Friday, February 27, 2004
I have been meaning to write this for some time now, but today I felt the
urge to get down to doing it.
I have been wondering, what is my role as a woman? More importantly, what is
my role as a Sikh woman? Am I a Sikh before being a woman? Or am I a woman
before being a Sikh?
I don’t think that the world can actually understand this struggle and how
crazy it can make you. It’s almost as though you take on this unisex role that
doesn’t quite make you human. My thoughts seem to imprison me and now I am
fighting my own kind, Sikhs and women. I’m not too sure, which is worse!
It’s awful to think that just because women raised a voice for their
equality, when they were liberated by Guru Nanak Dev Ji many hundreds of years ago,
our Singh brothers in power think they know better. The leaders of the Khalsa
Panth are more ready to argue with their sisters and brothers, than to implement
the teachings of our Gurus. They are more concerned about power and politics
than they are about the Panth. It’s a shame.
It reminds me of a time when I sat in this futile conference that was a
complete waste of my time! I realized that my being a young Sikh woman with an
opinion actually was a threat to most of the men in that room. In fact, my being
the only women in that room was a threat to them, and I think most of them
would have preferred me to be making the tea they were sipping. I was furious that
only two of my Sikh brothers in the same room as me actually spoke to me and
the rest of the morning I was entertained by white politicians.
At the end of the conference, as I was driving home with my head pounding as
though I had a bad brass band playing inside my head, I realized that Sikh men
have still got to come to terms with the role that women now want to take on.
I am not tarnishing all Singhs with the same brush but it was awful to think t
hat some Singhs were so cold in character that they could not even support
their sisters. So I pondered on the thought, will activist Sikh women be
accepted? Or is our Kirpan simply for show?
Each time I hear of a sister being raped or read about it in yet another
article, my blood boils with anger. I find that I can’t think straight as the fury
takes over. Are women only objects? Sex objects? Is the role of a woman
limited to her pleasing the sexual needs of a man? A woman has many roles; even
before she is a woman she is human and, for heavens sake, surely deserves the
right to live a dignified life – a life where her body and sexual organs are not
the victims of this male dominated world.
A woman has many characteristics that contribute to her person, soul and
spirit. But that is ignored. When born, she will be seen as a daughter, then a
sister, then a wife, then a mother and then a grandmother. But never will she
have an image of her own. Why is it that a woman’s role in this world is
determined by her relationships with others and her responsibility to them?
Rape: an act that destroys a woman and defiles the body that carries her
soul. Oh, my God! Help my sisters. Writing this my heart sinks as I think that
husbands rape their wives, fathers their daughters and brothers their sisters. In
wars, women are raped, in places of worship women are raped, in streets women
are raped, in homes women are raped. What is all this? When will women be
free and their body not become their biggest disadvantage?
Has our Panth become so weak that we are playing blind to this atrocity?
Then we write about how awful it is that Sikh women are marrying non-Sikhs.
Have we ever understood the struggles of Sikh women? Have we ever asked her?
The women that Guru Nanak Dev Ji called so great, why have we ignored her?
I have sat in conference after conference and when asked ‘What is effecting
the Sikh community?’ I sit there, and unhesitatingly state the issues of
concern. Each time many elders look at me, disappointed that I have used the terms
‘sex’ and ‘women’ in the same sentence and for most that I have used the term
‘sex’ at all. Maybe we are not ready to face reality. So we live in our glass
houses waiting for a stone to be thrown and then we cry! Do we have to wait for
our own daughters to be raped before we raise a voice?
When I sit and speak to women about the issue, they glare at my
passion-filled face as though I am speaking a foreign language. Immediately, the passion
disappears. I am not asking for them to burn their bras, and I am not asking
them to become lesbians either. All I am asking is for them to support their
sisters. But still many of us are happy to conform to these patriarchal values
that suffocate us. Worse, they want me to conform to them.
At times I wonder: will I die from the suffocation of these values? Will my
thoughts on women’s liberation isolate me from my own kind? It reduces me to
tears that I know women that have seen other women being beaten to death and yet
they have never raised a voice. How must they live? Does their conscience not
As a Sikh it is my duty to battle against any oppression. As a woman I feel
obliged to fight against the abuses of women. I just don’t want the next
generation of Sikh girls to say, ‘What did you do? Did you just conform? Why didn’t
you fight?’ As I ask the women of the generation before mine. And feel bitter
that they have not paved the path to liberation.
However, I think Sikhs are not ready to offer their support and would rather
women accept patriarchal values, wrapped in what remains a theory of equality
based on the teachings of our Gurus.
Surely there must have been women who preferred rebellion and did not
conform. It’s a shame that we are not willing to accept the activist Kaurs amongst
us. Because, frankly, to have strong women would make a stronger Panth.