KZN schoolgirl wins nose stud battle

Durban, South Africa - The KwaZulu-Natal education MEC and the Durban Girls’ High School have lost a Constitutional Court bid to stop the wearing of nose studs at the school.

Chief Justice Pius Langa said on Friday the school interfered with Sunali Pillay’s voluntary practice of her Hindu religion when it prohibited her from wearing a stud.

In 2004, Pillay took the department of education and the school to an Equality Court over the matter.

She argued she was unfairly discriminated against and her religious and cultural rights were violated. Pillay lost the case.

She then took the matter to the Durban High Court, which ruled in her favour. This prompted the education MEC Ina Cronje and the school to approach the Constitutional Court.

Delivering judgment, Langa said the school had indeed interfered with Pillay’s way of wanting to practise her religious beliefs.

He said the rule prohibiting wearing of jewellery had the potential for indirect discrimination "because it allowed certain groups of learners to express their religious identity freely, while denying that right to others".

He said evidence before him showed that wearing a nose stud was a voluntary practice, and it formed part of Pillay’s South Indian Tamil Hindu culture.

He concluded the school’s discrimination against Pillay was unfair, saying the school should amend its code of conduct to reasonably accommodate different religious and cultural practices.

The school was ordered to pay all Pillay’s costs.