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Rights of a Sikh Woman

Discussion in 'Sikh Sikhi Sikhism' started by Admin Singh, Nov 27, 2009.

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  1. Admin Singh

    Admin Singh
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    Women's Rights

    If social equality paralleled religious equality then women's rights wouldn't even be an issue. It is always surprising to hear women ask what their rights are in Sikhism as if their rights are gender dependent. We find it absolutely necessary to address the most frequently asked questions. Ladies! It cannot be emphasized enough that God created men equal to women. Although with varied biological functions (and we delight in those biological differences), one isn't superior to the other.
    God said so and you must believe it so.

    A homemaker or a working woman (super women like our mothers are capable of both!), both are equally respectable career choices. One isn't necessarily better than the other and no one should ever obligate you to either simply because you are a woman. These are just the roles we play in this grand scheme of events.

    Each life is bestowed with a vibrant soul. The body is an instrument. Let us not be waste it in vain. Each one of us is hand crafted, our soul hand picked by God. Each of us is designed a unique vessel to receive God's love and blessing. This life is given to us to attain God, while fulfilling our worldly obligations at home, at school, in society as law abiding citizens. Every Sikh Woman and a Man is to fulfill his/her obligations of running the household, enriching our lives and working towards our goal of attaining God.

    * While we prepare to bring to more quotes from the Guru Granth Sahib (the authority and the word of God), don't let anyone convince you into thinking any less of yourself.

    * Read up on A Women's identity and her role in society

    * What Rights do Sikh Women Have? Questions and Answers (see below)

    Questions & Answers

    (Originally published by the Institute of Sikh Studies, Chandigarh, Jatinder Singh)

    1. What rights do I have as a Sikh woman?

    A Sikh woman has equal rights to a Sikh man. No post in Sikhism is reserved solely for men. A woman is not considered subordinate to a man. Sikh baptism (Amrit ceremony) is open to both sexes. The Khalsa nation is made up equally of men and women. A Sikh woman has the right to become a Granthi, Ragi, one of the Panj Pyare (5 beloved), etc.

    2. Is God considered a Male or Female?

    The Guru Granth Sahib contains many Names for God, both masculine and feminine. These are all used to describe God. Ultimately, the Gurus do not consider God to be male or female. The Mul Mantra states that God is 'Ajuni' - Unborn. Thus stating that God belongs to neither sex. Read the section on God's Gender.

    3. What does the Guru Granth Sahib say about Women?

    Concerning women, Guru Nanak has said, 'It is through woman that order is maintained. Then why call her inferior from whom all great ones are born.' Guru Granth Sahib, Pg. 473. The Gurus went further. They used the Woman symbolically in the Bani to represent the disciple.

    4. What restrictions are there on what I can wear?

    When Sikhs take Amrit they must all, regardless of sex, keep the same 5 k's. Guru Nanak has stated that one should only wear those clothes which do not distress the mind or the body. 'Friend, all other wear ruins bliss, That which to the limbs is torment, and with foul thinking fills the mind.- Guru Granth Sahib, Pg. 16.

    5. Can I read the Guru Granth Sahib?

    Yes. The reading of the Guru Granth Sahib is open to all. Guru Amar Das was brought to the fold of Sikhism after hearing Bibi Amro reciting the Gurbani. Read the section on participation in congregation.

    6. Who is considered more spiritual, Men or Women?

    Sikhism states both men and women are considered capable of reaching the highest levels of spirituality. A particular hymn in the Guru Granth Sahib states, 'In all beings is he himself pervasive, Himself pervades all forms Male and Female.' Guru Granth Sahib, Pg. 605.

    7. In some cultures women are subservient to their Husbands. Does Sikhism state that I must be also?

    Sikhism is totally opposed to this view. The concept of maiden and married names is alien to Sikh philosophy. Sikhs practising it now do so out of ignorance. A Sikh woman is born with the surname Kaur and dies with the same surname. Thus, allowing her to keep her identity throughout her life. Significance of .

