Sikhi Is Part of the Solution: Ending Gendercide

Gendercide is a well-known problem in India. The BBC and ABC 20/20 have highlighted this issue. The low sex-ratio in Punjab, India shows how the soil, which gave birth to Sikhi is not devoid of this problem. The land on which our Gurus proclaimed the equality of women when others considered her impure has now become the dumping ground for unwanted baby girls. Their pure bodies are thrown onto piles of garbage for dogs to nibble away. Dead fetuses are stuffed into water wells.

A seminal research study conducted by Monica Das Gupta on selective discrimination against female children in Punjab states that Punjabi Sikh women are highly educated and well-treated in Punjab compared to other states. The harsh reality is that a rise in status has not changed the value of women. Women can be loved and cared for, but still under valued. They can be highly educated and treated well, but families want one of these daughters not two. But two sons would be okay. The value of daughters and sons is displayed when couples develop family-building strategies. How many children to have? If we have one daughter or two, will we be content with another daughter? Should we have only one son? Studies show that common answers to these questions are strongly rooted in a distorted value system, which reinforces the secondary status of women and allows for structures to be created to perpetuate this inequity. Thus, value systems and structures produce a circular cycle of mutually reinforcing each other.

The Sikh Gurus gifted us a value system that does not permit this secondary status of women. However, many have chosen not to implement it in their lives. It has even seeped its way into how Sikhi is practiced. Women are not allowed to do all kinds of seva at the Harmandar Sahib and our granthis/ragis kathaa most often highlight how a Sikh woman went to the Guru to request only a son.

If Sikhi is a key element to any solution for gendercide within the Punjabi Sikh community, wouldnt kathaa/sikhyaa in the Gurdwara be the most logical place to start? We do enter the house of our Guru to understand and reinforce our Sikh value system.

On a recent Sunday, I was delightfully surprised and humbled to hear the principal of a Sikh academy in Anandpur Sahib highlight the issue of female feticide as his students sang in a keertan darbar. It was that transitional space between shabads. One had been completed and another one was about to begin. He began with Sikh history. In a calm, steady, and matter of fact way he beautifully and concisely articulated how a Mughal badshah would create havoc in Punjab. He would steal everything that had been cultivated by Punjabis throughout the year. The next year he would return to another bounty, which he would steal again. He asked one of his intellectuals to write a report on how the Punjabis were able to cultivate rich harvest each year after he had taken everything they had. The report concluded that the key element was Punjabs daughter. She is very strong and resilient. Her ability to bring all those disheartened by the Mughal badshahs actions and inspire them to cultivate the land again is very powerful. The principal then ended that today we are killing this sincere source of strength and inspiration in her mothers womb. As daughter killers, we are moving away from our Sikh value system rather than closer to it. He ended by reiterating that we should embrace the principles given to us by our Gurus. And another beautiful shabad began.

The entire sangat was captivated. I believe the emotional and spiritual state created by beautifully sung keertan helps the sangat become open and reflective about our Sikh-based value system. It is the perfect opportunity to discuss social issues related to how we practice these values. Why? Because keertan is when we are intimately reminded of what kind of value system our Gurus gifted us. The beauty of keertan lies in its ability to kiss, hug, and gently slap us into remembering who our Gurus wanted Sikhs to be.

This reflection and implementation of Sikh values can lead to powerful forms of change to address gendercide. Prakash Kaur has created immediate change through Unique Home for Girls. Along with the support of female volunteers, she rescues unwanted baby girls and gives them a unique home full of love, care, and inspiration. Prakash Kaur is a courageous woman, who was an abandoned daughter, and has become a mother and father to over 60 unwanted baby girls. She is an amritdhari woman who found empowerment/inspiration through Sikhi to do this seva. She did not wait for change to happen. She helped create change.

Prakash Kaur tells Priyanka Rai, Yeh uparwaale ka kaam hai. Jab ussney yeh zimmedaari di hai to himmat bhi wohi dega. Jab aaj tak mujhe koi mushkil nahin aayee to aagey bhi nahin aayegi. Neki key kaam mein kabhi koi rukawat nahin aati.

Rai writes, But living space is the least of the homes problems for the hearts here are big. This is like a huge family where the older girls take care of the younger ones. We are told by the founder that the girls go to good English medium schools like Saint Marys in Mussoorie. A few have since been married into suitable homes. But Prakash Kaurs responsibility does not end there. She continues to keep a watch over the girls even after they are married. She fights for their rights if the in-laws prove to be difficult.

You can watch more about her work below [Go to 04:15]. [The entire video of Part 2 of the 20/20 special is worth watching.]

 

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Gender inequity, particularly female feticide is a value-based issue. It happens in Punjab and the United States. It sees no class or educational levels. People often turn to faith for values. Then why not make Sikhi part of the solution?


