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.