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Buddhist Feminist Transnational Networks, Female Ordination and Women's Empowerment


  • Emma Tomalin


Consideration of the role that religion plays in women's lives in developing contexts can be important in understanding ways of approaching their “strategic gender needs”. Rather than rejecting religion for its inherent patriarchy, styles of “religious feminism” have emerged across the globe. These argue for reinterpretations of religious systems that are consistent with the “core” values of the tradition as well as various types of feminist thinking. The aim of this paper is to discuss the emergence of a transnational movement across Buddhist traditions and countries that is concerned to make full ordination an available option to women in contexts where it is currently prohibited. While becoming fully ordained is considered to be the most suitable way of becoming enlightened and escaping future rebirths, a strong theme within the movement is the argument that gender hierarchies within Buddhism have a broader cultural impact upon social attitudes that disempower women and limit their development. Dialogue between members of Buddhist communities across the world has encouraged reflection upon and a challenge to unequal and oppressive gender hierarchies within the Buddhist tradition and within Buddhist societies. This paper explores four “international” events/examples that enable information exchange as well as the flow of material support between women from different traditions.

Suggested Citation

  • Emma Tomalin, 2009. "Buddhist Feminist Transnational Networks, Female Ordination and Women's Empowerment," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 37(2), pages 81-100.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:oxdevs:v:37:y:2009:i:2:p:81-100
    DOI: 10.1080/13600810902859510

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