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55 Responses to “Sikhi Is Part of the Solution: Ending Gendercide”

  1. sjsrana says:

    Right now SIKHS are FORCED to MARRY under HINDU MARRIAGE ACT, having SIKH marriage ACT shall wipe-off GENDERCIDE,
    http://members.beforeitsnews.com/story/1032/421/P
    @sjsrana – twitter

  2. Is there kantay says:

    The preference for boys, or of not having girls is probably multiply determined. The kinds of people who in this day would actually kill a living child are deviant. Are you suggesting the punjabi community in Punjab and North America are fostering that level of deviancy and that we as a whole are basically the equivalent of Germans under the third reich? How else can you interpret the apparent thesis that we are now seeing widespread systems of belief that condone the killing of living children to be left to be eaten by wild animals? Is any level of hyperbole acceptable ostensibly to shock people into awareness? Anyone killing a living child has committed a crime. They need to be charged and tried. Is abortion a crime? Is abortion gendercide? If indeed there are people out there who would actually commit feoticide they are so far outside the pale that I do not think those people occupy the same community as the people I know by several tens of degrees. There is absolutely no way anyone could comprehensibly justify such behavior in any way that would be within the realm of what I know as the Sikh community.

  3. Is there kantay says:

    Or several tens of millions of degrees. An infinite number. There is no justification of such an act. There could never be. That should not be hard to get across. Do many people need a long exigesis before they could see that?

    If, however, you're referring to the use of sex selective abortion, but isn't that different but appalling and sad in its way? Is abortion genocide, or gendercide?

  4. Gender Kaur says:

    Great article–Sikhi should (and easily could) be part of the solution!

    I don't understand some of the comments though. Yes, male preference is "multiply determined." But judging people won't help the problem. These high rates of gendercide (which will become genocide once there are no women (or men) left) are a consequence of larger social dynamics that are more complicated than wanting to kill a baby or not (obviously, most people would choose not, if that was the only question).

    To understand why this is happening, you have to look at what being a male and female in the current culture means. Most people assume this is an economic choice, but studies show that poorer families actually treat their children with more equality than middle class or wealthy families do. Besides the obvious–a female brings dowry and the possibility of "dishonor" if she isn't sheltered/controlled until you have to pay someone to take her, and a male brings a retirement plan, another generation with the same last name (to keep the family property/wealth within the family), and no possibility of dishonor–because these span the entire economic spectrum. Maybe educated, wealthy women were the first to realize that the quality of life for women is much lower than men, even when they have education and money; and maybe they didn't want to bring another slave into this world?

    To really understand why anyone would make such a decision, you have to look at gender inequality and how this plays out in our families, culture, and religion. And in regards to creating lasting change, men are most influential in our culture and religion; they need to come together, learn about gender inequality and pass it on to each other, to families, to their sangat, to the gurdwaras, to the world. You have a lot of work to do boys, but you have some amazing men to look up to and learn from :) Get on with it.

  5. RS Sandhu says:

    This is why we need a Khalistan. This is the only way we can remove negative Hindu influence on our land and culture. Sikhism promotes equality amongst all, regardless of race, religion or gender. Hindus treat women like dirt, and even throw their bodies away for dogs to nibble at. If we let this continue, there will not be any women left in Punjab. Either the rest of India adapt Sikhism and understand the beauty our religion has to offer, or we must separate from India and protect humanity.

    Khalistan is the answer to end gendercide and abortions.

  6. sjsrana says:

    Misguided youths are never told the FACT/TRUTH that its DELHI that leads the india nation in GENDERCIDE, question more don't just follow them blindly and loose your souls to DEVIL.

    India's Capital 'Delhi' might be leading the nation in reduction of female child http://members.beforeitsnews.com/story/177/660/In

    So now you know the crux of problem!
    @sjsrana – twitter

  7. Blighty Singh says:

    Having wasted many a minute here posting posts only to receive multiple thumbs downs…I fear in articulating what I feel are the obvious flaws in the messages on this thread. Instead, I shall content myself by giving you all a reminder of a few facts and then let you yourselves figure out what my message may be……even to the extent of implying that – in contrast to the title of the thread – it may well be 'Sikhi', and the gender equality it prescribes, that is the problem.
    Fact # 1 : Gendercide does not exist in the worldwide Sikh diaspora. It exists only in Punjab.
    Fact # 2 : Most of the Sikhs in Punjab are agriculturalists….whose mere existence depends on land.
    Fact # 3 : Nearly, if not all, cases of gendercide involving sikhs occur in rural agricultural areas.
    Fact # 4 : Relatively recent Indian Laws which, although sit happily with us overseas Sikhs and perfectly compatible with Sikhi – Laws which give equal rights to land to daughters whether married or not – are a death sentence to the Sikh that exists and subsides purely on the ownership of land.

