Equality . Gender . 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.  

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.  Read what the Guru Granth Sahib says

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 the name Kaur | The Kaur Etymology

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.

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 pyiare 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
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 beleifs of that time.  Then why is it that some people insisit 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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