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A Hindu school girl in Perth, Western Australia, has been barred from attending her school after she recently had her nose pierced.
Sanya Singhal, a student at Aranmore Catholic College, who recently got her nose pierced as per the Hindu tradition of celebrating the 'first period' or menarche, was asked to remove her nose stud on the first day of school on February 5th.
“She was told to remove it or go home,” Sanya’s mother Kalyani Singhal told SBS Hindi.
Mrs Singhal, who is a devout Hindu, says she had sent a note explaining the religious and spiritual significance of the nose piercing in their culture on the first day, however she says the the school did not accept it.
“Traditionally, we get the nose pierced when the girl enters womanhood and we cannot remove it for 12 months. We celebrate this transition to womanhood.
“Hindus are the most flexible and we try to fit in everywhere we go. And I did like to preserve our cultural and religious tradition. I have not forced my daughter to wear it. She too wants to follow the Hindu customs,” she explains.
But the school’s refusal to allow her daughter has meant Sanya has not attended school since last week.
School: 'Must abide by the uniform policy'
Sanya's mother who raised the issue with the school principal, says the principal's behaviour has been arrogant and very disappointing.
"First I thought, he is not aware of our customs and tradition. But when I explained to him the significance he said 'it is not relevant'," she said.
In a statement, Aranmore Catholic College Principal Declan Tanham, told SBS Hindi:
"All families who choose to apply to enrol at the College are interviewed. The student and the parent are both asked, “are you prepared to comply with the College’s Uniform Policy, Behaviour Policy and all other College policies?
The statement went on to say that this is done both verbally and in writing, with the policies also published on the College website.
"If they choose to do so, then the process continues, if they are not willing to support the College Policies then the family is encouraged to seek another more compatible educational opportunity. Our process is open and transparent and we allow the parent to consider their choice and if they wish to go ahead, then it is on the basis described.”
However, Mrs Singhal says the school uniform policy is inconsistent.
"The school allows headscarf for those girls who follow Islam. There are girls in the school who have coloured their hair despite it not complying with rules. The policy is inconsistent," she says.
Hindu Council of Australia to take up the issue
According to a statement from the Hindu Council of Australia, in Hindu culture, "a girl who achieves menarche, or her first period, is feted and pampered at a ceremony where family and close friends gather and lavish gifts on her.
"The girl would be bathed in fragrant water after applying oil and turmeric. She would be bedecked in fine clothes, flowers and ornaments – and her feet would be washed. This is because Hinduism celebrates, and does not abhor menstruation.”
The Council said the recent misunderstanding among Catholic schools about Hindu culture and traditions has the potential of affecting the harmony between the two communities in Australia and the reputation of Catholic schools among Indians.
It said it ‘believes that it is simply an issue of Catholics being unaware of Hindu traditions and that it can be easily resolved by making Catholic school teachers aware of Hindu sensitivities.”
The Hindu Council of Australia says it plans to take up the issue with the Catholic educational establishment to explain that nose piercing is not a fashion or a rebellion statement of a teenager but is a deep-rooted cultural and religious ritual for girls going through puberty.