    (Make of it what you will my friends but I suggest you look into our own English / American / Canadian history of property / land law and our english common law concept of trust and equity. Do this and you will have a better understanding of the situation in Punjab today)

  8. Is there kantay says:

    One article which is only available in abstract as provided and one YouTube video. That is only persuasive to people who already have the answer and want to ensure that the obviousness of the matter is accepted by all.

  9. is there kantay says:

    Hopefully beyond argument you see that I'm trying to develop a point of view here.

    One, that stopping an act that is wrong can be done by saying that and having others back it up.

    Two, that stopping an act by transforming a society by way of changing phenomena that may or may not be measurable, fully knowable, or not entirely obvious is not always the choice everyone will take.

  10. is there kantay says:

    I believe caste-ism is rampant because it serves the interest of some of those who support and perpetuate it. And also because the attempt to end caste-ism has focused erroneously on removing the mention of historical facts such as that jats exist. There is too much cognitive dissonance needed to simply just ignore that categories such as "jat" exist. To me that has been the goal of present-day reform in this area. Simply never mention the word "jat" and that means there is no caste-ism.

    Caste-ism is pernicious in the way bias is pernicious. It will never be eradicated in my opinion. It is one of the ways humankind is flawed. Not that we should engineer a purging of society of this phenomenon, because that would not be possible, and if attempted would have consequences beyond the control of the revolutionary movement trying to bring it about.

    Look more closely at Banda Singh Bahadur's campaigns in Punjab. They were more akin to the French Revolution on my first impression than they were to anything like the movement in the Guru's time.

  11. is there kantay says:

    And actually at this point I think I've developed to my satisfaction an explanation of my critique of ideological underpinnings I perceive at TLH. From here on out its just going to be a variation on a theme. Or as you put it rabble rabble progressive? rabble rabble left rabble rabble. I actually agree that at this point its just repetition. I've put it out there and people can make of it what they will.

  12. savedaughters19 says:

    After the program on ABC 20/20, American citizens have started these petitions.
    Please Sign and forward this petition to all your friends. Also if possible , please post it on Facebook,blog etc.
    Thanks
    http://gendercide.epetitions.net/ http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/a-mothers-figh

  13. Beginning of December, a program aired on ABC 20/20 about India’s deadly secret. It was about 40 million girls who have vanished. All aborted before they could take their first breath. Their crime was that they were girls. As you know the gender ratios is India are terribly skewed about 914 girls per 1,000 boys. In Punjab it is about 833 girls per1,000 boys.

    Unfortunately this happens amongst the privileged and the educated also. The only woman who has brought cases against her in-laws and husband is Dr Mitu Khurana. Please watch her story (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/women-pregnant-girls-pressured-abortions-india/story?id=15103950#.TuI_T3qGDy0)

    and sign her petition for justice. Please give those 40 million girls silenced forever, a voice. Please forward this to as many friends as possible.

    http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/a-mothers-figh

    http://gendercide.epetitions.net/

    After you sign the petition, there will be a request from the site for a donation. This donation is totally discretionary and does not in any way or form affect or benefit Dr Mitu Khurana. All she is asking for is your support (signing this petition) so that pressure can be put on the Indian authorities that the whole world is watching them in total disbelief as they make a young mother run around in vain for four years in search of justice.

  14. Blighty Singh says:

    "Beginning of December, a program aired on ABC 20/20 about India's deadly secret. It was about 40 million girls who have vanished. All aborted before they could take their first breath. Their crime was that they were girls"

    ^ Thats all very well but……percentage wise, far far more babies have vanished from the tummy's of girls in London and Paris in the same period. All aborted before they could take their first breath. Their crime was that mummy wasn't quite ready to stop drinking and partying all night yet.

    I think the 'petition' you speak of will find no support from uk sikhs as a whole. We live in a continent where christianity doesn't exist to any meaningful level so do not have these hang ups about abortion. It is the free choice of the mother and father whether or not they wish to have or not have their baby. Not the choice of some anti-abortion zealot in California.
    Be careful what you wish for. If you clamp down on abortions in Punjab it will leaed to the old days of back street abortions with metal coat hangers. This time, not only will the featus die but so will the mum.

