Sikh Faith, almost certainly be touted as promoting “equality of men and women” and as such would be a progressive belief almost unique in the world’s religions if it was totally true.

Sikh women have equal rights to men supposedly because Waheguru is neither male nor female. Waheguru is a term most often used in Sikhism to refer to God, the Supreme Being or the creator of all the Divine Being [which is claimed to be genderless].

It all sounds wonderful and equal right. The Gurus’ teaching on the role of women is stated as, “we are conceived and born from women. Woman is our life-long friend and keeps the race going. Why should we despise her, the one who gives birth to great men?” – Guru Granth Sahib Ji (the third Guru). The first woman to be remembered in Sikhism is Mata Tripta Ji, the mother of the first and founding guru, Guru Nanak.

Well, that still is saying its men that are great because of whom they are and women great only because they can produce great men still sounds like sexism to me.

The excuse given for why there was lack of true equality for the history of Sikh women reason many women did not assist with Sikh ceremonies in earlier times was more due to the general prejudices of the period, than any sexist belief. All Sikh men have the last name Singh and all women, have the last name Kaur. Singh means a lion and Kaur means a princess. But is this equal a lion is seen as king but but the woman is she seen as a king? Or even a Queen? No, she is labeled a princess.

Princess is a regal rank and the feminine equivalent of prince, the term has been used for the consort of a prince or for the daughters of a king or sovereign prince. Moreover, there have been fewer instances of reigning princesses than reigning princes as most principalities excluded women from inheriting the throne so the term is more condescending even if un realized then promoting of real equality for 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 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. If women and men are truly equals and Sikhism to refer to God is actually genderless and sexless why are all the ten Sikh Gurus only men? Attainment of Guruship of the 10 Sikh Gurus was always limited to a male disciple or a son how is this not sexist?

Is the Sikh god really seen as actually genderless and sexless?

Not so much, as seen in this particular hymn using male only pronouns for the god, supreme being, the creator of all or the divine being seen in how Guru Granth Sahib states, ‘In all beings is he himself pervasive, Himself pervades all forms Male and Female.’ Guru Granth Sahib, Pg. 605.

Still sounds like hidden sexism to me.

What right do sikh women not have in Sikhism is that 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, it is claimed that there is only men because no women stood up only men did. Sounds like a sexist excuse such as how many women were present in the congregation to begin with (ratio of men and women). Alternatively, were women ever really encouraged to volunteer for tasks like Sikh leadership when all gurus where usually men. Therefore, the fact that only men can be panj pyare is to me a sexist motivated destine rather than some innocent happenstance.

Panj Pyare, is the name collectively given to the five Sikh men who formed the nucleus of the Khalsa, as the first batch to receive the rites of the two-edged sword. In Sikh theology, as in the Indian classical tradition generally, the numeral five, has a special significance. Guru Nanak in Japji refers to five khands, i.e. stages or steps in spiritual development, and calls a spiritually awakened person a panch. The ancient Indian socio-political institution panchayat meant a council of five elders. Something like an inner council of five existed even in the time of the earlier Gurus: five Sikhs accompanied Guru Arjan on his last journey to Lahore; the five were each given 100 armed Sikhs to command by his successor, Guru Hargobind; Guru Tegh Bahadur, set out on his journey to Delhi to court execution attended by five Sikhs.

Only Men as Guru only Men as the five Panj Pyare yes try to tell me of how Sikhism is completely equal to women… It’s better than some religions but it is still full of hidden sexism so its not equal.

Lastly, according to a woman who is both a self-clamed feminist Sikh states, “I should be able to reconcile my feminist beliefs with my religion, but cannot always do so. Ancient cultural traditions sometimes take precedence over the principles of feminism in Sikhism. Maharaja Ranjeet Singh, one of the most famous Sikh Kings in Moghul India often considered a model Sikh, had seven wives. Not only does polygamy go against Sikh beliefs but half of his wives committed sati when he died in 1839.” – Shiha Kaur

Sati refers to a funeral ritual within some Asian communities in which a recently widowed woman commits suicide by fire, typically on the husband’s funeral pyre.

She further states, “In India, school attendance of Sikh girls is lower than that of Sikh boys. My great-grandfather laughed at the school teacher when he suggested that my grandmother should be allowed to go to school. There are also contemporary examples. As a Sikh woman, I am encouraged to dress “modestly” and show as little leg/arm/cleavage as possible outside the house. I have an entirely separate wardrobe for visiting my conservative relatives. The Asian Network has reported in the rise of Asian couples travelling to India to abort female fetuses and no sweets are shared among Sikh relatives to celebrate the birth of a girl, as usually happens when a boy is born. Today the ideal Sikh woman is supposed to be meek rather than warrior-like, obey her husband/father and is considered trouble if she does not do so.” – Shiha Kaur


By Damien Marie AtHope

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