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An on-going investigation by ABC News has uncovered a considerable increase in the prevalence of domestic violence in Sikh communities. While some women who experience domestic abuse are fortunate enough to escape to a happier, safer life, many others are not as fortunate. It is for this reason that a concerted effort is needed to not only reduce domestic violence, but provide appropriate support to victims as well.

Many barriers exist

Most women who are subject to domestic abuse know that they should report the abuse. Unfortunately, they are often faced with a number of barriers that make a seemingly-simple task extremely difficult. Some of these barriers include social isolation and cultural patriarchy, a distinct absence of kinship in their communities, and economic restraints. Depending on their location, language barriers or logistical limitations can also result in women who are victims of domestic abuse not reporting that abuse.

Kindness and empowerment go a long way

In order for domestic violence in Sikh communities to be eradicated, it is important that the communities themselves acknowledge that abuse does take place in their midst. It is equally as important that victims of domestic abuse never feel that they judged on their circumstances. Individuals, and the community as a whole, need to take a stand against abuse. Stereotypes can be abolished through the consistent challenging of misconceptions, and emotional support can be offered to known abuse victims. Although Sikh masculinity may make it difficult, women need to be encouraged to set boundaries in a relationship, as it can help promote mutual respect and consideration. Additionally, victims of abuse also have to be made aware of the importance of reporting their abusers to the relevant authorities.

Sikhism does not condone abuse

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In the 52 Hukams, Guru Gobind Singh Ji clearly states that both love and respect should be at the foundation of every relationship. The 16th Hukam reads, "Istri da mooh nahi fitkaarnaa" – do not subject your wife to cursing or verbal abuse. Although verbal abuse is often regarded as frivolous, it is clear that abuse of this nature was considered to be appalling by the Guru. It also refutes a somewhat common belief that the ill-treatment of women is condoned by Sikhism. Instead, it highlights the need to stand up against any forms of abuse and to aid those who find themselves in these dire situations.

More action is required

In October 2020, Guru Nanak Gurdwara Smethwick in High Street, Black Country, was lit up in purple every night in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Awareness campaigns such as these, together with improved access to relevant services and resources, are needed to address the problem. Informational leaflets can be made available at Gurdwaras and other facilities, and community members can be encouraged to attend discussions on the topic. Schools can also help by not only providing children with a safe space to report domestic abuse, but also monitor children for signs that they may be subjected to abuse at home.

The physical and emotional impact of domestic abuse can be devastating. When communities start working together towards eliminating this heinous crime, true change can be affected.

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