It is still illegal for women to take full ordination as a Bhikkhuni (Buddhist nun) in Thailand due to a 1928 law. Monks who have tried to ordain women have been ejected from the Thai sangha and even imprisoned. There does exist a large group of Thai laywomen known as Maechis who shave their heads, wearing white, dedicating themselves to a religious life, vowing celibacy, living as ascetics, and holding eight or ten precepts. They are still marginalized figures in Thai society and are often exploited. The photo above shows a group of maechis running on the beach as those who attended the Outstanding Women in Buddhism Award ceremony took a break from the bus trip to a Buddhist retreat center where a symposium would be held on Buddhist girls and women.
There are a few nuns who were ordained in Sri Lanka or Taiwan, but they are exceptions. There are several courageous nuns who are working to improve the lot of women seeking a religious life, but it is a dangerous position. After the Outstanding Women in Buddhism Awards and related symposium, a secret ordination was held at the International Women’s Meditation Centre. Bhikkhuni Rattanavali and Bhikkhuni Lee, an American nun living in Thailand, invited Bhikkhuni Pannavati to conduct a secret ordination ceremony at the remote center.
See News Article on arson attack on the International Women’s Meditation Centre in 2016.