BUFFALO, N.Y. – Violence against women isn’t
explicitly mentioned on the program of the Council on Foreign
Relations workshop that Satpal Singh will attend in New York June
24 -25, but he believes it is relevant to the topics that will be
Singh, PhD, a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the
University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences,
seeks opportunities with widely varying audiences to bring up the
issue of violence against women.
At UB, Singh conducts research on interactions between drugs and
ion channels. From time to time, he has tacked onto the end of his
neuroscience presentations a brief discussion of the global problem
of violence against women in the context of the neurological
underpinnings of such behavior.
“Violence against women is part of the fabric of our
society,” says Singh, whose personal experience with violent
religious conflict in India left a lasting impression. “Even
in the U.S., where abuse against women is relatively rare, compared
to other parts of the world, four women everyday die from abuse.
People ignore the fact that it’s so widespread.”
As chairperson of the World Sikh Council – America Region,
Singh was invited to become a Huffington Post blogger. He
often uses his columns (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/satpal-singh/)
to discuss such incidents of violence as the rape and brutal
homicide of an Indian medical student last year and violence
perpetrated against women and girls in the Syrian war.
International organizations seek his participation in forums on
religious diversity and global conflict. In February, he was
featured in a bulletin published by the Council on Foreign
In April, Singh was invited to the Ukraine to speak about
“Religion, Women and Political Change” at an
international interfaith forum. Other panelists included the chair
of UNESCO’s Aladdin Project, which promotes greater mutual
knowledge among peoples of different cultures and religions, and
the president of the International Council of Christians and Jews.
Singh and five other delegates were chosen to meet with the
“My personal view is that political leaders and religious
leaders have to take an active part,” he says. “Society
has to become more involved. I want to communicate that violence
against women is one of the most prevalent and pernicious of
At the “Religion and Foreign Policy Summer Workshop”
that he attends this week, topics range from modern warfare and
immigration reform to global human rights. Violence against women
is relevant to all of them, Singh says.
“I hope to make a point at this workshop that we must
accept women as equal to men in our religion, just as we must
accept followers of all religions as equal,” says Singh.
War itself cannot be discussed without a focus on women’s
rights, he continues.
“Discussions on the ethics of modern warfare almost always
exclude the fact that women are deliberately targeted in any
conflict,” he says. “Women are used as pawns in any
battle in any war. Most of the strife in Africa and Asia affects
women far more horrifically than it does men. In fact, even in
times of so-called peace, the lives of many women in Asian and
African countries are a perpetual nightmare.”
Even in the U.S., which Singh says is among the safest places
for women, one in four are raped or sexually molested at some time
in their life, according to national statistics.
He recounts just the most infamous incidents that have grabbed
headlines: the three girls kidnapped and held hostage in Cleveland,
the case of Elizabeth Smart, the beheading of a wife and mother in
Western New York.
And throughout the world, he says, honor killings and rapes not
only go unreported but the victims – not the perpetrators
– of rape are seen as guilty.
“In many countries, if you go to the police station and
say that someone raped you, the next thing that will happen is that
the police are going to rape you. Then they will pressure you to
marry the rapist,” he says. “You are handed off to this
vulture so he can legally and officially do whatever he pleases.
The girl has brought dishonor to society by being raped. When you
marry the girl to the rapist, the problem for society goes
Singh also describes dowry deaths, where a man burns his wife
alive in order to take a new wife, who will bring him another
All of these incidents occur with a society’s tacit
approval, Singh says.
“I personally feel that the status of women in a society
is diagnostic of what that society is going to be,” he
concludes. “The atrocities that tens of millions of women
suffer daily cannot be put into words, but only can be felt by
those who have to endure them. While most of us cannot even fathom
those real feelings, we should at least do whatever we
can. The hands of those women are tied, sometimes literally.
Ours are not.”