    8. Are there any important Sikh Women in our History?

    Sikh history is one which has been made by both men and women. There are many, many outstanding Sikh women. The Gurus' wives led highly spiritual and independent lives. Mata Sundri ji led the Sikhs for a long period after Guru Gobind Singh returned to his heavenly home. Sada Kaur was a famous Sikh Jathedar and ally of Ranjit Singh who made possible the Sikh empire of the 19th Century. The list of important Sikh women is endless.

    9. Can a woman be one of the Panj Piyara's?

    The following is from a question raised by a member on the Yahoo SikhWomen Group .

    The Question:

    [I would] just like to say that in the Q&A session of "What right do Sikh women have?" i agree with all but one think That is no women can become one of the Panj Pyare (5 beloved). This is due to the fact that when Shir Guru Gobind Singh Ji asked for a head, no women stood up only men did. Therefore only men can be panj pyare. If women in thouse days had the courage to standup then it would of been different. Sorry if this offend anyone. Please feel free to comment on what i have said. --Sandy

    The reply:

    I absolutely could not resist responding to your post Sandy. No offense taken. However, it just makes me realize how much more we
    need to educate our generation. No offense intended here either. When we use a historical event as an example, then in all fairness we need to evaluate the social fabric of the time. At that time when 5 Pyare were called for, you say no women volunteered. I ask you this:

    1. How many women were present in the congregation to begin with (ratio of men and women).

    2. What was the norm of the time? For women to stay home and care for the family or be the bread winners or the warriors? Social
    science is at play here.

    3. Were women back then encouraged to volunteer for tasks like there that were usually taken up on by men?

    4. So you can say that no women were administrators or owned businesses or had the rights to vote at that time so they shouldn't be allowed to own businesses, be presidents of companies or have the right to vote?

    5. You say that back then women had no courage to stand up? Well, it was extremely rare for women to be encouraged to stand up. This
    is a problem that persists even today. If you keep someone oppressed from the day they are born, how can they know to be any
    different?

    6. Guru Nanak defied the norm of the day in granting women equal rights. That is why he was a pioneer, a visionary, a person of God
    to whom God's word was revealed.

    7. At that time no children or elderly volunteered either. So does that mean that they did not have the courage? How many other factors are we going to come up with to discriminate against each other? So I guess age should be a factor in picking our Panj Piare. Oh wait, did any vegetarians volunteer? Did any Sushi lovers volunteer? Not to humor anyone, but where does this end?

    It is a provoking topic and I am glad you brought it up, however your argument is very weak and irrational. Your comment defies the basic principles of equality. We need to reflect on history and think about why our Guru's indeed encouraged us to defy the beliefs of that time. Then why is it that some people insist on in infusing doubt and uncertainty in the Sikh community. With all due respect for your opinion that I whole heartedly disagree with, no offense is intended.

    We must learn our history and know where we come from and only then we can move forward. We have much to learn.

    Reference: http://www.sikhwomen.com/equality/womansrights.htm
     
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  3. Taranjeet singh

    Taranjeet singh India
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    Sikhism may be opposed to the concept but in reality it has not remained uninfluenced from the Society in general. Sikh ladies , in many families, are considered subservient to the husbands. This is sad but a hard fact and many families are almost crippled on account of wilful neglect of the ladies on this count. Many stances can be quoted. But there is no need of this. This practice is also seen even in Amritdhari families.

    Going to police-Courts under section 498a of IPC is a hopeless alternative.

    What is the solution to this.?May HE Blesses all and make one see that Guru Sahibaan have stated about the equality of rights for women.
     
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  4. Admin Singh

    Admin Singh
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    Introduction

    Women from all religions are increasingly enquiring
    about their position, role and importance as outlined
    by their religious scriptures. This article reviews
    the beliefs held within the Shri Guru Granth
    Sahib Ji (SGGSJ), the Sikh Holy Scripture.

    Salvation

    An important point to raise is whether a religion
    considers women capable of achieving salvation, a
    realisation of God or the highest spiritual realm.
    The SGGSJ states, "In all beings is the Lord pervasive,
    the Lord pervades all forms male and female"
    (SGGSJ, p.605).

