Do Sikhs Believe in Circumcision?

Sikh Bride and Groom During Their Wedding Ceremony

Gurumustuk Singh Khalsa

What Do Sikhs believe about the practice of circumcision? Are either Sikh men or women circumcised as infants or adults? Does Sikhism code of conduct and scripture accept or reject circumcision? Read on to learn about Sikh practices and beliefs around circumcision.

Sikh Beliefs

Sikhs do not believe in, practice, or condone circumcising an infant or adult—that goes for both males or females.

Sikhs do not practice or condone circumcision of either gender during infancy, childhood, puberty, or adulthood.

Sikhs believe in the perfection of the Creator's creation. Therefore Sikhism completely rejects the concept of gender mutilation by circumcision.

What is Circumcision?

Circumcision is irreversible genital mutilation of either gender. Circumcision involves amputation of the most sensitive areas of either male or female genital organs and is commonly performed on helpless infants without anesthesia. Infant circumcision is practiced worldwide by Jews, Muslims, and many Christians for religious reasons, and by nonreligious persons for medical or social purposes. Circumcision may be performed on young males and females as a prerequisite to marriage or as a requirement of conversion at any age.​

Circumcision Facts

Circumcision is a much more common practice in the Middle East, and in North America (Canada and the United States,) than in Central and South America, Europe and Asia. Though the American medical community no longer recommends nonreligious circumcision and informs parents that irreversible genital amputation is not considered unnecessary or advisable, in the United States an estimated 55% to 65% of all newborn baby boys are currently forcibly circumcised with parental consent.

A generation ago, 85 % of all American infant boys born in hospitals were routinely mutilated by the procedure.

In US hospitals, circumcision is currently performed during infancy as early as 48 hours and up to about 10 days after birth. In ​a traditional ​Jewish bris, the procedure is a ritual performed by a Rabbi on eight-day-old newborn boys in private homes.

In other countries outside the US, circumcision is also done during childhood or at the onset of puberty to both girls and boys. Young boys may be circumcised by a male elder with bamboo slivers or other sharp objects. Female circumcision may be performed by a female elder on young girls using any sharp object capable of cutting such as a knife, scissors, tin can lids, or broken glass without sterilization or anesthesia.

Results of Circumcision

In addition to such consequences as infection and physical deformity resulting in childbearing difficulties, psychologists have determined trauma of circumcision in both males and female, regardless of age, may last throughout the entire life. Sikhism considers circumcision performed on minors below the legal age of consent child abuse and a violation of civil rights.

Sikhism Code of Conduct and Circumcision

The Sikhism code of conduct does not address circumcision specifically as there is no prohibition against anyone who may have suffered previous genital mutilation being initiated into the Sikh faith later in life. Anyone of any caste color or creed may choose to embrace Sikhism. However, both the Sikhism code of conduct and Sikh scriptures contain passages which imply or refer to the traditional Sikhism stance against circumcision.

Sikhs have traditionally acted to protect the weak, innocent or oppressed and to defend the defenseless. In 1755, Baba Deep Singh aided the rescue of 100 boys and 300 girls from forced conversion by Islamic invaders which included circumcision and returned the young ones to their families unmolested.

Ardas, a standardized Sikhism prayer outlined by the code of conduct, praises Ninth Guru Teg Bahadar who gave his life intervening on behalf of Hindus facing forced conversion to Islam including mandatory circumcision, and Tenth Guru Gobind Singh as the wielder of the holy sword and "rescuer" of those victimized by tyranny who resisted conversion to Islam but were forcibly "dismembered bit by bit" by their captors.

The code of conduct defines a Sikh as one who has no allegiance or alliance to beliefs and rituals of any other faith and admonishes the initiated Khalsa to maintain their distinctiveness.

No body piercing to accommodate jewelry, tattoo inklings, or other mutilation is permitted. The code of conduct carefully outlines in detail what is expected of Sikh parents regarding their infant children and gives no instructions for circumcision rather admonishes parents not to harm so much as a hair on the child's head.

The Sikh code of conduct also outlines carefully in detail all matters concerning matrimony including conjugal obligations and again no mention is made of circumcision, for either gender, as is commonly practiced in other parts of the world prior to marriage. Parents are instructed not to give their daughters to those professing other faiths. The couple is instructed to accept each other as the divine incarnate and the husband is admonished to protect his wife and her honor.

The Sikhism code of conduct admonishes Sikhs to study scripture and apply it to life. First Guru Nanak and Bhagat Kabir both address circumcision as abnormal, and Fifth Guru Arjun Dev refers to it as a meaningless ritual in Sikhism's Holy Scripture, Guru Granth Sahib. Bhai Gur Das writes that circumcision does not ensure liberation in his Vaars. Tenth Guru Gobind Singh states in Dasam Granth that establishing ritual circumcision has not instilled anyone with the knowledge of the divine.