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Women Made To Feel Inferior To Men


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Women Made To Feel Inferior To Men - The Underlying Issue

USA, New York -- The five person committee set up to advise the Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) on the right of Sikh women to undertake seva at Darbar Sahib will not be influenced by manipulation from anyone. This is the message conveyed in a telephonic interview by committee member Kharak Singh.

"The [seva] problem has to be solved on the basis of the Sikh principles of equality," said Singh.

Kharak Singh could not comment further because he did not have first hand knowledge of the Darbar Sahib management manipulating or pressurizing people to oppose the right of women to do seva.

News reports have stated that Darbar Sahib Manager, Ajaib Singh, and Raghbir Singh, Personal Assistant to the SGPC President, invited select women's groups to a meeting of the committee on May 8, 2003. About fifty to sixty women deposed to the SGPC that allowing kaar seva by women is against tradition.

One of the two Sikhs from the United Kingdom, who has been involved in the campaign to restore Sikh women's right to undertake Seva at the Darbar Sahib, Mejindarpal Kaur says that Ajaib Singh misled her by denying that he knew about the meeting or that he had invited any opposing Sikh women jathas to the meeting.

"He told me that the Press Reports are one hundred percent wrong," she said.

According to Kiranjot Kaur, Former General Secretary of the SGPC, the women now opposing the right of Sikh women to do seva had earlier agreed to support women's rights.

"I believe that these women have subsequently been pressured by the Darbar Sahib management to say at the meeting that Sikh women should not be allowed to do certain seva," she said.

Emphasizing that this is not a numbers game, Kharak Singh responds, "Even if there is any element of manipulation, it will have no effect on the final decision because the problem has to be solved on its merits."

When asked if the committee has reviewed the petitions by Sikh individuals and organisations worldwide for allowing seva, Kharak Singh said that he had seen the petitions and "they certainly could not be ignored." But, he reiterated, the decision will be made "largely on principle."

"Supporters on both sides of the issue are responsible for manipulating opinions," says Singh.

New York based human rights group, Voices For Freedom, has provided the SGPC with a list of the Sikh organisations worldwide that support women's right to seva, the SGPC stated simply that certain individuals and organisations have opposed the issue but has refused to name them or give their numbers.

"There are no restrictions in the Sikh doctrine on women's rights," stresses Kharak Singh. The issue before the committee is an administrative one. "We have to find ways to solve the practical problems."

The 'practical problems' are:

Time - The Sukhasan seva is performed at night, which may not be convenient for women.

Weight - The palki carried during the Sukhasan seva may be too heavy for women to handle.

Crowd - There is a lot of jostling among the men who are present to do the seva. Not a good situation for women to be in.

Long-standing ownership - Those who currently do the seva have come to feel that it is their right and they do not want to give it up.

Modesty - Ishnaan seva in the Darbar Sahib, after the Guru Granth Sahib is removed for sukhasan, is done by men in their keccheras, which women will not be expected to do.

Qualification - Keertan seva by a women's jatha (all women or mixed) is possible only when it qualifies under the same requirements as men's jathas.

"The social setup is different here," says Kiranjot Kaur, "People are bound by traditions and women, especially the older or uneducated ones, feel that they are inferior to men."

Although the women in Punjab have not been able to make a stand on the issue themselves, they blame the women from abroad for creating trouble. Kaur says that the younger generation has the awareness to make the change.

"The same situation happened with the approval of the Nanakshahi calendar," commented Kaur.

In a separate interview, author of the Nanakshahi calendar Pal Singh remarked, "The very people who opposed the calendar are now opposed to the women's seva issue. Although the SGPC approved the Nanakshahi calendar five years ago, it took that long for it to be implemented. This is now happening with the women's seva issue."

A final report is to be submitted by the committee on May 15, 2003.

With contributions by Voices For Freedom and Anju Kaur.

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