Female journalists not allowed at Mighty Men gathering

2010-04-15 00:00

APPROXIMATELY 400 000 men are expected at the Mighty Men Conference at Shalom Farm in Greytown, from tomorrow to Sunday.

However, women are excluded from the first two days of the gathering, including female journalists, which is “probably unconstitutional”, said a constitutional law expert.

When The Witness’s writer tried to register to cover the gathering, she was told: “Sorry, no women are allowed.”

“If you tried to get an order from the high court to compel the organisation to allow women journalists to attend, you would probably get it,” said Karthy Go­vender, professor of constitutional law at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

“To exclude women journa­lists from covering a public event constitutes unjust discrimination. It’s unfair to allow male journalists in but not females.

“The fact that it is on a private farm is irrelevant, because it is an event of public importance. I cannot see the constitutional rationale of preventing female journalists from carrying out their jobs. You cannot be stopped from covering an event of national interest,” said Govender.

“The crux of the matter is the question: ‘Is the exclusionary policy necessary to fulfil the objectives of the event?’ If not, and the objectives of the conference can be fulfilled with women journalists present, then the policy is discriminatory and unconstitutional,” added Govender.

A member of the Mighty Men Conference organising committee, Riaan Janse van Vuuren, said the objective of the conference was to carry out Buchan’s commission from God: “To minister to men and help them to take up their rightful position as priests in the home.”

He admitted that the pre­sence of female journalists would not prevent the objectives of the conference from being fulfilled. He declined to respond to the suggestion that their exclusion was unconstitutional.

“We would welcome one of your male colleagues and male journalists from any paper. This question has come up before, and the media respected our policy. We are not discriminating against you, but we would ask you to respect the decision not to allow women.”

He added that because of the logistics of the camp site, like open showers, it would also be “very uncomfortable” for the men attending if women were present, and for them too. Janse van Vuuren said that even the necessary support services such as the police force and ambulance service “respected the men-only policy”, and had agreed to send only men to work at the conference.

He said that “ladies”, including female journalists, are welcome to attend the final service on Sunday. He also said that similar conferences have been held for women in the Pretoria area, where only female journalists attended.

The secretary general of the SA National Editors’ Forum, Mary Papayya of Durban, said: “It is improper and the organisers should reconsider their decision. It amounts to censorship, and is exclusionary of the work undertaken by women journalists.”

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