Buddhist monk and beloved LGBT+ ally dubbed ‘garbage ghost’ for backing abortion rights

Buddhist monk Phra Shine Waradhammo has faced backlash for many years because of his socially liberal views.

A Buddhist monk who openly supports LGBT+ rights says he was called “garbage” and a “hungry ghost in a saffron robe” by trolls online when he spoke out about decriminalising abortion in Thailand.

Phra Shine Waradhammo protested to stop punishments for women who have abortions at the Thai parliament with 20 other pro-choice activists.

Lawmakers recently voted to make abortion legal during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Abortions after this point will still be punished according to the previous law with up to six months in prison or a fine of up to 10,000 baht (around £244), or both.

After the demonstration, Waradhammo told the Thomson Reuters Foundation: “People were calling me ‘garbage’ and a ‘hungry ghost in a saffron robe’ on Facebook.”

Some Thai Theravada Buddhists believe women who have an abortion will be haunted by a ghost.

Waradhammo has also protested for the recognition of same-sex partnerships in Thailand. He said he didn’t receive as much of a backlash when he “spoke about LGBT+ issues a decade ago, probably because people see (abortion) as murder”.

In a previous interview with EFE, he said: “As a monk, I think Buddhist teachings should be interpreted to go along with social situations.

“If they aren’t interpreted that way, they are useless. Between religion and people, people should come first. We should try to see how to free people from their suffering.”

Waradhammo regularly writes about the LGBT+ community and Buddhism, despite many conservative Buddhists opposing his stance.

Discussing the Buddhists who disagree with his interpretation of the scripture with Coconuts TV, Waradhammo says they should follow the Four Noble Truths, which summarise the Buddha’s teachings. They focus on finding the source of people’s suffering and finding a path to end that suffering.

He said: “Do they see the misery in the world? Do they see the misery of a woman who is not ready to be a mother? Do they see al the misery of people with a gender identity disorder and what it feels like to not be accepted?

“If they could see that they would better understand that Buddhist teachings encourage us to see the misery of those around us. ”

He credits his liberal views on abortion to the people who have stood up and campaigned for legalisation in Thailand, and ultimately taught him about why people should have the right to choose. He now speaks passionately about how the concept of reincarnation can support a pro-choice stance.

“Just because they have a uterus or they’re pregnant doesn’t mean they are ready to become a mother.

“If we see it through the principle of reincarnation, if we terminate this pregnancy and allow the soul of the child to be reborn into a more stable family. … this soul will be reborn to parents that are ready.”