Liberty files legal challenge for Sarika

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Anna Fairclough, Liberty’s Legal Officer

Liberty challenges unlawful exclusion of Sikh schoolgirl 13 Nov 2007

A school in South Wales will face legal action for punishing and excluding a Sikh girl for wearing a small religious bangle, nearly 25 years after the Law Lords determined that Sikh children could wear items representing their faith, including a turban, to school.

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

4 January 2008

Protecting civil liberties and promoting human rights

High Court to determine if Sikh schoolgirl’s exclusion is illegal 04 Jan 2008

With the backing of UNITED SIKHS, the human rights group Liberty has filed a legal challenge in the High Court on behalf of 14-year-old Sarika Singh, excluded from her school for wearing a Sikh religious bangle.

The High Court will consider the case during the week of 14 January. UNITED SIKHS, an international advocacy charity, will also apply to file a third party intervention.

Singh was forced to have isolated school lessons for two months and has been excluded from the school in South Wales since 5 November 2007. Liberty will argue that the Aberdare Girl’s School has breached race relations and human rights laws, as well as a 25-year-old Law Lords’ decision which allows Sikh children to wear items representing their faith, including turbans, to school.

Anna Fairclough, Liberty’s Legal Officer representing the Singhs, said:

“Sarika Singh has suffered humiliating isolation and is being denied a proper education simply because she wears the Kara, a small bangle worn by virtually all Sikhs both in and out of school and work. It is astonishing that the school continues to exclude her despite almost universal condemnation and 25-year-old House of Lords precedent.”

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 jewelry other than a wrist watch and plain ear studs. When the school noticed that Singh was wearing the religious bangle, she was subsequently isolated throughout the day, including meals, for approximately two months.

Liberty will argue that the Aberdare Girls 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 while wearing the Kara and that the school amends its uniform policy to comply with the Race Relations Act.

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

23 January 2008

High Court grants hearing to decide if exclusion of Sikh schoolgirl for wearing religious bangle is illegal 23 Jan 2008

The High Court today has decided to hear the case of 14-year-old Sarika Singh, excluded from Aberdare Girl’s School in South Wales for wearing a Sikh religious bangle.

The human rights group Liberty will argue that the school has breached race relations and human rights laws, as well as a 25-year-old Law Lords’ decision which allows Sikh children to wear items representing their faith, including turbans, to school.

Anna Fairclough, Liberty’s Legal Officer representing the Singhs, said: “Nothing less than our traditions of religious freedom and racial tolerance are on trial in this case. Individuals from any religion who wish to modestly express their faith should not be denied a proper education as Ms Singh has.”

The High Court refused to allow Singh to attend school while the case is ongoing, but Liberty will ask the court to reconsider at an interim hearing. Singh was forced to have isolated school lessons for two months and has been excluded from the school in South Wales since 5 November 2007.

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 jewellery other than a wrist watch and plain ear studs. When the school noticed that Singh was wearing the religious bangle, she was subsequently isolated throughout the day, including meals, for approximately two months.

UNITED SIKHS, an international advocacy charity who are supporting Ms Singh, will apply to file a third party intervention. Liberty will argue that the Aberdare Girls School is violating the Race Relations Act 1976, the Equality Act 2006 and the Human Rights Act 1998.

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

29 July 2008

Victory for Sikh schoolgirl unlawfully excluded for wearing religious bangle 29 Jul 2008

Today the High Court awarded victory to a Sikh schoolgirl who was excluded from school for wearing a religious bangle, upholding a 25-year-old Law Lords ruling allowing Sikhs to wear items representing their faith.

The human rights group Liberty, representing 14-year-old Sarika Singh, successfully argued that Aberdare Girls’ School in South Wales breached race relations and equality laws by excluding her since November 2007 for wearing the kara (a plain single bangle widely accepted as a central tenet of the Sikh race and religion).

Anna Fairclough, Liberty’s Legal Officer representing the Singhs, said:

“This common sense judgment makes clear you must have a very good reason before interfering with someone’s religious freedom. Our great British traditions of religious tolerance and race equality have been rightly upheld today.”

Noting that the school has a role to play in developing principles of religious and racial tolerance in its pupils, Mr Justice Silber said in his judgment:

“…Without those principles being adopted in a school, it is difficult to see how a cohesive and tolerant multi-cultural society can be built in this country…I hope that the school will take all possible steps to ensure first that [she] can become quickly assimilated again within the school and second that there will be no bullying of her for racial or religious reasons.”

Singh, of mixed Welsh/Punjabi origin, has been raised in the Sikh faith and was the only Sikh at the Aberdare Girls’ School. The school’s uniform policy prohibits the wearing of any jewellery other than a wrist watch and plain ear studs. When the school noticed that Singh was wearing the kara, she was isolated for two months, including during meals and physical education classes despite her offer to remove or cover the Kara during exercise, before being excluded entirely in November 2007.

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


See also

External links

Notes to Editors

  • 1.1. 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.
  • 1.2. 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.
  • 1.3. Valleys Race Equality Council have been supporting the Singh family.
  • 1.4. 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.

  • 2.1. Liberty filed the legal challenge in the High Court on 18 December 2007 which argues that the Governing Body of the Aberdare Girls 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 14 (prohibition of discrimination) and Article 2 of the First Protocol which protects the right not to be denied an education.
  • 2.2. The Governing Body of the Aberdare School must lodge its defence in the High Court by 11 January 2008.
  • 2.3. The Kara (a small plain 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.
  • 2.4. Valleys Race Equality Council are supporting the Singh family.
  • 2.5. In October 2006, Liberty supported 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.

3.1. The Welsh Assembly published uniform guidelines for Welsh schools on 18 January 2008, after facing pressure from protestors earlier that week who called for the guidelines to be introduced.

3.2. Liberty filed the legal challenge in the High Court on 19 December 2007 which argues that the Governing Body of the Aberdare Girls 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 14 (prohibition of discrimination) and Article 2 of the First Protocol which protects the right not to be denied an education.

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

3.4. Valleys Race Equality Council are supporting the Singh family.

3.5. In 2006, Liberty supported 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.


4.1. Liberty filed the legal challenge in the High Court on 19 December 2007 which argues that the Governing Body of the Aberdare Girls’ 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).

4.2. The Welsh Assembly published uniform guidelines for Welsh schools on 18 January 2008, after facing pressure from protestors calling for the guidelines to be introduced. Today’s judgment will be applied to the Aberdare Girls’ School but will not be binding on other schools.

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

4.4. Valleys Race Equality Council and UNITED SIKHS are supporting the Singh family.

4.5. In 2006, Liberty supported the religious freedom case of 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.