An Abominable Practice: MANJIT SINGH, Montreal
Gender Selection of the Unborn Child
Sikhism provides adequate scope to ameliorate human suffering in the case of sickness. The idea is to be able to protect human life against disease to the extent possible through medical treatment.
The issue of sex selection of an unborn child is an action of ornamental therapy as opposed to a life-saving exercise. I find it unacceptable that medical science is letting itself become “commercialized” in order to satisfy personal egos.
Sikhs in India and overseas have fallen for this in a big way by making use of this unethical practice. In making the above judgment, I am guided by the Sikh ethics and spiritual values as handed down by the Sikh Gurus and gurbani.
Sikh spirituality teaches that human life, as opposed to other life forms, is the highest form of life. As such, life is a gift of the Creator. Human beings have been blessed with the most functional brain of all living creatures, resulting in superior ability for logical thinking and reasoning.
On the strength of these skills and by practicing moral and ethical living, Sikh teachings emphasize that believers have the obligation to lead their lives according to the laws of nature. It is also stressed in Sikhism that a man and a woman are two equal wheels of the “chariot of life”. Hence, both have equally important and specialized roles to play in procreation and the upbringing of the species, as in all aspects of life.
Gender equality in Sikhism was promoted from the beginning of the faith. Sex of the offspring is determined by the Creator. Notwithstanding the sex of a child, families are called upon to accept the newborn as a gift of the Creator.
Another important Sikh teaching pertains to learning to control one’s ego. Human ego is referred to as haumai and is considered as the key to achieving equipoise in life’s spiritual journey. Learning to harness haumai means cultivating a mind set that accepts the Will or hukam of the Creator who is supreme and all-powerful and controls this universe.
There are numerous hymns in the Sikh scripture, Guru Granth Sahib, that underscore the above points.
Throughout history, scientific researchers have exercised the right to pursue truth without regard for social consequences. Robert Oppenheimer, who led the program to build the American atom bomb said, “If you are a scientist, you believe that it is good to find out how the world works; that it is good to find out what the realities are, and it is good to turn over to mankind at large the greatest possible power to control the world and to deal with it according to its lights and values.”
Oppenheimer justified his efforts on these grounds, figuring that political judgments about the bomb’s use were for others to make -- according to their “lights and values.”
The collective experience of mankind tells us that we can no longer afford a purely scientific ethic that disregards the social consequences of research. Many of the consequences are just too scary. Use of the atomic bomb is a case in point. Human cloning and stem cell research are the latest issues begging for societal input, not from a “return on investment” angle but from spiritual and ethical considerations.
Letting the legislative organs to have the final say is not a valid argument. It is time that researchers are also held accountable for their actions along with those who are responsible for the application of their findings.
Sex selection of a child is an excellent example of consumerism gone berserk. It violates all norms of ethical and spiritual values and conduct.
It is time that the Sikh community everywhere started to speak out against the sex selection of babies -- a practice that has sadly become rampant within our community, despite clear and unequivocal strictures against such conduct.
The author is a Lecturer in Sikh Studies at the Faculty of Religious Studies, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He is McGill's former Director of Chaplaincy Service.
September 18, 2012
Conversation about this article
1: Chintan Singh (San Jose, California, U.S.A.), September 21, 2012, 5:47 PM.
Great article. I agree with the point that today science and research can no longer be justified without looking at the social consequences and needs. As far as gender selection and fetal killing practices that have made their way into the Sikh community go, I wonder if the author has any specific suggestions to deal with it.