Modern and Youth Issues

What is the Sikh attitude towards abortion?

Abortion is a taboo. Deliberate miscarriage and abortion is forbidden.

There is a misconception amongst some Sikhs that the soul enters the body on 120th day. This belief is not supported by Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. According to Gurbani the soul dwells in the mother’s womb for 10 (Indian) months.

ਬਿੰਦੁ ਤੇ ਜਿਨਿ ਪਿੰਡੁ ਕੀਆ ਅਗਨਿ ਕੁੰਡ ਰਹਾਇਆ ॥
ਦਸ ਮਾਸ ਮਾਤਾ ਉਦਰਿ ਰਾਖਿਆ ਬਹੁਰਿ ਲਾਗੀ ਮਾਇਆ ॥੧॥
“The Lord created the body from sperm (of the father), and protected it in the fire pit (in the mother’s womb). For ten months He preserved you in your mother’s womb, and then, after you were born, (as result of forgetting God) you became attached to Maya. ||1||”
(Ang 481)

Unfortunately abortion is portrayed as a quick and easy process, however the reality of the operation is not covered. Abortion is not a benign procedure. It is the violent and unnatural destruction of a living human being. It not only harms the baby but psychologically impacts the mother.

It is common in Indian culture, to prefer the birth of boys over girls. As a result of this, families put pressure on women to abort females in pursuit of having boys. This is a great epidemic in particularly amongst the Panjabi community in India, however it is also practiced by people living abroad who will sometimes go back to India to have a sex scan if they are refused one in UK.

ਮਹਲਾ ੫ ॥
ਫਰੀਦਾ ਖਾਲਕੁ ਖਲਕ ਮਹਿ ਖਲਕ ਵਸੈ ਰਬ ਮਾਹਿ ॥
ਮੰਦਾ ਕਿਸ ਨੋ ਆਖੀਐ ਜਾਂ ਤਿਸੁ ਬਿਨੁ ਕੋਈ ਨਾਹਿ ॥੭੫॥
Fifth Mehl: Fareed, the Creator is in the Creation, and the Creation abides in God. Whom can we call low? There is none without Him. ||75||
(Ang 1381)

The Guru’s teachings strictly condemn female infanticide, and anyone who commits such an act becomes an apostate. Several directives have been issued by Sri Akaal Takht Sahib, the Sikh Supreme Authority, to stop pre-birth scanning to tell parents the sex of the child to ensure the rights of the child and the mother (who is usually bullied into an abortion).

ਕਬੀਰ ਜੀਅ ਜੁ ਮਾਰਹਿ ਜੋਰੁ ਕਰਿ ਕਹਤੇ ਹਹਿ ਜੁ ਹਲਾਲੁ ॥
ਦਫਤਰੁ ਦਈ ਜਬ ਕਾਢਿ ਹੈ ਹੋਇਗਾ ਕਉਨੁ ਹਵਾਲੁ ॥੧੯੯॥
“O Kabeer! They oppress living beings and kill them, and call it proper. When Vaheguru calls for their account, what will their condition be? ||199||”
(Ang 1375)

Governments and communities need to empower women by creating opportunities for them instead of blaming them for being a financial burden because of a son is considered a bread-winner who will eventually care for the parents. Also the social custom of dowry places families under intense pressure and burden. Worryingly, the rising wedding costs in India and in the Punjabi communities abroad has an effect on abortion and “dowry deaths.”

As the costs of a daughter’s marriage grow — the bride’s parents traditionally pay for the wedding, as well as some other costs of setting up the new couple — a long tradition of selective-sex abortions in favour of boys is proving tough to dislodge. This is particularly the case in northern India, in particular Panjab, home of the biggest weddings and also the biggest imbalance in the ratio of the sexes.

In January 2008, the Panjab government directed all district police chiefs to crack down on lavish weddings, but only if there’s a complaint from the girl’s side. This came in response to a query from the High Court that was hearing a PIL filed by an advocate, seeking stricter implementation of the Dowry Prohibition Act.

“Section 4 A” of the Act says:

* There should be no display of presents made at the time of marriage in the form of cash, ornaments, clothes or other articles.
* There should not be more than 25 members in a marriage party.
* Any form of shagun, money or gift exceeding the value of 11 rupees in not permitted.

Defaulters may be jailed for 6 months and even fined up to 5000 rupees.

The police said they will act promptly only if there’s a complaint. Though lavish weddings are quite common in the Panjab, only 25 complaints were registered from 2004-2007. The Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee has always been in favour of austere weddings, and in August 2007 the Delhi Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee made an appeal to this effect.

Police can certainly make a difference but then social awakening is the real solution to this problem.