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Thai Bhikkhuni, International Treaties, and Rights of Minorities

This  presentation  examines  the commitments  of  Southeast  Asian  governments,  with  a focus  on 
Thailand, to gender equality. It looks at regional, and international treaties signed for the promotion 
of  equal  gender  rights,  and  then  contrasts  these  formally  ratified  agreements  with  the  status  of 
Buddhist nuns (Bhikkhuni) in Thailand, and the region. The presentation asks whether the behaviour 
of the Bhikkhu align with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against 
Women (CEDAW), adopted  in  1979.  Despite notable reservations  made by some  countries, the 
majority of Southeast Asian nations nevertheless ratified the Convention.  
This study considers the role of the Thai Bhikkhuni and the pledge to gender equality, in light of these 
reservations to CEDAW. The argument suggests that a distinction between the role of women in the 
public, and the religious spheres are conducive to the creation of an inequality regime (Acker 2009). 
If political systems across the region advocates for equality and freedoms for all, one may ask how 
patriarchal religious hierarchy is able to marginalize its female counterpart and at time conflict with 
the intention of political leaders. 

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