#MeTooSikh: Why Sikhs need to confront sexual abuse within our community too

24th October 2020   •   opinion
Credit: Kaur Voices
by Jasvir Kaur Rababan MBE

I am a British-born Panjabi Sikh and a survivor of sexual abuse and sexual violence. I have experienced this violence several times throughout my life within the Panjabi and Sikh spaces.

I was not able to speak up before but learning the magnitude of the problem I realised that I cannot stay silent any longer.

Last week Kaur Voices, which I founded, started a #MeTooSikh / #ChupToro discussion on social media, which attracted a lot of support, attention and questions.

Here is why I think raising these issues is so important.

What issue are we raising?


Sexual abuse and violence in the Sikh and Panjabi community. Within families, social circles and in the religious spaces (Gurdwaras).

Why are you raising this issue?


We need to break the silence on this topic, which has thus far been taboo, and never really raised in most Panjabi or Sikh spaces.

Enough is enough, the abuse and injustices have gone on for long enough. We need to stop these atrocities from continuing and build better systems for our young people and our communities.

What do we want to see happen?


Justice. Reform. Healing. Education.
SAFE GURDWARAS.

I would like there to be policies and active training at Gurdwaras across the world to safeguard young and vulnerable people from such incidents.

The Gurdwara is a community hub where families and the entire community flock for solace and spiritual connection. It is negligent to allow these spaces to operate without active measures and educate people so they stay safe.

Won't this portray Sikhs in a negative light among the wider public?


This isn’t about painting anyone in a negative light. It’s about doing the right thing and supporting victims to seek justice and healing as well as holding perpetrators accountable.

This is about acknowledging how widespread the issue of sexual violence is within our homes, society and community.

It’s not my choice who the predators are, they are the ones who choose to wear the Sikhi saroop, therefore it’s not on me to paint them in any light, they choose where they stand when they dress like a Sikh of the Guru and taint the sacred Baana with their ill mind and disgusting actions. I am not responsible for the negative projection on the Sikh community, they are. My role is to highlight the truth

Is sexual abuse really that common?


Yes!

It exists within the home, within family and friends spaces and within the Gurdwara.

The majority of victims are female although there are male victims too. This is not common knowledge simply because women talk to women, they do not share trauma of abuse with the gender who inflicted the abuse. Women know how widespread this issue is because we experience it first hand.

I have been in plenty of Gurdwara spaces where the men older than my father and choose to stare blatantly at my chest as I’m addressing them as ‘uncle’. They have no shame in how they lust over you through their eyes. Many of them have free reign over the women and young people who enter the Gurdwara. There is no accountability, no training, no safe guarding no DBS checks, NOTHING!

If this is such a big issue why haven’t people come forward before?


The culture is too vast and far too unforgiving to allow women and victims to be seen or heard, let alone seek justice.

I was trained from my childhood into the culture of silence, of not airing your dirty laundry in public. I knew that I was not allowed to speak of my difficulties, abuse or trauma because if I did the consequences were too dire not just for me but for my entire family.Speaking up came with a heavy price that most were never willing to pay.

Whenever a victim does muster up the courage to speak up, many in our communities blame and shame the victim, so they back off and the pattern continues.

It’s an incredibly difficult space to navigate as a female because we are weighed down by the responsibility of ‘honour’ and if we are 'tainted' then it feels like the whole family is being blamed.

Why raise this now?


Survivors like me, and many others, need to shed this idea of shame so we can begin healing and start our journey to recovery.

I wish someone would have supported me, or shown that I can seek justice or just listened to me and supported me through my trauma, anything, something, but there was nothing! I suffered alone in silence.

We cannot sit back and watch our future generations be consumed by sexual predators that exist. We must step up and reclaim our sacred spaces and bring in accountability to make Gurdwaras safe.

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Jasvir Kaur Rababan MBE is an academic, educator and Sikh Music Practitioner, and founder of Kaur Voices.
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