EOC news

Aranmore Catholic College Hindu nose pin ban may breach anti-discrimination laws

Bethany Hiatt - The West Australian | February 15, 2019
Aranmore Catholic College Hindu nose pin ban may breach anti-discrimination laws - pic from The West Australian

A WA Catholic school that has prevented a Hindu girl from attending classes for more than a week because she had her nose pierced could be in breach of anti-discrimination laws, a legal academic says.

Sanya Singhal, 15, was sent home on her first day of Year 10 at Aranmore Catholic College for wearing a nose pin for religious and cultural reasons. She was told to remove it or change schools because facial piercings are not allowed.

“They may be on shaky ground,” University of WA law lecturer Renae Barker said. “Just because they are the rules, doesn’t mean it’s legal.”

Dr Barker said that under the WA Equal Opportunity Act, faith-based schools had some exemptions in relation to religion.

“Schools are allowed to favour adherents of their own religion but not in such a way as to discriminate against a particular class or group of people,” she said. “And in this case, their school rules are discriminating against a particular group — female Hindu students — in a way that is not necessary to comply with the school’s religious beliefs.”

WA’s acting Equal Opportunity Commissioner John Byrne said it was not the case that religious schools were allowed to discriminate simply because they were religious.

“In referring to a young Hindu woman with a nose piercing at a Catholic college, to show direct religious conviction discrimination, a person lodging a complaint would need to show they were being discriminated against because of their religious conviction," he said.