|In 1928, the Government of Thailand passed a secular law banning Thai monks from ordaining women. Moreover, the Secretary General of the Buddhism Protection Center of Thailand maintains that it is not permitted under the scriptures of Theravada Buddhist. On the other hand, the Dalai Lama does not agree that women should be banned from monkhood though he admits he does not have the power to permit ordination in the entire Buddhist community. Ironically, more than 2,500 years ago Buddha himself ordained the first bhikkunis (monks) who included his own adoptive mother.
Sri Lanka has been the only country where Theravada Buddhism is practiced that has permitted the ordination of women. On the other hand, every country where the more traditional Mahayana Buddhism is practiced including South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and China permits ordination of women. Accordingly, until recently, Thai women could only serve as maechis or Buddhist laywomen who have dedicated their life to religion and declared celibacy. They can begin as young girls.
However, most maechis act as servants to the male monks by cleaning, cooking and overseeing the sale of incense in the temples.
Therefore, until recently Thai women were denied the ability to wear the ocher robes of male monks.
However, along came a lady by the name of Chatsumarn Kabisingh or Dhammananda, her Buddhist name. She became the first Thai woman ordained as a female monk and went on to become the abbess of Thailand's first temple for female monks. It goes without saying that Dhammananda was not arrested despite the 1928 statute. One would assume her power and strength would be obvious to everyone as evidenced below.
Since that time there are now over 100 female monks though it pales in comparison to the 200,000 male monks. Nonetheless, it is striking to see a procession of female monks.
Late last year a number of women clergy wearing ocher robes were humiliated when banned by the "fashion police" guards from entry to Bangkok's Grand Palace as they sought to pay respects to the revered, deceased King Bhumipol Adulyadej. However, following a public hue and cry, they were invited back.
Moreover, it appears that public sentiment is rising for the Sangha Council to reform. Further, the many examples of criminal behavior by male monks makes it very difficult for the Sangha to maintain their position of a "male only" monkhood. See the TES blog, Bad Bonzes in Buddhism.
Therefore, the fearless pioneer, Abbess Dhammananda, at the wise age of 71, believes the end of sexual discrimination is at hand. In her own words, "Whatever the resistance from the establishment, more women will choose to pursue a spiritual path as female monastics. Nothing can stop it." Therefore, we will soon see an influx of smaller-sized ocher robes appearing in Thailand. Every young lady in the world should be able to pursue their dream.