Friday, May 09, 2008

Temporary ordination in Thailand

The onset of the rains in Thailand brings with it a rush of temporary ordinations of young men into monk-hood supposedly for the duration of the rainy season. Few if any actually stay that long, most choosing to return home after just a few nights in the monastery, for it is not what he does at the monastery but the ordination ceremony itself that is important. It is a rite of passage for Thai men. It qualifies them to take a wife, to have a family, and to assume their functional role in society.

Sadly, these lavish ceremonies also serve to perpetuate gender inequality in Thai society for there is no parallel rite of passage for women. The ritual enforces a social gender hierarchy and leaves impressionable young minds with the importance of being male. Women's role in this hierarchy is to do women's work the most important of which is to give birth to a son. The roots of sexism in Thai culture run deep.

Cha-am Jamal

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