Johannesburg - Beauty pageants for men, including gay men, were also allowed in the ANC Youth League, as long as these were run "responsibly", its leader Collen Maine told News24.
"We support it, as long as it is done responsibly," Maine said following the league's press conference on Wednesday about Youth Day.
Youth league secretary general Njabulo Nzuza told reporters earlier that the league didn't support anything that demeaned women, but beauty pageants were not a problem.
He said, however, paying young women to join the ANC and pose for such pictures such as those that were taken at a recent ANC-themed pageant would be wrong.
In response to a question on the league's viewpoint on a beauty pageant held by its organisers in KwaZulu-Natal, in which young women in bikini bottoms and short, tight-fitting ANC T-shirts posed for pictures in newspapers and on social media, Nzuza said, "The first thing we must provide clarity on is that the ANC is subscribing to the principles of the ANC. One of those principles is the principle of non-sexism," he said. This meant "we don't treat as less a person of another gender just because they're a woman," he said.
"We don't support any form of demeaning women as if they are sex objects. Women have contributed greatly to the struggle," he said.
The league, however, preferred not to be drawn into the issue of beauty pageants, he said.
'Stop Miss SA first'
"A beauty pageant itself has been held for ages. You have what you call Miss South Africa, where people don't only go to showcase their bodies, but also their thinking, their intellectual thinking. That is what a beauty pageant is all about," he said.
He said those who did not like the youth league's beauty pageants should first stop the Miss South Africa beauty pageant if these were demeaning women.
"It cannot be that Miss South Africa is not demeaning women and if the branch of the ANC Youth League organises one, then you say this one is demeaning women. If you say you support a beauty pageant, let us support beauty pageants across the board," he said.
"If you say you want to recruit young women to join the ANC so that they can wear bikinis, and show so they can get money, that is wrong," he said.
Nzuza likened the league's beauty pageant to those held by football clubs like Kaizer Chiefs, where participants would wear a top with the club's logo.
The ANC Women's League over the weekend said images that were circulating of bikini-clad young women in ANC regalia were not part of the ANC’s elections campaign, but rather "a group of friends, who are also ANC supporters, who organised a beauty pageant" and then took the pictures.
"These images do not form part of an ANC elections campaign nor are they endorsed by the ANC. The ANC remains an organisation committed to the values of non-sexism, and is opposed to any form of objectification of women," the women’s league said.