Liberty challenges unlawful exclusion of Sikh schoolgirl

13 November 2007

Fourteen-year-old Sarika Singh, represented by the human rights group Liberty, was forced to have isolated school lessons for nearly two months and has today been excluded again from the school for wearing the Kara as a sign of her faith.
Anna Fairclough, Liberty’s Legal Officer representing the Singhs, said:
“The Governing Body of the school have ignored established race and equality protections and shamefully turned a young woman into a pariah by isolating her. Legal precedents established 25 years ago make clear that she should be allowed to wear the Kara without being intimidated by the school.”

Singh, of mixed Welsh/Punjabi origin, has been brought up in the Sikh faith and is the only Sikh at the Aberdare Girl’s School. The school’s uniform policy prohibits the wearing of any jewellry other than a wrist watch and plain ear studs. When the school noticed that Singh was wearing the Kara, she was subsequently isolated throughout the day including meals for approximately two months. She had been banned from the school’s physical education classes since May, despite her offer to remove or cover the Kara during PE.

Liberty will argue that the Governing Body of Aberdare School is violating the Race Relations Act 1976, the Equality Act 2006 and the Human Rights Act 1998. Liberty requests that Singh be allowed to attend normal lessons at the school wearing the Kara, the school amend its uniform policy and comply with the Race Relations Act regulations.

Contact: Jen Corlew on 0207 378 3656 or 0797 3 831 128

Notes to Editors

1. The Kara (a small single bangle) is widely accepted as a central element or requirement of the Sikh religion and is specifically intended to be worn on the wrist as a reminder of the tenets of the faith.

2. Liberty will argue that the Aberdare School has indirectly discriminated on the grounds of race contrary to the Race Relations Act 1976; breached the duty to promote equality under s71 Race Relations Act 1976; indirectly discriminated on the ground of religion or belief contrary to the Equality Act 2006; and breached the Human Rights Act 1998 Article 8 (the right to a private life), Article 9 (freedom of religion), Article 10 (freedom of expression), Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) and Article 2 of the First Protocol which protects the right not to be denied an education.

3. Valleys Race Equality Council have been supporting the Singh family.

4. In October 2006, Liberty was involved in the religious freedom cases of Aisah Azmi, who was suspended by the Headfield Church of England Junior School in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire for wearing the full Muslim veil, or niqab, while working as a teaching assistant and Nadia Eweida, a Christian British Airways check-in worker, who claimed she was forced to take unpaid leave after refusing to remove a small cross from her necklace.