RELIGION & BELIEF
Baldeep is a baptised Sikh and follows the practice of wearing the 5 ‘Ks’ - this includes wearing the Kirpan. The Kirpan is a very small sword. As is the custom, Baldeep wears hers under her clothing in a cloth sheath. For her, and for all baptised Sikhs, it is a symbol of the commitment she has made to follow the Sikh way of life and carries a deep spiritual significance. She will never remove it unless absolutely necessary.
Unfortunately, one day Baldeep felt very unwell and had to go the nearest Accident and Emergency Department. Whilst she removed clothing to be examined the nurse asked what it was that she was wearing. The nurse became alarmed that Baldeep was carrying what looked like a knife and refused Baldeep any further assistance until the Kirpan was removed. Baldeep explained that the Kirpan was a sacred item in her faith and she could not remove it; was it absolutely necessary to remove it in order to be examined? The nurse said that on health and safety grounds no patient should be carrying a weapon. Baldeep argued that if treatment was denied to her because she was wearing this sacred symbol, it was tantamount to religious discrimination.
The nurse seemed unsure about this and consulted her ward manager. The ward manager came to meet Baldeep and enquired more about her faith and the Kirpan. It was clear that treatment could not be denied as Baldeep was observing the requirements of her faith in the wearing of the Kirpan. This had to be respected. It was agreed that she could be examined whilst wearing it but if an x-ray or any other sort of scan was required it would have to be removed. Baldeep understood this and before going to the x-ray her Kirpan was removed, along with the Kara (the steel wristband) and held by the nurse during the procedure. Baldeep then replaced it accompanied by the saying of a prayer.
Comment and Background Information:
The wearing of the Kirpan is permitted by UK law as it is an intrinsic part of the Sikh faith and Sikh religious observance. It is generally not visible. Legislation makes it clear that a service cannot be denied to anyone on grounds of the religion or belief and the ward manager above was correct to see this. The discussion that took place leading to an agreed solution was also appropriate and correct.
Further information about the Sikh religion can be found in the resources identified in section 6 – Support and Resources.