by Sarbat LGBT Sikhs
Sarbat is a word used in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the living Guru of the Sikhs, to mean all, entire or everyone. It is also the name of perhaps one of the only LGBT Sikh organisations in Europe if not the world. The biggest news in the LGBT sphere so far this year has been the Indian Supreme Court partially striking down Section 377 on the 6th of September. This ruling essentially decriminalises gay sex between adults. The LGBT Sikh community are not generally speaking, the most visible of LGBT communities and face constant backlash and stigma from the wider Sikh community.
So how has the ruling by the Supreme Court been significant and what is the next step for the community? Sarbat finds this ruling of historic significance. One fifth of mankind has rightfully been told that consensual sex between two adults of the same gender is not a crime. Now it is up to the Indian government to implement the ruling. We (Sarbat) get many messages from LGBT people in India who tell us that they are afraid to be openly gay, that they are too scared to come out to their friends or families. One of the biggest reasons for this was the fact that it was essentially illegal to be gay in India. This was too big an obstacle for many to overcome and they remained hidden. Many continue to live secret double lives and frequently marry a member of the opposite sex.
The ruling will have a major impact. It will encourage more LGBT people to come out. People holding homophobic views will no longer be able to use Section 377 as an excuse to hold such views. It will impact the Indian community in the UK as it means the subject of being LGBT will be on the agenda and families across the country will be discussing it. This is highly significant as this subject is still very much taboo among Indian families, even in British society. This ruling will bring this debate to the forefront. It is a huge milestone for LGBT rights. It is, however, only one step on the road to equality and acceptance. There is still a long way to go in changing the general attitudes in society.
This brings us to the question of what the next step is for LGBT Sikhs. The next step is religious acceptance. Unlike many other major faiths that have verses in their scriptures that can be interpreted as anti-homosexuality, the Sikh faith (Sikhi) has no such verses. There is no mention of homosexuality with the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji at all. The Gurus were aware of LGBT identity and there were openly gay saints that they were aware of. One such saint was Sarmad, a follower of Hazrat Mian Mir. Mian Mir was a close friend of Guru Arjan Dev Ji, the fifth Sikh Guru, and was invited to lay the foundation stone for the Golden Temple.
As Sikhs, we believe the Gurus to have been all-knowing; as such if they believed homosexuality to be sinful they would have said so in the scriptures. Homosexuality was considered insignificant because the primary goal of a Sikh is to reunite their soul with the almighty. The soul is very clearly marked as genderless in the scriptures. So there is no basis for the Akal Takht, the highest seat of earthly authority of the Khalsa (the collective body of the Sikhs), to claim that homosexuality is not permissible within Sikhism as it has done so. The next step must be for the Akal Takht to stop blindly following other world faiths on this issue and change their stance. It should also be pointed out that there are many Amritdhari (initiated) Sikhs who also identify as LGBT and for those Sikhs in particular religious acceptance is key.
Sarbat is a social and support group for LGBT Sikhs. They offer a platform for like-minded Sikhs from all walks of life and aim to promote the LGBT Sikh cause in a fair and courteous manner.