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Press Release: 1st Aug 2008, Friday         17th Saavan (Samvat 540 Nanakshahi )

UK Sikhs Continue to Face Problems Wearing Articles of Faith While Court Rules in Favour of the Sikh Kara

UNITED SIKHS Calls on UK Government to End Discrimination by Issuing a Code of Practice for Wearing Sikh Articles of Faith

 
London, UK – UNITED SIKHS welcomes a High Court ruling this week that a Welsh school had broken the law in permanently excluding a Sikh girl for wearing a kara, a steel bangle worn by Sikhs. With the backing of UNITED SIKHS, the human rights group Liberty had challenged the Aberdare Girl’s School on behalf of 14-year-old Sarika Singh, winning the case on the basis of the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Equality Act 2006.

UNITED SIKHS has supported Sarika’s case since it began at the end of last year. It engaged an eminent human rights lawyer, Stephen Grosz of Bindmans LLP, and an expert witness to assist Sarika Singh’s legal team, which successfully argued that the kara is an article of faith which reminds a Sikh of his/her duty to lead a righteous life.

The High Court ruling comes while Sikhs in the UK continue to face problems wearing their five articles of faith, or kakaar. UNITED SIKHS is currently involved in three cases regarding the wearing of the kirpan, a sheathed blade, one of the Sikh articles of faith. Due to the repeated occurrence of issues regarding Sikh articles of faith in the UK, UNITED SIKHS  has written to the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Sikhs, the UK government and the Equality and Human Rights Commission to expedite the issuing of a code of practice for all Sikh articles of faith, including the the kirpan, in all public places.

Commenting on the High Court decision on the kara, Mejindarpal Kaur stated, “We are delighted that the judge has recognised the significance of the Kara to Sikhs. UNITED SIKHS hopes that the school will accept this ruling and that Sarika will be able to return to school next term. We are happy to work with the school in raising awareness about the Sikh religion, both among pupils and among teachers and governors.”

“However, we are concerned that Sikhs in the UK continue to experience difficulties with wearing their articles of faith and it is time for the government to establish a code of practice allowing Sikhs the unhindered right to wear their articles of faith in public places.”

“In the UK, Sikhs have a statutory right to wear the kirpan in all public places, including schools. However, post 9/11, some schools, leisure facilities and even some government departments do not allow Sikhs to wear their kirpan,” she added.

In three separate cases, firstly, involving a Sikh’s ability to wear the kirpan in a London school, secondly at a theme park and thirdly at a British Embassy in Portugal , UNITED SIKHS is actively advocating for a change in the practice by the discriminating parties. In a case involving the Compton School in Barnet, North London, UNITED SIKHS is advocating for thirteen year old Jagdeep Singh to be able to wear his kirpan during sports activities. Through various meetings and correspondence, progress is being made between the parties. The school’s concern for safety during sports activities is being addressed by an expert engaged by UNITED SIKHS who is designing a padding to fit over the sheath of the kirpan to make the kirpan safe to wear during sports for the wearer and others who may come in contact with the kirpan.

The kirpan was also disallowed at a theme park in Staffordshire frequented by Sikhs, Drayton Manor Park, when six kirpan-wearing Sikh youths were refused entry to the park in the summer of 2006. UNITED SIKHS continues to advocate on behalf of the youths concerned and has commenced legal proceedings to ensure that Sikhs will be allowed to wear the kirpan in this park and other public places. UNITED SIKHS recently became aware that Drayton Manor Park has since allowed some Sikhs to wear the kirpan and is now seeking an amicable solution between the parties on behalf of all Sikhs.

On July 8, 2008, UNITED SIKHS issued a letter to the chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Trevor Philips, the chair for the All Party Parliamentary Group for Sikhs, Rob Marris MP, and Parmjit Dhanda MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, urging them to expedite the formulation of a code of practice regarding the wearing of Sikh articles of faith in public places. Rob Marris MP has continued to support the code of practice and offered his support for the kirpan cases and the Equality and Human Rights Commission said it will raise the issue with the Department of Communities and Local Government, which has not responded to UNITED SIKHS’ letter.

Notes to Editors:


Issued By :
Mejindarpal Kaur
Director, International Civil and Human Rights Advocacy (ICHRA)  
UNITED SIKHS (UK)  
law-uk@unitedsikhs.org
Tel: (0044) (0) 7709830442
www.unitedsikhs.org

 


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