Shorn of their locks, Thai women join rebel monk ranks

Thai women wanting to become female Buddhist monks hold incense sticks as they stand in line during an ordination ceremony at a Buddhist temple on the outskirts of Bangkok

Scissors fly as Thai families surround their daughters to shear off tufts of hair until they are nearly bald -- a ritual preparation for the women's new future as rebel female monks.

Taking on the spartan lifestyle is a subversive choice for the two dozen women, who are the latest to buck tradition in Thailand's male-dominated Buddhist order.

The Buddhist kingdom's clergy refuses to officially recognise female monks as legitimate.

But their ranks are gradually growing under the leadership of Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, an abbess who founded an all-female monastery in Nakhon Pathom province outside Bangkok.

On Thursday she inducted 24 more women into what is known as the bhikkuni -- female monk -- tradition.

The hair-cutting ceremony was an emotional moment for many of the incoming monks, whose ages spanned the spectrum -- from their twenties to their sixties.

Some were amused while others struggled to hold back tears.

After most of their hair was snipped off, the women's heads -- and eyebrows -- were shaved and rinsed.

They then donned rust-coloured robes, sat through a series of prayers, and received their first round of alms as they stepped into new, austere lives shorn of romance and most forms of excess.