Sikh girls bangle discrimination win will impact UK uniform rules

July 30th, 2008 - 12:34 pm ICT by ANI  

London, July 30 (ANI): British schools will struggle to enforce rules about uniform after a Sikh teenager, Sarika Watkins-Singh, won a High Court discrimination case for refusing to take off a religious bangle, a teachers union has warned.

Clarissa Williams, president of the NAHT teaching union, said: Were expected to have school uniform policies, this puts schools in an invidious position. The main issue with jewellery is the health and safety aspect - its not about discrimination.

Justice Silber ruled that 14-year-old Sarika Watkins-Singh had suffered indirect discrimination from Aberdare Girls School in south Wales last year, The Telegraph reported.

Legal experts warned Justice Silbers ruling that the slim steel bangle was a symbol of faith and not a piece of jewellery could pave the way for similar cases involving religious apparel.

Sarika was isolated from her classmates for two months and even accompanied to the toilet by a member of staff, before finally being excluded for persistently breaking the no jewellery rule.

In court, Sarika said wearing the bangle - known as the Kara - was as important to her as it was to the England cricketer Monty Panesar.

Finding the school guilty of discrimination under race relations and equality laws, the judge said Sarika, from Cwmbach, near Aberdare, could go back to school in September wearing the bangle.

Outside court, the teenager said: I am overwhelmed by the outcome and its marvellous to know that the long journey I”ve been on has finally come to an end.

Im so happy to know that no-one else will go through what me and my family have gone through. I just want to say that I am a proud Welsh and Punjabi Sikh girl, she added.

Sarika was the only Sikh among 600 girls at Aberdare, which does not permit any jewellery other than wristwatches and ear studs.

After being excluded, she enrolled in another school, which allowed her to wear the Kara, but her mother said her schooling had been disrupted.

The Kara is one of the five Ks of Sikhism, the others being the Kesh (uncut hair), the Kanga (wooden comb), the Kaccha (specially designed shorts) and the Kirpan (sword).

Justice Silber said the Kara could not be seen under long sleeves, and Sarika was willing to remove it for safety reasons during games.

The judge refused the school permission to appeal, although it can still seek permission from the Court of Appeal. (ANI)

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