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Thread: Ban on women at temples slammed
05-07-04, 08:49 AM #1
TEMPLE RELICS: Ban on women slammed
The Nation, Published on Jul 5, 2004
Senator spearheads drive to end denial of access to female worshippers in North
Khon Kaen Senator Rabiaprat Pongpanit has urged northern temples to scrap the prohibition on women accessing Buddha relics, saying the measure violates women's human rights.
"Women know how we should and shouldn't behave concerning religious beliefs," said Rabiaprat. Denying access to relics altogether was unnecessary, as women respected the rules regarding when and in what manner they could visit them, the senator said.
Following a protest by Rabiaprat, the National Buddhism Office (NBO) officially called on Phrathat Doi Suthep Temple in Chiang Mai to review its rule against women accessing the temple's Buddha relic.
Rabiaprat, the deputy chair of the Senate Committee on Women and the Elderly, was recently barred from seeing the relic during a pilgrimage to the temple.
The temple's public relations official insisted that the ban is consistent with ancient and ingrained beliefs of the Lanna culture and people. He said Rabiaprat did not understand Lanna traditions.
However, Rabiaprat said that women are allowed to visit a relic in Nan, another Lanna province. "If it's part of Lanna tradition, every temple should apply the same rule," she said.
She vowed to continue the protest, which she said was right and reasonable.
"Women make merit more than men, why do we deserve such discrimination?" Rabiaprat said, adding that women understood there were certain restrictions on when and where they could access religious places.
Arom Meechai, a women's and children's rights activist from Nakhon Si Thammarat, agreed with Rabiaprat's call for the removal of the blanket ban on women accessing relics in northern temples, saying women deserved equal access to religious sites.
"The temples should instruct women on certain aspects of behaviour, such as not entering religious places during menstruation. . .and that's enough!" she said.
She added that both male and female visitors were allowed to make merit before relics in Nakhon Si Thammarat, except for women who are menstruating. "Without any sign, women know they shouldn't enter the inner area housing the relic during their menstruation period," said Arom.
Thanyaporn Kunakornpaiboonsiri, Krissana Chutisawaeng
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07-07-04, 08:27 AM #2
Chiang Mai Buddhists threaten to impeach senator
The Nation, Published on Jul 7, 2004
Buddhist followers in Chiang Mai yesterday threatened to impeach Khon Kaen Senator Rabiabrat Pongpanit for criticising an ageold ban against women entering the inner sanctum housing Buddhist relics.
Rabiabrat complained last week that many northern temples discriminate against female worshippers.
She petitioned the National Buddhism Office to deal with the issue, saying the temples might have violated an equalrights clause in the 1997 Constitution.
Her complaint attracted huge support from advocates of women’s rights but angered northern temple followers.
Religious followers said the relics, believed to be the bones of the Lord Buddha, were being trampled under the false argument for gender rights.
All Buddhist temples nationwide grant equal access to men and women worshippers but some restrictions are imposed on women in order to uphold the monastic rules regarding the sexual abstinence of monks.
With regard to the access to relics, most northern temples and some foreign temples chose to house the holy bones under the chedi instead of at the top.
Women and nuns are banned from the inner sanctum of these chedi in order to avoid offending the holy remains of the Buddha.
Many temples place the relics on open ground where male and female followers can gain access during religious festivals.
“Rabiabrat failed to understand the religious practice before she tried to portray it as a violation of women’s rights,” said Chiang Mai temple follower Methee Methasuk.
Methee said Rabiabrat should apologise to northern Buddhists for her hasty criticism.
Wallop Namwongphrom, a follower of Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep – one of the temples with an innersanctum ban – said he saw no justification to revoke the ban because Rabiabrat had viewed it out of context.
Udom Charoen, director of the National Buddhism Office, called for a stop to the debate and said people with little or no understanding of Buddhism should refrain from attacking its rules.
Callin radio programmes in Chiang Mai were flooded with angry messages against Rabiabrat, who later said it was not her intention to offend northern Buddhists.
“I merely asked the small question of why women are banned from some areas inside Northern temples when they have access to similar grounds at temples elsewhere,” she said.
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