Sikh women exempt from helmets in Delhi: What do religious sentiments have to do with safety?

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The Delhi Transport department has exempted Sikh women from wearing helmet
From now onwards, women driving or going pillion on a two-wheeler will have to wear a helmet. The transport department has made it mandatory from Thursday but violators will not be prosecuted immediately. The amendment to the existing motor rules makes it compulsory for all women, but Sikh women have been exempted from it. This move has been criticised by the transport experts saying that it will be a compromise with the safety of Sikh women. Lt Governor Najeeb Jung has also given go-ahead to the proposal.

Exemption of Sikh women, a compromise with their safety

Though, the traffic department have exempted the Sikh women citing the religious sentiments of the Sikhs but it is compromise with their safety. As not all the Sikh women wear turban, those without turban will surely be at the risk. Since Sikhs form a sizable percentage in the city, the order will prevent a significant number of Sikh women from wearing helmet and it will reduce the effectiveness of the order.

The exemption of Sikh women on religious ground has led some Muslims groups making similar relaxation for the burqa-clad women riding pillion on motorcycles.

Why religious sentiments above safety?

This is not the first case, where religious sentiments have been given weightage over safety. There are number of instances from world over. Few years back, Muslim doctors and nurses in UK were allowed to opt out of strict hygiene rules introduced by the NHS to restrict the spread of hospital superbugs. Female staff who followed the Islamic faith were allowed to cover their arms to preserve their modesty despite earlier order that all staff have to be "bare below the elbow".

Giving honour to the religious sentiments is appreciated but it should not be at the cost of one's lives.

Earlier,it was optional for women pillion riders to wear helmet.

As per the earlier provision, it was optional for women pillion riders to wear helmets.

The existing rules were amended after the transport department moved an application, citing increasing number of accidents involving two-wheelers. According to the Delhi Transport Department, 576 two-wheeler riders lost their lives in accidents in the city in 2012 and head injuries were the main cause of the deaths.

In 1998, the State Government had made wearing helmets mandatory for all pillion riders, but following objections from the people belonging to Sikh community, it had to amend the Delhi Motor Vehicle Rules, 1993 in June 1999 and made it optional for women.

Following recommendations from the Delhi Commission of Women, Delhi traffic police and other organisations working for road safety, the government decided to make helmets mandatory for women.

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