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UN takes up turban issue with French govt

The Tribune, India
July 1, 2004
Varinder Walia • Friday July 2, 2004

In a significant development, the United Nations has taken up the issue of banning turban by the Government of France, imposed on schoolchildren by enacting the school scarf ban law.

The issue was reported to the United Nation by the Sikh Nation Organisation (SNO), led by Dr Manjit Singh Randhawa.


“Sikh school boys must exchange their turbans for hair nets when a new law banning religious apparel in public schools takes effect in September, France’s education minister said Monday, shocking representatives of the Sikh community. [...] The law forbids conspicuous religious symbols and attire in the classroom, such as the Jewish skull cap and large Christian crosses, but it is chiefly aimed at the Muslim head scarf.”
- French law means Sikhs cannot wear turbans

In a communication to the SNO, Maria Francisca lzecharrin, Chief Support Services branch of the UN, said a copy of the representation made by the Sikh organisation had been sent to the French authorities. The communication reads that the summary of the case will be confidentially submitted to the working group on communications and the commission on human rights.

Dr Randhawa while giving details of the case said the UN admitted the petition of the SNO under UN 1503 procedure, filed on March 17, 2004 against the French Government, for violating human rights of schoolchildren by enacting the scarf ban law through which signs and dress, which conspicuously show religious affiliations are forbidden, in public schools of France. Under the 1503 procedure the commission has the mandate to examine a constant pattern of growth, violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms in any country of the world. The procedures examines pattern of violations. Pressure is exerted on the state to change laws, policies and practise that infringe international human rights, according to supplementary information, supplied by UN Secretariat to the Sikh Nation Organisation.

The complaint filed under 1503 procedure are screened by the UN Secretary General and the chairperson of the working group on communications.

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