    From the above it is clear that the light of God rests
    equally within both sexes. Both men and women
    can therefore attain salvation by obeying the Guru.
    In many religions, a woman is considered a hindrance
    to man’s spirituality. The Guru rejects this.
    In ‘Current Thoughts on Sikh dharma’, Alice
    Basarke states, "the first Guru put woman on a par
    with man…woman was not a hindrance to man, but
    a partner in serving God and seeking salvation".
    Education

    Education is considered very important in Sikh
    dharma. It is the key to anyone’s success. It is personal
    development and it is the reason why the 3rd
    Guru set up many schools. The SGGSJ states, "All
    divine knowledge and contemplation is obtained
    through the Guru" (SGGSJ, p.831).

    Education for all is essential and everyone must aim
    to be the best they can be. Fifty two of the Sikh
    missionaries sent out by the 3rd Guru were women.
    In, ‘The Role and Status of Sikh Women’, Dr Mohinder
    Kaur Gill writes, "Guru Amar Das was convinced
    that no teachings can take root until and unless
    they are accepted by women folk".

    Hereditary Rights

    Hereditary rights have never been an issue in Sikh
    dharma. Sikh women have full rights to contest
    any hereditary claim. No restrictions can be found
    in the Sikh Rehat Maryada (Sikh Code of Conduct)
    and there is nothing to state otherwise. In,

    ‘Women’s Property Rights - A Sikh Perspective’, Prof
    Dalip Singh writes, "Since all children both male and
    female are equal in all respects, the property of the
    father is equally divisible amongst the children;
    women married and unmarried, have equal share
    along with the male progeny".

    Thus all claimants are entitled to an equal share regardless
    of their gender.

    Gender Equality

    Sikh dharma does consider men and women to be
    different by virtue of their gender. However this does
    not imply superiority of one sex over the other. Men
    and women are equal under the eyes of God and
    should therefore be given equal opportunity. No position
    in Sikh dharma is reserved solely for men. Women
    can take part in prayers and serve as Granthi. Sikh
    women can also take part in any political role they feel
    fit to accommodate.

    Concerning the condemnation of women, the SGGSJ
    states, "from the woman is our birth, and in the
    woman’s womb are we shaped. To the woman we are
    engaged and to the woman are we wedded. The
    woman is our friend and from woman is the family.
    Through the woman are the bonds of the world. Why
    then call her evil, who gives birth to the world’s leaders?
    From the woman is born woman, without the
    woman there is none" (SGGSJ, p.473).

    The question posed by the Guru to mankind is, ‘why
    call her evil?’. The Guru calls the woman a vessel
    through which all life comes to this world. This is a
    unique role given to her by God. In addition to this,
    with regards to identity, the Guru considers the
    woman to be a Princess, by giving her the surname
    Kaur. This is reserved solely for women and frees
    them from having to take their husband’s name when
    marrying.

    Importance of the Woman’s View

    Some religions regard the women as inferior when
    providing, for example, a testimony in a court. However
    this issue has never been in question in Sikh
    dharma. The SGGSJ states, "Women and men, all by
    God are created. All this is Gods play. Says Nanak, all
    thy creation is good, Holy” (SGGSJ, p.304).
    Gods creation is considered holy. There is no suggestion
    of inferiority amongst the role women can
    play and neither is a woman’s intelligence doubted.
    Between human beings there are only two distinctions
    made. In ‘Current Thoughts in Sikh dharma’,
    Dr Gurnam Kaur writes, "All human beings are equal
    from birth. There are only two classes of human
    beings (man or woman) viz., manmukh and gurmukh.
    Those who follow the path of the Guru, obey
    the will of God, the divine ordinance are called gurmukhs,
    and those who follow the path of their own
    mind, act according to their ego running away from
    the Guru, the Shabad (the Word), are manmukhs
    (egoists)".

    Opportunity to Pray

    Many religions blame the woman for the inability of
    a man to become God enlightened. This has in some
    cases led to rules, which define the locations where
    women folk can pray and what they must wear.
    However in Sikh dharma, the aim is to rid the soul
    of sins and realise God by the Guru’s guidance.
    Once this is achieved the inner character becomes
    absorbed and strengthened by God. Thus, it is not
    women who are blamed for any sinful thoughts that
    occur within men, when they see a woman, but the
    men who allow lust to dominate their mind.
    The SGGSJ states, "vain are the eyes which behold
    the beauty of another’s wife" (SGGSJ, p.269).
    Any woman is permitted to enter a Gurdwara (Sikh
    Temple) and is accepted in all prayers and recitations
    of the SGGSJ. No area is made exempt and
    women are always an integral part of the congregation.
    The only restriction placed on a woman is that
    she must not wear a veil.

