RELIGION VS. ROAD SAFETY: Sikh women in Delhi are allowed to ride pillion without a bike helmet. Sadly, road crashes do not discriminate on the basis of religion. Image: Shutterstock
NEW DELHI, India - Tenets of road-safety and common sense have been dumped in New Delhi, India in deference to religious belief: if you are of a certain religious persuasion it's OK to risk your life on a motorcycle by not wearing a crash helmet.
But only if you are a woman...
Women riding pillion on motorcycles in the Indian capital are supposed to wear a helmet but an exception has been made for Sikh women on religious grounds, Delhi Transport department official Yogesh Pratap said.
OPTIONAL FOR SIKH WOMEN
An earlier version of the rules specified that Sikh men wearing turbans and women riding pillion did not have to use a helmet, reports Pratap. The Delhi government declared in 1998 that wearing helmets was compulsory for all pillion riders but after objections from the Sikh community amended the rule to make it optional for women.
It has now revised the rule excluding Sikh women from wearing a helmet.
Sikh women are not allowed to wear anything on their head apart from a turban, scarf or under-turban, according to the Sikh community website.
ROAD CRASHES 'DON'T DISCRIMINATE'
India's joint commissioner of police Anil Shukla said: "We wanted there to be no exemptions for wearing helmets. Road accidents do not discriminate between men or women or on the basis of their religion."
Shukla said the police accepted the limits to the regulation as they were concerned that the safety of a larger number of women should not be put on hold by the protests of one community.
"We are not really for strong prosecution right now, we are first going to focus on a campaign to ensure women wear these helmets."
All women pillion riders not wearing helmets would be stopped. "It's up to them to prove whether they are Sikh or not," Shukla explained.
Delhi records an average of five road deaths a day - four of them either pedestrians or moped/motorcycle riders, according to a 2014 study the Centre for Science and the Environment.