My answer to this question, whether I look at it from my Dutch or my Sikh perspective, is a resounding YES ! From a sub-continental point of view the question is more challenging. The two main religions or dharms on the sub-continent have a rich tradition of treating women as second class, as creatures to be ruled by men.
Sikhí is firmly based on the unity of mankind, but I have seen inequality being practised by Sikhs in Panjab and to a lesser degree here in the UK. I also find that English society is less equal in many respects than what I am used to in the Netherlands. This does not mean that they get everything right in my country of origin !
Guru’s teachings are wonderful. It is obvious from Gurbaní that Guru sees all creation, all creatures as coming from God, and that therefore we should respect all creation. Judging by Gurbaní Sikhs are way ahead of Panjabi, western, Hindu or Ibrahimic ‘teachings’.
The other day I went to two interfaith meetings. At the first meeting I met a female Anglican priest, who was treated by her two male colleagues as an absolute equal. That same day in another meeting I met a female vicar of the United Reformed Church. Both ladies were better educated than the majority of our granthis and were very comfortable in the company of people of other faiths.
A few years ago I attended a meeting regarding the Muslim school in Slough. The committee that was to decide on the school could not come to a decision and the case for a Muslim school was brought before an adjudicator.
The hall was full, partly with the Muslim variety of our greybeards, but there was a good presence of young Muslim women, many of them in hijáb. The men did what South Asian men are good at, they disagreed and launched personal attacks on each other.
The young Muslim women spoke good English, and formulated their contributions well. If it had not been for them the case of the Slough Islamic School might have been lost.
I am not saying that all Muslims and Christians are right and all Sikhs are wrong. In Sikhí we are on firm ground when we speak out for ‘One God, One Humanity’. But I am disappointed when I see that we are overtaken by Christians, Jews and Muslims when it comes to practising equality.
Please let us concentrate on getting our own house in order and let us practice equality between men and women, between all !