.

Can democratic reform occur under military dictatorship? Can women be spiritually equal under patriarchal clergy? Those who believe in change do not waste time asking those questions. They take things into their own hands. For female ordination, women simply discard resistance from Thai Theravada clergy and seek ordination elsewhere.

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