Manleen Kaur: Dear Akaal Takht, We Need Sexual Abuse Safeguarding Procedures At Our Gurdwaras

After hearing various testimonies from women all around the world regarding sexual abuse in Sikh-run institutions, I have come to the decision to write to the Akaal Takht. 

Manleen Kaur
July 21, 2021 | 4 min. read | Opinion

After hearing various testimonies from women all around the world regarding sexual abuse in Sikh-run institutions, I have come to the decision to write to the Akaal Takht. 

There is a lot of rightful anger on social media and elsewhere as cases of abuse have been brought to the Sangat’s attention. What we need now is action. 

These various testimonies have acted as a catalyst in my decision to put together a team to write a letter requesting Hukams, that speak to the Sangat’s concerns, be ordained worldwide. 

After tweeting out my intentions, I have had such an overwhelming response from a lot of our major Sikh groups and institutions and their input will be invaluable. 

This decision was not taken lightly. 

From a lawyer’s perspective, we have no or very limited physical proof to these accusations, but then on the other hand we have some heart-breaking survivors testimonies. I inherently believe that the solution lays in the future prevention of abuse.

I do not believe we should 'brush it under the rug and stay hush'.

I also understand that our Guru Ghar have a reputation to uphold, however, we must still become proactive in recognising that there is a problem. Only then can we begin to talk about solutions. 

Guru Ghar is the one place where protection is to be expected and it is paramount that the Sangat receives it. The harsh reality is nothing may potentially arise from investigations into previous cases of alleged abuses that have occurred in our institutions. However, steps may be taken to prevent the same abuse from happening in the future.

These Hukams that will be requested will be the beginning of the application of much-needed safeguarding procedures that Gurdware will be ordained to follow. 

The main body of these would be suggestions like:

Committees should consist of an equal number of women as there are men. This is of utmost importance as a lot of these alleged abuses have occurred when women have entered the institutions seeking help. It is only appropriate that there are female committee members there to aid women who may be considered vulnerable. It is about time that that the panth is represented by our Kaurs. There is no reason why women cannot step up and commit to this, it seems like nowadays Sikh girls are just raised to be wives and mothers of the Khalsa panth rather than an equal part of the panth itself. It should be ruled that a committee cannot be formed unless there are women involved.

Another safeguarding procedure will be the fact that any person that will host any sort of class/santhiya should be subjected to background criminal checks and have passed a character reference signed and agreed by the Panj Pyaare. I understand that not everyone that is hired can be subjected to these, however, it is paramount that the people who will be having direct contact with children and women, in particular, be of sound nature and character. 

Furthermore, in order to monitor safety in the halls, funds must also go towards buying appropriate CCTV equipment. The contents of which may be accessible to everyone should they choose to view it. The technology is certainly available, and we all know so are the funds.

If, however, all these safeguarding procedures fail it should be made clear that any allegation is to be recorded and the committee is to take accountability accordingly in front of the Panj Pyaare and/or Sangat to accept responsibility. 

The accused should be bought before the Akaal Takht if found guilty and only after accepting and going through with their punishment, should they be allowed to serve in a Gurdwara again. 

There should be counselling made available by real therapists for anyone who has come forward, whether it has been proven true or false. 

These basic preventative safeguarding measures should be placed in order to avoid beadbi in our own sacred spaces and protect the vulnerable. It will also act as a deterrent for anyone who may consider straying.

We need to put out the fire in our own home before we start focusing on external threats. This will strengthen our community and it is the perfect way to rebuild some bridges of faith that have been destroyed. 

We should be encouraging the vulnerable to walk towards Sikhi in their time of need and become a part of a bigger, stable, and stronger Sangat. Not being pushed away by cases of abuse fueled by a lack of empathy and action.

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Manleen Kaur obtained her LLB and LLM in Business Law and International Business Law and is currently working in the corporate sector. She is also the host of 'Kisaani Haqq' which is aired on the Sikh Channel every Wednesday at 9 pm. All of the recent episodes can also be found on YouTube. You can follow her on Twitter at @morniye_.


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