Hospital’s ban of Hindu dots blocked

September 4, 2008

Hospital’s ban of Hindu dots blocked

31 August 2008, 14:23

By Annie Dorasamy

Addington Hospital has lifted its ban on Hindu nurses wearing the sacred bindi dot and nose rings after KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Peggy Nkonyeni intervened.

The KwaZulu-Natal Health Department ordered the Durban hospital’s managers to lift the ban this week, spokesperson Chris Maxon said. He warned that any manager who disregarded the instruction would face disciplinary consequences.

And now Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang
has been asked to ensure no health facility in the country bans workers from wearing universal Hindu symbols such as the dot and nose rings.

“Where a particular right has implications for the delivery of quality health care, we must engage all affected individuals and arrive at an amicable solution. In this instance, we are obliged to believe this did not happen,” Nkonyeni said of the Addington policy.

“What is of serious concern to me is that we are tolerant towards women who apply cosmetics to their faces, but intolerant when other women exercise their customary and religious rights by placing a powdered dot on the forehead.

“This is unacceptable. We instructed the management of the hospital to engage the affected staff and arrive at an amicable solution immediately.

We cannot be seen to be perpetuating any form of
unfair discrimination against Hindu people in a country that is enjoying the fruits of freedom,” she said.

Addington management had told Hindu nurses not to wear dots, cultural strings, nose rings or studs while on duty. The dress code revision angered religious leaders.

Hindus said the ban bore no relevance to international
trends in infection control, hospital safety and hygiene.

Discrimination

“The Hindu community perceives the banning of revered Hindu symbols as religious discrimination. The denial of Hindu religious requirements constitutes a flagrant violation of our constitution,” SA Hindu Dharma Sabha president Ram Maharaj said in a letter to the minister.

He said such instances of discrimination would be taken to the Constitutional Court.

The Commission for the Promotion and Protection of
the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities also intervened, following a letter from the Sabha last week, calling a meeting of Hindu nurses and hospital management.

“We will meet them and go to court if an amicable decision is not reached,” said commission spokesperson Sipho Mabizela.

Maxon said R K Khan, Mahatma Gandhi and hospitals
in Stanger and Tongaat, which have large groups of Indian nurses, had not been affected. Nor had private healthcare workers.

St Augustine’s general manager, Augusta Darning,
said the hospital felt strongly about promoting religious tolerance among workers.

Questions submitted to Addington Hospital management on how and why they had decided to ban the dot remain unanswered.

DAILY NEWS
31st AUGUST 2008

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