In Panjab quite a few ‘Sikhs’ have adopted the ‘scan and abort’ method to prevent the birth of daughters. We also still lose girls through honour killings, but there is another less violent way in which we lose girls from the Sikh community.
Most Panjabi parents keep treating their daughters different from their sons. Daughters are asked to make a contribution to running the house. There is nothing wrong with that, but why not put the same discipline on boys ? Many parents leave their boys maximum freedom and impose too much discipline on their daughters.
This has disastrous results. The girls rightly wonder how this behaviour can be justified by parents who are the followers of the Guru who teaches that we are all equal regardless of gender, caste, creed, social status etc. But girls also profit. The discipline that they are used to makes them better students in schools and universities and better performers in the workplace.
The boys fall behind, they are the little gods that V S Naipul writes about even if they are not making any contribution to the household or if they make a mess of their studies. Even in the UK very few of the young men are ‘enlightened’. Their behaviour at home is not much better than what I came across in Panjab. Giving orders to mother and sisters in a rude manner seems quite normal to them.
I have met young Sikh women in the UK and in continental Europe who want to be the Guru’s daughters, who want to live a Gursikh Life, but who are totally fed up with the archaic patriarchal Sikh community, who are still way behind Guru Nanak who was born in 1469.
They want to respect their elders, their fathers, husbands and brothers, all they expect is to be also respected by them. They want freedom and responsibility, they also want space to learn by making their own mistakes.
They have no problem with making a contribution to the household, they love serving others, but they do not want to be servants while the males are the lords and masters. The girls and young women I am talking about are either amritdhari or are working towards it.
They have the guts to wear the Guru’s rúp, the 5 Ks and the dastar, but they are treated without respect and trust. The rules for women that most Panjabi Sikhs want to impose on their wives and daughters have very little to do with Guru’s teachings, they agree with a very archaic and unjust aspect of Panjabi culture.
Why should young women want to join a group where they are treated as second class ? Why is it so difficult to treat girls and women with real respect ? We should start looking for good Sikhs, regardless of age and gender. I am 64 year old and male, but I do not think that old men like me know all and should be the only ones in authority. Why do people think that Sikhs should be social conservatives ?