Bringing Child Buddhist Monks into the Alternative Care Conversation: Reflections on an Under-Considered Group of Children

Deborah W. Parkes

Tens of thousands of children in India, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and other Asian countries are living as child Buddhist monks. Many are in temples and monasteries far from home and do not see their parents for months, even years. Some are as young as 6 years of age.

The aim of this article is to engage scholars, practitioners, child rights advocates, and others in a conversation around the rights and vulnerabilities of child Buddhist monks and children susceptible to being entrusted to monasteries to live as child monks. This group of children receives relatively little attention in alternative care conversations despite many parallels and overlaps with children in orphanages and care homes.

This article identifies risks and vulnerabilities that child monks can face, including sexual abuse. It reflects on how aspects of entrusting young children to live as child monks do not necessarily fit with principles articulated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNGA, 1989) and the United Nations Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children (UNGA, 2009).