Traditionally, women were banned from entering the Muay Thai ring. This originates from the belief that the presence of a woman in the ring would be equivalent to a curse, destroying the fighters’ skills and making them vulnerable to injuries. It was also believed that a feminine presence would conflict with the holy amulets which the fighters keep inside their prajied.
To keep the value of the amulets and protective magic, so women – even when they aren’t on their period – can’t pass over that top rope because they might negate the blessings. However, not all women follow this rule. This belief is taken a step further in two of Thailand’s most famous and prestigious boxing stadiums, Rajadamnern and Lumpinee, where there are no female fights.
In the present day, however, with women’s equality being a prime social issue, things are gradually changing, even in the conservative world of Muay Thai. Some stadiums, for example, Rajadamnern and Lumpini, still uphold the ban on women entering the ring, while others have modified it indifference to the times. For example, Rangsit Stadium (in Patumthani, North of Bangkok) has women’s rings as well as men’s rings but forbids women from leaping over the top rope when they enter the ring. Instead, they have to duck under the ropes, on the principle that in jumping over the top rope, they would be actually or symbolically higher than their opponent’s amulets and, being female, this would insult or be disrespectful to them. Oddly, while men are allowed to enter the women’s ring, the reverse is not the case.
Consequently, female athletes still face difficulties being accepted by commercial sponsors to support their fighting. Like other sports, male athletes get better paid than women and there are more opportunities. Muay Thai is no exception. Sponsors still play a key role in the Muay Thai industry and opportunities for individual boxers is dependent on sponsors, including how much they earn. Most sponsors still believe that Muay Thai is a man’s sport and focus their investment accordingly. A successful female Muay Thai boxer could make 40,000 baht for each fight, but a male boxer’s earnings start at 70,000 baht.
Women fighters nowadays wear the mongkon, prajied and other amulets like male fighters. While some men still object to the idea of a woman touching their mongkon, some take a more liberal stance: it is now very much a matter of individual choice rather than an actual
Despite facing these limitations, both in Thailand and internationally, is accepting the increasing role of female Muay Thai boxers and martial arts fighters. The most important thing is changing the perception of sponsors towards female Muay Thai fighters in the future.