  15. Blighty Singh says:

    (message split into 2 parts – message 1) :
    Wow……so I get minus 3 points for pointing out how Sikh soldiers fighting Jerry in the trenches of France and Belgium during WW1 said the same thing I did…i.e that the solution to ending gendercide in Punjab was to stop lavish spending on weddings and parties etc.
    Anyway….I should have realised by now how badly read most of you are.
    May I suggest then you invest in one of the most interesting books I have read in recent years. The book is called 'Indian Voices of the Great War : Soldiers Letters 1914-18', by David Omissi.
    Fascinating reading for many reasons. Namely, because it shows how much the young Sikhs then were like the Sikhs today. Many of the letters are very sexual and go into explicit detail about encounters with French women. And many detail the extent of drug abuse among the Sikhs. Also interesting is the way in which loyalty to the British Crown was part of the Amrit ceremony. However, as per this thread, as I stated in the last message, many letters refer to the way the lavish wasting of money in Punjabi / Sikh society is to blame for the infantacide of female babies. Here's just a small selection :

    (572) Ressaidar Bishan Singh to Choudari Dobi Dyal (Jullunder) 28th Aug. 1917 :
    "My prayer to you is that you will give up your foolish customs and extravagant expenses, and if you love your country will get others to follow you example. All our eyes have been opened since we came to this country. There are no beggars and no poor here. The country produces less than ours. Why then are they so much richer? Because they do not waste money on marriages, funerals and birth ceremonies, and do not put jewellery on their children. The children in India go about in ragged, torn clothes and eat bread made of gram, and yet when they are married we spend thousands of rupees on the ceremony. Then comes the money lender with his decree and attaches the property, and we go out and wander about in search of employment to keep us alive. What we have to do is educate our children, and if we do not we are fools, and our children will be fools also. Give up bad customs and value your girls as much as boys."

    (655) Ishar Singh to Jassu Singh in Ludhiana – 4th March 1918:

    "Do not worry yourself thinking as to how you are to marry the girls. I ask you, why are girls brought into this world? Consider, both girls and boys are brought into the world, and if the girls are neglected or killed off, these families that have boys had better kill them off too! ….Both are of the same value in God’s eyes, and one should devote the same amount of care to their bringing up, and should treat them in precisely the same way"

    (656) Teja Singh (2nd lancers) to Ganga Singh in Sialkot – 6th March 1918 : " If God spares me to return I intend to start new customs. Look, in our country people ruin themselves over marriage . In this country rich and poor, high and low, go to church together and worship, and there is no distinction between them there. In this country, moreover, people never spend money unnecessarily. In our country, the fools of people spend money for show and they ruin themselves over marriages . This is all due to ignorance. The very best custom in this country is that a man chooses his own wife, and a women her own husband, and there are no disagreements and troubles after marriage. The same custom used to obtain in our country formerly; but later it was set aside by the intrigues of the Brahmins"

    (334)
    Dafadar Teja Singh (9th Hodson’s Horse) to Sirdar Sadu Singh (NWFP) – 26TH June 1916 :
    "As regards marriage, there is affection first between the two parties, who are never less than 18 years of age. After marriage there in never any discord between husband and wife. No man here has the authority to beat his wife. Such injustices occurs in India only. Husband and wife dwell together here in unity"

    (448) Dafadar Ranjit Singh to Prem in Rohtak District, Panjab – 26th Nov. 1916 :
    "Grandfather dear, I understand these things perfectly well, though they are still hidden from my revered elders. I know well that a women in our country is of no more value than a pair of shoes and this is the reason why the people are low on the scale. You educated Ramjas, and got him a situation, but you never thought of educating any of the girls. You said to yourself: “Ramjas will be able to help me in my old age, but the girls will get married and leave the house and will not be able to do anything for me.” I should like to write to my wife but she would have to get the letters read by somebody else and all the home secrets would come out. When I look at Europe I bewail the lot of India. In Europe everyone man, women, boy and girl is educated. The men are at the war and the women are doing the work. They write to their husbands and get their answers. You ought to educate your girls as well as your boys and our prosperity will be the better for it"

  16. Blighty Singh says:

    message 2 : Now, I've said it before I'll say it again. I live simply and give any excess to my people back home. I live in a small 3 bedroom terraced (row) house. Its big enough for my young family. In Punjab we have modernised without extending. We consciously made an effort not to deliberately show off and make our fellow villagers aspire to something that is unattainable. When I got married my one and only stipulation was that we should set the right example to our people and have a very small wedding with very little expenditure.
    Like it or not, Punjab's culture is all about keeping up with the Jones' (or keeping up with the Sidhus and Dhillons). Due to what YOU do there is pressure to spend. And spending what you don't have is to borrow. By far the biggest of these expenditures is on the daughters. Each of YOU is directly to blame for the gendercide. Making threads about it and stating how much you don't like it is just a way of making you feel good about yourself.

  17. Blighty Singh says:

    ^ The above message was in 2 parts. Message 2 appeared but message 1, as usual, said my messages must be approved by an administrator before it appears. Message 2 makes no sense without the first part of the message. So please admins, either get rid of both of put up message 1.
    I'm actually getting quite sick of all this. Of all my messages only 50% make it, for no good reason at all.
    Lets just wait and see if message 1 makes it past the taliban censors. They don't like books. Message 1 is simply exerts of letters (from a book) written by Sikhs in France to their folk in Punjab about gendercide from the period 1914 – 1918.

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