London: The UK government has passed an amendment by which Sikhs in the country will be allowed to carry kirpans and use it during religious and cultural functions. ‘The Offensive Weapons Bill’ received the royal assent this week. The bill aims at tackling rising knife crime in the UK and it becomes an act of law after receiving the Royal Assent of Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday.
The bill had been amended late last year to ensure that it would not impact the right of the British Sikh community to possess and supply kirpans, or religious swords. “We have engaged closely with the Sikh community on the issue of kirpans. As a result, we have amended the Bill to ensure that the possession and supply of large kirpans for religious reasons can continue,” a UK Home Office spokesperson said.
The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for British Sikhs had led a delegation to the UK Home Office to ensure that the kirpan remains exempt when the new bill becomes law. The new law would therefore maintain status quo in continuing to legally safeguard the sale, possession and use of large kirpans.
Large kirpans, with blades over 50-cm, are used by the community during religious ceremonies in gurdwaras as well as for ceremonies involving the traditional Sikh Gatka martial art. They would have fallen foul of the new bill on the possession of large blades without the amendment, which has now been agreed.
The Offensive Weapons Act covers new offences around possession of certain offensive weapons in public and enforces new restrictions on the online sales of bladed articles and corrosive products in attempt to crackdown on rising knife and acid-related attacks in the country.