Child Abuse by Buddhist Clergy

By Buddhist Clergy
Down the Crooked Path
February 28, 2012

The Time Has Come To End Child Monk Sex Slavery - Pedophilia Among The Buddhist Clergy

Professor Gananath Obeysekara's views on buddhist child monks and sexual abuse within monastery

In a recent article Dr. Obeysekere was quoted regarding his views on child monks. The article stated:

" ... But one major reason Obeyesekere opposes child recruitment is that the very young are vulnerable to sexual abuse, which he says is ''notoriously associated'' will all forms of institutionalized monasticism.

The possibility of child abuse in Buddhist monasteries ''must be faced honestly and squarely,'' he stressed.

Unlike adult monks, children have little chance of resisting sexual advances, the professor added.

''Even the presence of guardians or sponsors is not protection. How does the guardian inquire into such possibilities when the mere talk of homoerotic practices is taboo?,'' Obeyesekere asked.

He also asked why those promoting the campaign have not set an example by being ordained themselves or having their own children or grandchildren ordained.

The prime minister's office, however, reacted hotly to the criticism.

One of Wickramanayake's personal assistants said any opposition to the project ''was affiliated to a conspiracy to wipe Buddhism from the country.''

Pedophilia is no longer a forbidden delicacy limited to the Catholic Priests - Let's be sincere and open about what happens inside Buddhist Temples in Sri Lanka. Let's also question the responsibility and effectiveness of our National Child Protection Authority!

NCPA must take action to propose changes to legislation to ban all ordinations under the age of 18. Children's rights must be on the top priorities of a progressive nation, and the well being of its children and their rights for safety and protection reflects the values and ethics of the entire society.

Sexual abuse of children inside the Buddhist monastery has been so widespread but it has become a crime that is very difficult to bring to justice. What happens behind the doors remain a secret in most occasions, and only in an extremely rare occasion those actual charges get filed in a court. Even when it does arrive at the courts, the judges find it difficult to address the grievances of the abused child due to lack of hard evidence. A conviction for a serious crime cannot be made on vague evidence and statements, and the accused gets the legal advantage or the benefit of doubt.


I wanted to raise an issue that I am inclined to believe to be extremely important for a free and ethical society in Sri Lanka, yet nobody has gone in depth (as far as I know) in collecting data to present a scientific case study. This is however not directly connected to 'Secularism in Sri Lanka' but I am sure you will be interested in the topic as a problem rising out of the existence of a Buddhist theocracy. This is just an introduction to a massive problem of injustice that plagues Sri Lanka, sometime in the near future I would like to research more on this topic, and hopefully reveal a more in-depth report validated by collected data.

While reading the news articles on 'Child molestation cases against Catholic monks' over the last several years, and Pope Benedict's coverup efforts, I started to think: is this kind of sex abuse absent in the Buddhist Monastery of Sri Lanka? If pedophilia is present in the buddhist temples and monasteries, is it at the same statistical levels as non-monk (gihi janathawa) population? Is it higher, if so, how high and how serious is it? Based on recent research in USA and Europe I read in news recently, Catholic monks have a higher pedophilia rate than the outside of the church Catholic population. Abuse has been in ultra large scale compared to what usually happens outside the church. These numbers are available on the web, and I will not discuss Catholic issue here. The important finding from the study to take is that an average Catholic monk has a higher statistical chance of committing pedophilia than an average citizen. My initial suspicion regarding Buddhist monks is that it is highly unlikely that Buddhist monks behave any 'better' than the 'celibate' Catholic monks knowing the human nature, social power and authority Buddhist monks carry and their biological composition. And, whenever such a child abuse accusation comes out, the public generally reacts negatively towards the innocent victim of abuse and rally behind the 'venerables' and the 'sacred' institutions. Knowing the culture and customs of Sinhalese Buddhist population, those child victims tend to shy away and move on with their lives quietly suffering from those scars and injustices throughout their lives. Children are most vulnerable because they do not have a direct voice in protecting themselves as the parents want to keep things quiet as going public can harm their child further. Even if the parents seek legal help, it is very difficult to provide evidence in seeking a conviction.

Two years ago a close relative in my family mentioned about a male school teacher making 'unwanted' physical advances towards her son of 11 years of age and she immediately stopped sending her son to that teacher's tuition class. Luckily for her, she had good communication with her child and the son reported the issue to the mother. She never wanted to raise the issue in public or with police because that leads to further difficulties to the child. While I agreed with her keeping the issue in silence after rationalizing validity of her arguments, it made me think how this silence allows the predators to continue such crime with other innocent children. This particular case is of course not connected to a Buddhist monk but a school teacher. However, when a Buddhist monk is involved, the victim is more vulnerable and become more quiet. Child protection becomes very difficult, in fact impossible in a monastic life setting when children are forced to live in 'jail' like conditions away from family and loved ones. Their interests and well-being can be neglected and become exploited very easily by the adult strangers and monks that surround them over the years. When we understand our conservative culture, prevailing monastery conditions and its authoritative power, lack of reliability of police and legal system, it seems very hard to prosecute the accused and collect required evidence to present to a court towards needed justice. A major part of the solution involves reforms to the Buddhist monastery regarding their practice of celibacy, child recruitment in to the monastery, so that children are less likely to become victims of sexually deprived monks.

Do I have evidence for this accusation against these "venerable monks" of Sri Lanka'? Yes, but amount of evidence out there is very little at the moment like a tip of an iceberg due to reasons described above, and lots of reasons to believe it is an epidemic in Buddhist monastic life right next door to our homes and across the entire nation in very large scales. There are few cases of child molestation that became public. I don't think the problem ends at those cases, and we should not consider these as rare and isolated cases of anomaly. A good analogy for this: when you see one rat in your house and manages to catch it, you should not come to the wrong conclusion that there was only one and the problem is now over. We need to address this issue towards a permanent and long lasting solution through preventive action along with deterrent punishments in a judicial setting.

My suggested solution: I think there should be a legal ban on recruiting children under 18 years of age as Buddhist monks, and also influence the monastery to reform and relax its practice of celibacy and promote reforms to adopt practices of liberal Buddhism (Japan, Korea) where monks are allowed to have sexual partners. One good article regarding this: . I am not against adult monks having straight or homosexual relationships with other consenting adults, but pedophilia should have zero tolerance in our society through strict law enforcement. We would need more robust social and legal reforms in child protection regulations to bring required protection and develop a progressive environment that addresses preventive measures.

Buddhist monastery is not a 'pure' and 'sacred' institution that they portray to the general public. Sexual relationships among buddhist monks and with outsiders are no secret. I have heard in many occasions where Buddhist monks have had several children, having mistresses, homosexual relationships with other adult monks, graffiti in temple toilets accusing adult monks having sexual relationship with child monks (samanera) and child workers of the temple (ebbittiya). These are indications that require further study and collection of more strong data about this social issue. I have witnessed during my visits to neighborhood temples how youth monks abuse alcohol and cigarettes to extremes in their dormitories during my rare visits to temples. The problem is not that they behave this way, it is because they have to do these things in secrecy away from the public eye that leads to further serious crimes by the monks. I am not against these physical indulgences by the monks in anyway; it is just we need to understand their human nature and provide freedom in their monasteries for what is legally permissible. I am inclined to think when the monks are given enough freedom to express their sexual needs with other consenting adults, and a legal ban on underage monks in monastery, the pedophilia problem will be solved in the long term. Without such reforms we may only hide a problem that nobody wants to discuss in public.








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