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Sarika decision a blow to discrimination

After a hard fought campaign by The National Assembly Against Racism (NAAR) and campaign group Liberty, a Sikh girl has won the right to wear a religious symbol to school by making a successful discrimination claim at the high court.

Campaigning body NAAR has called for the same right of freedom of expression to be extended for all people in similar circumstances.

In response to the decision Milena Buyum, Vice-Chair of the National Assembly Against Racism and a member of the Coalition for Freedom of Religious and Cultural Expression said:

‘We welcome the High Court’s decision to uphold Sarika’s claim for discrimination. Sarika was discriminated against simply for wanting to wear an item of religious faith. She should not have gone through months of anguish and missed out on her education to assert her fundamental right to choose to wear the Kara when attending school. ‘What is needed is this fundamental right applied across the board to all and freedom of expression to be upheld for everyone, including those who wish to express their religion, culture or conscience whilst respecting others’ right to do the same.’

Background

Sarika Singh a 15-year old girl who attended Aberdare Girls’ School in Wales wore a ‘Kara’ to school  a visible article of faith that represented her Sikh Faith. Because of this she has been excluded from the school. The school kept referring to her Kara as a piece of jewellery and therefore a health & safety risk.

Prior to being excluded she had been put into isolation at school and was being taught separately to every other student, as she refused to remove her Kara. While in isolation she was not allowed to talk to any of her friends and was not even allowed to go to the bathroom without a teacher. She was also prevented from taking part in school activities or clubs after school.

Following her exclusion from 5 November 2007 the family with the help of Liberty sought a judicial review as the school kept demanding she remove her Kara. Various parties tried to resolve this matter by discussing it and arranging meetings (with the school), but the school was not forthcoming.

Frustration

Frustrated at the length of time the case had taken to resolve, and the very fact that this matter had to go to the high court to be resolved Bruce Kent, Chair of the Coalition said:

‘This is a blow against discrimination in a case that should never have come this far: it confirms that freedom of conscience is valued and the rights of individuals to express their religion and conscience should not be violated. We believe such rights to be fundamental and would like to see them applied across the board to all religions and cultures.’

Ends

Posted by

Asif Yusuf

 

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