A ruling by Kenyan’s top court that schools can ban the hijab could lead to Muslim girls - already at risk from practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage - dropping out of school, campaigners warned on Friday.
The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that every school had the right to determine its own dress code, overturning a 2016 judgment allowing Muslim students to wear the hijab in non-Muslim schools, and directed the government to frame guidelines.
Human rights groups fear some schools will opt to impose the ban, which pertains to both the hijab and the white trousers often worn by Muslim schoolgirls under their skirts.
“I believe there is a large sense of tolerance in most schools, both public and private, in Kenya. But there is a possibility that some schools will enforce a ban,” said Demas Kiprono, campaigns manager at Amnesty International in Kenya.
“If this happens, it may affect schooling for Muslim girls. Religious dress is an important issue for some Muslim communities, so the ban may lead to families taking their daughters out of school, or girls may themselves not feel comfortable.”
Muslims make up about 10 percent of Kenya’s 44 million people, while Christians account for almost 85 percent of the population, according to the latest census data available.