A Woman Special Reserve Police (SRP) constable in the Central Division has filed a constitutional motion against the State so that she can be permitted to wear her hijab while on duty.
WSRP Sharon Roop, who is based at the Central Operations Centre at the Chaguanas Police Station as a wireless operator, said she was a practising Muslim and is being denied her constitutional right to freedom of conscience and religious beliefs.
Roop, an officer for eight years, is represented by attorneys Anand Ramlogan,SC, Jayanti Lutchmedial and Robert Abdool-Mitchell. The lawsuit will be heard by Justice Margaret Mohammed.
In pleading with the court to grant her reliefs sought, Roop said she was advised by the TTPS’ legal officer that the Acting Commissioner of Police was unable to accede to her request to wear a hijab on duty “until there is a change in the legislation”.
In her lawsuit, Roop said three years ago she began wearing the hijab (which covers a woman’s hair) and asked her superiors to be able to wear the head wear while on duty.
She said she was advised to write to the Commissioner of Police to seek permission to wear the hijab with her uniform and provided photographs of ways in which the head wear could be worn with her uniform.
She also provided photographs of law enforcement officers in several non-Islamic countries, such as the United Kingdom and Canada, who have been given the permission to wear the hijab while on duty in uniform.
Roop said she has received no response from the office of the Commissioner.
She has also written to the Minister of National Security and the TTPS Social and Welfare Association.
Roop said when she is on duty she is prevented from truly practising her religion and following its teachings because she is not allowed to wear the hijab.
“I am forced to remove my headscarf before exiting my vehicle on the police station compound and throughout the day, I am left feeling naked, exposed and ashamed because I am forced to disobey the religious instructions which I have received,” she complained in her lawsuit.
Roop also said she was turned away from the Women’s Police Bureau of the TTPS and told she could be disciplined and prosecuted for not wearing her uniform as prescribed.
She was also told she could not wear darker coloured stockings to cover her legs while on duty and to wear the night uniform during the day was a breach of the TTPS Regulations.
“I was very disheartened and discouraged by this response as no one seemed to understand the emotional and psychological impact of being forced to disobey my religion,” she said.
“As it stands I am being forced to choose between prasticing my religion and being a member of the TTPS,” she said, adding that she cannot afford to resign her job because she is a single mother.
Roop said the situation has caused her immense mental anguish and she has had to seek counselling with the police psychologist to cope with the stress and has been subjected to bias and discrimination by certain senior officers.
Roop further said in her lawsuit she was advised by a senior officer of the Central Division that she could not be trusted in the wireless room ‘when things were getting hot’ in Enterprise, Chaguanas, and an attempt was made to have her transferred.
She said the TTPS Regulations make no allowance for items of clothing prescribed by certain religious faiths and because of this she is prevented from observing practices associated with her religious belief.