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Women & Gender in Sikhi

State of the Panth, Report 9

Tuesday
,
25
April
2023

Women & Gender in Sikhi

State of the Panth, Report 9

Tuesday
,
25
April
2023
State of the Panth
Gender Equality
Sikh Panth
Guru Nanak
Feminism
⟵ Back to articles

Women & Gender in Sikhi

State of the Panth, Report 9

Tuesday
,
25
April
2023

Women’s issues and the issues of gender as it applies to all gender identities are being grappled with globally. These issues have existed throughout history, and as time goes on, they change shape.

Women’s issues and the issues of gender as it applies to all gender identities are being grappled with globally. These issues have existed throughout history, and as time goes on, they change shape. Those who identify as women are using their voices to bring awareness to issues that matter to them, but every community has a long way to go.

How did the Sikh Gurus address women’s issues?

How did they frame or reframe gender?

Regarding women’s and gender issues within the Panth (Sikh collective) today, why is there a disparity between precept and practice, and how do we close that gap?

This report aims to understand and explore Sikh conceptions of women and gender, responses to gender- based inequality and oppression, and framings of masculinity. The report explores the topics of women and gender from a Gurmat (or Guru’s Way) perspective, as inferred from Bani (wisdom), Tavarikh (history), and Rahit (lifestyle).

The Bani section delves into when and how women are generally invoked in primary sources regarding cultural norms that subjugate them, when and how specific women are invoked, and what vocabulary is used to refer to them. It also explores how the feminine voice is used in Bani, what Bani says about the masculine, and what Bani says about gender. The Tavarikh section explores what Sikh history can tell us about how women were perceived in the larger culture versus within the Panth, how the Gurus addressed the treatment of women in the larger culture, and which women took on public leadership roles in the Guru and post-Guru periods. The Rahit section explores what Sikh codes of conduct say about women and gender and how these codes translate into action. It also offers an overview of current global lived realities by focusing on India and the top five diasporic Sikh communities worldwide.

A global survey included in the report was responded to by more than 689 self-identified Sikhs from 21 different countries. Its purpose was to gain insights into how Sikhs worldwide understand gender equality, masculinity, and feminism within Sikh frameworks and in their own relationships with their gender identity. The majority of respondents (86%) understand that women and men may be the same or different, but they are equal with no gender-specific roles. An even greater majority of respondents (89%) believe that feminist advocacy is not anti-Sikh, meaning that the majority of respondents believe Sikhi and feminist advocacy are not at odds with one another. The majority of respondents (52%) still think on some level within the binary but nevertheless showed an understanding of gender as a socially constructed category. An overwhelming majority of respondents (96%) believe that all Sikhs, regardless of gender identity, are responsible for addressing women and gender issues, pointing to an understanding of these issues as a Panthic problem that requires the cooperation and investment of the Panth to solve.

This report makes recommendations based on Gurmat that can be used by individuals and institutions to understand Sikh conceptions of women and gender better and to address disparities in precept and practice.

Download the report below.

Revised:

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Women & Gender in Sikhi - Report

This report aims to understand and explore Sikh conceptions of women and gender, responses to gender- based inequality and oppression, and framings of masculinity. The report explores the topics of women and gender from a Gurmat (or Guru’s Way) perspective, as inferred from Bani (wisdom), Tavarikh (history), and Rahit (lifestyle).

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Women & Gender in Sikhi - Report

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Women & Gender in Sikhi - Raw Data

A global survey included in the report was responded to by more than 689 self-identified Sikhs from 21 different countries. Its purpose was to gain insights into how Sikhs worldwide understand gender equality, masculinity, and feminism within Sikh frameworks and in their own relationships with their gender identity.

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Women & Gender in Sikhi - Raw Data

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Written By

Senior Fellow, Research & Policy

Harinder Singh is the Senior Fellow at the Sikh Research Institute. He holds a BS in Aerospace Engineering from Wichita State University, an MS in Engineering Management from the University of Kansas, and an MPhil from Punjab University in the linguistics of the Guru Granth Sahib. 

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Research Associate

Jasleen Kaur is a Research Associate at the Sikh Research Institute. She has received a Religious Studies B.A./M.A. from the University of Virginia, focusing on South Asian Religions through the lens of literature and poetry.

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