Traditions can be healthy and give us a sense of stability and belonging in our communities and society. On the other hand, unhealthy traditions and rituals such as Rakhee, Lohri, Kurva Chauth, dowry etc... while may be acceptable to some cultures, they are not in concert with the Sikh way of life. Those traditions that glorify male gender preference or encourage female neglect and perpetuate the view of a woman, a wife, a mother, a daughter as a liability are not in keeping with the Sikh teachings. The Sikh Gurus encouraged women to be independent and share social and religious responsibilities rather than be subservient, docile or dependent.
"Rituals without understanding is idolatry. Rituals themselves are not bad, lack of one's quest behind one is" -Anonymous
Tying a rakhee (rakhri) is implying that a female cannot fend for herself and is dependent upon her brother to protect her and implying that she is weak and incapable of being independent. Could the one who endures hours of labor pain and overcomes a lifetime of financial, academic, social challenges to raise and sustain her family be weak? Not by any means. Once could argue that a lovely gesture it would be for a brother to tie a rakhee to his sister to acknowledge her significance in his life. However, that too would be against Sikh way of life since tying threads or any ritual that does not glorify the Lord is discouraged. In this case two wrongs would not make a right.
A day of festivities to celebrate the birth of a male child and in homes with male children. Favoring a male off spring, this event clearly discriminates against females. Hence contributing to a male preference and contributing to already rising incidences of female infanticide. "Infanticide has been practiced as a brutal method of family planning in societies where boy children are still valued, economically and socially, above girls." UNICEF. Read more on Sex Selective Abortion, Female Infanticide and Excess Female Child Mortality in India.
In keeping of this ritual, a woman is to be grateful to her husband for providing her with, "food, shelter, clothing, respectability, comfort and happiness..." This tradition too presents several dilemmas.
If a woman is a home maker (an equally respectable life style, if by choice), then obviously the man would realize that the woman works 24 hours a day vs. a full time traditional job the man may hold. Running a house is not an 8 to 5 occupation. It takes more than 40 hours a week to do the job of a full time cook, maid, house-wife, mother...among others. Over time credit to all house-wives and house-husbands is long over due!!
The Guru Granth Sahib (GGS) states that God sustains all life and that God is the one who provides for us and sustains us even during gestation. The human body is a mere vessel and everything else save the remembrance of God is an illusion and only temporary. We collect merits in this life to redeem them in the next. For instance, what merits does the practice of an empty, meaningless tradition bring?
Even a leaf cannot move without God's command. Yet how easy we forget who our true nurturer is. GGS asks, "who takes care of those who cannot sustain themselves"? The glory, the accomplishments, the fortune...all belong to God and none other. It is not a husband (nor a wife) who brings about social status, food, shelter, respectability or much of anything else. Every thing is with the grace of God. Japji sahib mentions, those who do not honor God, in the after life don't even get an iota of respect or recognition.
Marriage is a union of two souls who together embark on a life long journey in attaining God. Both have to work in concert with each other to run a smooth household and with the ultimate goal in mind: union with God. For example, the Anand Karaj (the Sikh wedding ceremony) is a practice that glorifies God. The entire marriage ceremony is devoted to understanding our relationship with God and not just the relationship fostered among the bride and the groom.
Punjab throws up new statistics to reaffirm its preference for boys.
Son preference also directly relates to the "high maintenance" of female children as apposed to male. Having a girl to some families means a dowry and therefore an "expensive affair". This can be a great motivator to abort female fetuses. We can see how the entire dowry ritual is so tightly woven in the very fabric of some cultures. The dowry system directly perpetuates gender specific violence. Guru Nanak abolished the dowry system to stress equality of all genders 500 years ago. Are we willing to follow suit?
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