    The Sikh Code of Conduct (Article XVI, s) states, "It
    is not proper for a Sikh woman to wear a veil or
    keep her face hidden by veil or cover".
    Guru Amar Das Ji had refused to talk with a Hindu
    queen until she had removed her veil. In, ‘Women in
    Religion’, Kanwaljit Kaur Singh writes, "the purdah
    (veil) system suppressed the personality of women
    and reflected their inferior status". Of course Sikh
    men cannot wear veils either.

    Restrictions on Clothes

    Apart from commanding women not to wear a veil,
    Sikh dharma makes a simple yet very important
    statement regarding dress code. This applies to all
    Sikhs regardless of gender. The SGGSJ states,
    "Friend, all other wear ruins happiness, the wear
    that to the limbs is torment, and with foul thinking
    fills the mind" (SGGSJ, p.16).

    Thus, the individual Sikh knows what types of
    clothes fill the mind with evil thoughts and are commanded
    not to wear them. Apart from this all Sikhs
    (men and women) are to wear the 5 K’s. This is
    unique for women because it is the first time in history
    when women were expected to defend themselves
    and others with their Kirpans (swords). They
    are not expected to be dependent on men for physical
    protection.

    Menstruation

    A faith’s view on menstruation is a good indicator of
    its tolerance towards women. Many faith’s regard a
    menstruating women to be unclean. But in Sikh
    dharma this is not the case. Certainly this cycle may
    have a physical and psychological effect on a
    woman, but this is not considered to be a hindrance
    to her wanting to pray or accomplish her religious
    duties fully. The Guru makes it clear that the menstruation
    cycle is a God given process and that the
    blood of a woman is required for the creation of any
    human being. The SGGSJ (p.1013) states, "By coming
    together of mother and father are we created,
    by union of the mother’s blood and the father’s semen
    is the body made. To the Lord is the creature
    devoted, when hanging head downwards in the
    womb; He whom he contemplates, for him provides."
    Hence, the menstruation cycle is an essential, God
    given biological process. In some religions blood is
    also considered a pollutant. However the Guru rejects
    such superstitious ideas and says that those
    who are impure from within are the truly impure
    ones. The only item of Importance is meditating on
    the Name of God. Whether your clothes are blood
    stained or not (including clothes stained from menstrual
    blood) is not of spiritual significance. Thus,
    there are no restrictions placed on a woman during
    her menstruation cycle. In the book, ‘The Feminine
    Principle in the Sikh Vision of the Transcendent’, Nicky
    Guninder Kaur-Singh writes, "The denigration of the
    female body expressed in many cultural and religious
    taboos surrounding menstruation and child birth is
    absent in the Sikh worldview…Guru Nanak openly
    chides those who attribute pollution to women because
    of menstruation".

    Spousal Relationships

    Any married couple will have their ups and downs.
    Different religions and cultural traditions provide different
    solutions. The SGGSJ (p.143) states, "Should
    brass, gold or iron be broken, the smith fuses it back
    together in the fire. Should the husband and wife have
    a break of relations. Through children are their bonds
    forged again. The ruler when making a demand, by a
    tax is calmed. The hungry, by food are satisfied. With
    rain and inundating rivers is famine lifted. In love
    through sweet speech comes reunion".
    The Guru acknowledges that a relationship can become
    broken. However through their children, it is
    possible for a couple to find love again, and it is
    through love that they can overcome their difficulties.

    Conclusion

    The quotations given from the SGGSJ show without a
    doubt that men and women are equal in every respect.

    http://www.projectnaad.com/wp-content/uploads/leaflets/rights_of_sikh_women.pdf
     
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  5. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    Aman ji

    Just now I have had time to read this article carefully and slowly. It starts out with an affirmation of the equality of women in Sikhism. Then we have the question from Sandy, with a tart response from whomever is answering her.

