Women and Sikhism: Lessons from Guru Nanak

“From women kings are born. From women the whole society maintains its strength. So how can you call any woman bad?”

Sikh teacher Shanti Kaur is bringing new attention to the roles of women in modern society and how those roles conflict with the spiritual lessons from prominent figures in her religion. One of the problems that are faced worldwide by women is there is a pervasive belief that they are somehow less than men, even in India, where Sikhism is very prominent.

According to Shanti Kaur, Sikhism should not allow for the maltreatment of women or the oppressive of them into the margins of society. Based on the teachings of Guru Nanak, women are just as valuable in all aspects of being as men. There are some things that women do that men cannot, representing both the necessity of female empowerment and demonstrating their innate value.

Kaur paraphrased a lesson from Guru Nanak “From women kings are born. From women the whole society maintains its strength. So how can you call any woman bad?”

The ability to give birth to new life is unique to women, so it only makes sense that they are deserving of the same reverence and celebration that men do. However, women are still underrepresented in many facets of society and religion. While many countries have women in leadership positions, there are far fewer in such positions than there are men. The same can be said about religion, where women are often relegated to lower stations rather than leadership.

In the present day, strides are made all the time to improve the representation of women both in society and religion. However, this is only in the Sikh community and not the larger of the nation in which the women reside. For example, in many Sikh societies in India, women are granted leadership roles, preside over the reading of scripture, and vote for the governing council Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, which manages the Sikh places of worship in sections of India.

All in all, it would seem that other societies and religions should look to the Sikhs as an exemplar of what they could be. While Sikh women are not always treated equally, they have made tremendous strides, all starting with the idea that the soul of a woman is the same as a mans. Both are deserving of the same respect as the other, in all matters of life.

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