Question of Gender Inequality in Sikhism ?
Gender Inequality in Rehat Maryada?
Guru Piayario Jios,
Dr. Karminder Singh PH.D has given an understanding of this section of the SRM in his treatise on the SRM published quite some time ago on various Forums and Magazines. Briefly its this.
The word “daughter” arouses cries of Gender Bias…Some Siksh have suggested that an additional sentence mentioning “son” should be added.(Son of a Sikh should marry a Sikh) Others have suggested that it should be amended to read..A SIKH should marry a SIKH..and yet others have even gone so far as to suggest that this means that a son of a SIKH can marry a non-Sikh Girl.
To put this Stipulation into its proper perspective, there is a need to understand the CONTEXT, its INTENT..and if possible the MINDSET of the Framers of the SRM. There is perhaps no other area in which the HUMAN RACE has accepted GENDER BIAS in FAVOUR of the MALE than in MARRIAGE. The situation which generally exists TODAY is by and large the same as that during the time the SRM was Framed. The only slight differnece may be in the degree of it. Briefly, this BIAS can be stated thus – THE FEMALE MARRIED INTO THE MALE’S FAMILY..AND TOOK THE FAMILY NAME.
More importantly however ( in cases of MIXED MARRIAGES – which would have been the NORM in PUNJAB given the CLOSE PROXIMITY OF HINDUS/SIKHS Families) the FEMALE ALWAYS and AUTOMATICALLY TOOK the Family Name and RELIGION…of the MALE.
Looked at in this context…the SRM STIPULATION (iv) is thus a COURAGEOUS attempt to CORRECT THIS GENDER BIAS and allow the Female SIKH to MAINTAIN her SIKH BELIEF in all circumstances.- particularly IF she intends to marry a Non-Sikh. The INTENT and IMPLICATION is that the MALE PARTNER of a SIKH FEMALE will have to take up the SIKH FAITH within the Marriage. This Stipulation forces the MALE to CONVERT..and NOT the other way around. Put in other words..The anand KARJ of a FEMALE SIKH…CANNOT TAKE PLACE UNTIL and UNLESS the GROOM CONVERTS TO SIKHI.
This Stipulation is thus VISIONARY…in that..1) it allows the Female SIKH to RETAIN her SIKH FAITH in all circumstances. 2) allows the NON-SIKH MALE to be BROUGHT into the SIKH Faith..if he so desires..and 3) allows the Female Sikh and her Converting/adopting Male Partner to have an ANAND KARAJ.
Why didnt the Framers of the SRM leave out an additional stipulation..” son of a sikh should marry a sikh”…? The answer is fairly straightforward. Given the Male Oriented society. whenever a SIKH man married..the GIRL would automatically take on the SIKH Faith and name. She would be CONSIDERED a SIKH..whether she liked it or not…whetehr she wanted to or not… A Sikhs wife is automatically a SIKHNNI. Thus there was no need to provide for such a stipulation vis vis the “son of a sikh”. There was no need to “protect” the SON because in amle dominated society..he was already heavily PROTECTED by determining the RELIGION OF HIS SPOUSE. Coming up with a stipulation in this context would not only be superfluous but an attempt to “fix” something that wasnt broken in the first place.
The Gender that needed special clause and hence the protection that would provide to enable her to continue being a SIKH irrespective of who she married..was the DAUGHTER. THIS is the reason the “daughter” is mentioned in a specific clause.
It is IMPORTANT to note that the BASIS of the SRM is SGGS. The SRM follwos the Underlying themes of the Gurbani in SGGS. So now the question is..WHICH GENDER does the SGGS strive to “protect” ? Again the answer is fairly straightforward” there is NOTHING in the 1429 pages if the SGGS to “protect” the SON/MALE. WHY ? Simply because there is NO NEED TO. BUT there is AMPLE GURBANI that DEFENDS…PROTECTS…and ENHANCES..the STATUS of the FEMALE. The REASON is simple..THIS is the Problem that needs a solution..needed Fixing.
So WHY didn’t the SRM Framers not word it as..”A SIKH SHOULD MARRY A SIKH” ?..without specifying daughter/son ? Actually this Gender Neutral Stipulation is already provided in Stipulation XXi that reads: Persons professing FAITHS other than SIKH FAITH CANNOT be joined in wedlock by the ANAND karaj CEREMONY. This means that a SIKH must undergo an ANAND KARAJ Ceremony with a SIKH. Despite this very clear and concise stipulation..it is clear that the Framers of the SRM WANTED EXTRA PROTECTION for the FEMALE SIKH and decided to achieve that through the Stipulation IV. The “solution” is “gender biased” because the “problem” is “gender biased”.
A contemporary analogy. Just suppose that due to the large scale female infanticide now going on among SIKHS…there is a need for an Akal Takhat hukmnama on this.
The Framers will go about this in the following manner. First. Whats the Problem ? Answer: Increasing abortions/killing of female fetuses. Increasing numbers of Sikhs are conducting gender based tests and aborting the foetus of its a FEMALE.
The most appropriate Hukmnama then would be: SIKHS SHOULD NOT ABORT or KILL FEMALE FETUSES/BABIES.
Assuming that this is how the Hukmnama is worded..there could be four critiques raised.
1) Does this mean that SIKHS Can KILL MALE foetus/babies ? Answer: Definitely NOT. Now where does it state that MALES can be killed. Why the need to stretch the Hukmnama to ridiculous lengths ? The Hukmnama should be interpreted by what is SAYS..and NOT by what it OMITS.
2) this Hukmanma is gender biased. Answer: IT is Gender Biased ONLY tot he extent that it aims to PROTECT the FEMALE FOETUS/CHILD. It is Further Gneder biased that it means to deal with the PROBLEM. In other words the Hukmnamh is Gneder Biased becasue the Problem it tackles is itself Gender Biased. Its overall base is to correct the Gender Bias.
3) So why NOT another Hukmanmah to say” Sikhs hsoudl not kill MALE foetus/babies”..Answer: Why WASTE a Hukmanmah on a “problem” that DOESN’T EXIST. Sikhs are NOT aborting MALES..or KILLING male children…SO why attempt to “fix” something that aint broken. Hukmnamahs should NOT be created just to SATISFY ALL sides !! 4) Why not an All encompassing Hukmanmah..Sikhs should not abort/kill babies. No need to mention gender at all. Answer: Such “language” (gol mol as is said in Punjabi) sounds fine on the surface…BUT it misses the POINT , HIDES the Real Problem, is EVASIVE and SKIRTS the ISSUE. The Framers of such a stipulation would be guilty of dancing around the bush…worse they may be accused of condoning or even supporting FEMALE FOETICIDE/INFANTICIDE by REFUSING to SPECIFICALLY mention the word FEMALE in their stipulation.
ORIGINAL Treatise by Dr Karminder Singh dhillon PH.D Kuala Lumpur.