    It is true that Sandy has based her question on a wrong assumption. But the response is not much better. It seems almost like the story of 8 blind men trying to describe an elephant. They all got part of the picture but not the entire effect.

    That part is quoted below.... and I see a lot wrong just on the facts with the reply. Some of it is dead wrong from a historical perspective ...unless we want to assume that all the history of Sikh women from Guru Amar Das to Guru Gobind Singh is a total fabrication.

    Here it is -- and it would be interesting to have some member dialog on the responses that Sandy received.

    Quoted material

    The Question:

    [I would] just like to say that in the Q&A session of "What right do Sikh women have?" i agree with all but one think That is no women can become one of the Panj Pyare (5 beloved). This is due to the fact that when Shir Guru Gobind Singh Ji asked for a head, no women stood up only men did. Therefore only men can be panj pyare. If women in thouse days had the courage to standup then it would of been different. Sorry if this offend anyone. Please feel free to comment on what i have said. --Sandy

    The reply:

    I absolutely could not resist responding to your post Sandy. No offense taken. However, it just makes me realize how much more we need to educate our generation. No offense intended here either. When we use a historical event as an example, then in all fairness we need to evaluate the social fabric of the time. At that time when 5 Pyare were called for, you say no women volunteered. I ask you this:

    1. How many women were present in the congregation to begin with (ratio of men and women).

    2. What was the norm of the time? For women to stay home and care for the family or be the bread winners or the warriors? Social science is at play here.

    3. Were women back then encouraged to volunteer for tasks like there that were usually taken up on by men?

    4. So you can say that no women were administrators or owned businesses or had the rights to vote at that time so they shouldn't be allowed to own businesses, be presidents of companies or have the right to vote?

    5. You say that back then women had no courage to stand up? Well, it was extremely rare for women to be encouraged to stand up. This is a problem that persists even today. If you keep someone oppressed from the day they are born, how can they know to be any different?

    6. Guru Nanak defied the norm of the day in granting women equal rights. That is why he was a pioneer, a visionary, a person of God to whom God's word was revealed.

    7. At that time no children or elderly volunteered either. So does that mean that they did not have the courage? How many other factors are we going to come up with to discriminate against each other? So I guess age should be a factor in picking our Panj Piare. Oh wait, did any vegetarians volunteer? Did any Sushi lovers volunteer? Not to humor anyone, but where does this end?


    It is a provoking topic and I am glad you brought it up, however your argument is very weak and irrational. Your comment defies the basic principles of equality. We need to reflect on history and think about why our Guru's indeed encouraged us to defy the beliefs of that time. Then why is it that some people insist on in infusing doubt and uncertainty in the Sikh community. With all due respect for your opinion that I whole heartedly disagree with, no offense is intended.

    We must learn our history and know where we come from and only then we can move forward. We have much to learn.
     
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  6. harbansj24

    harbansj24
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    I agree with twinkle ji. The actual practices among Sikhs is far removed from our Guru's teachings. It is regrettable but true, that the rest of India has in practice has overtaken the Sikhs in this regard.

    You say that Sikhs women have equal right to parental property?

    Well from what I have gathered that a few years back SGPC had proposed a separate personal law for the Sikhs. In this there was a proposal that after marriage Sikh women would not have any right on parental property, but have a right on their in law's property! The justification being that Sikhs are basically an agrarian community and if a women has equal right in parental property than there would be fragmentation of land leading to low average yield! Maybe this may be a good reason for Jat Sikhs being agriculturalist and land owners (there should no be even a mention of different classes among Sikhs but that is the bitter reality is that such thoughts being forced by the ruling elite in Punjab). This condition is not necessarily true for other classes.
     
  7. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    To be honest this law is much more practical and safeguard interest of women rather than the existing law.In India socially It is the son's duty to take care of parents and in return he gets the property.
    India is madly copying the western laws which are never going to work.If present law is strictly imposed then son and daughter should jointly take care of their parents ,but a woman goes to her in laws home so it is not possible for her to take care of parents
     
  8. Sikh royalist

    Sikh royalist
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    i think i have another question simply out of curiosity why we never had a female Guru ?:confused:
     

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