Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Tonga bans girls playing rugby and boxing

Tonga bans girls playing rugby and boxing

New Zealand's Valerie Adams competes in the women's shot put final at the Rio Olympic Games on August 12, 2016. AFP
New Zealand's Valerie Adams competes in the women's shot put final at the Rio Olympic Games on August 12, 2016. AFP

Tonga bans girls playing rugby and boxing

Tonga’s government has banned girls from participating in rugby and boxing, drawing criticism from two-time Olympic shot put champion Valerie Adams and New Zealand’s proudly feminist Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

The government edict came to light last week when a team of girls from Tonga High School were pulled from a touch rugby tournament because of their gender.

A letter from the Pacific nation’s education department said the ban was to “preserve the dignity of Tongan women and hold on to Tongan cultural values”, according to a translation published by the Matangi Tonga news website.

Adams, who was born in New Zealand but is fiercely proud of her Tongan heritage, described the move as “misguided and stubborn misinterpretation of the Pacific island nation’s culture.

“According to this way of thinking, a proud Tongan like myself, could not attain the standing I have in this world,” she posted on Facebook.

“Tongan women must be free to choose their destiny, and not be held back.”

Adams has won two gold and one silver in Olympic shot put and is favourite to claim a fourth Commonwealth Games gold on the Gold Coast next month.

“Rugby, like any sport, ought to be embraced by our Tongan women – we’re good at it – don’t take it away!” she said.

Ardern said she disagreed with the ban but would not use New Zealand’s aid programme as leverage to try to have it overturned.

“As a school student I played touch rugby and I would encourage all the young women to engage in whatever sporting code they are interested in,” she said.

She said the ban affected only schools, so there were ways girls wanting to play rugby could sidestep it.

“A young woman will still be able to do that, I understand, through their villages, even if this dictate is made by these schools,” she said.

The Tonga Leitis Association, which represents the nation’s transgender community, wrote to the education ministry urging a rethink.

It labelled the directive “disrespectful and discriminatory”, saying it sent the wrong message to girls wanting to participate in sports.

“We kindly remind you that what lessens the dignity of women is telling them what they can and cannot do based on their biological sex,” it said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Prince injured, wife dies after accident

    THE wife of former First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh, Ouk Phalla, 39, died while the prince was “severely” injured following a road accident in Preah Sihanouk province’s Prey Nub district on Sunday morning, officials said. Rananriddh, who is also the president of the Funcinpec

  • Guards protest dismissals, reject claims of sharing naked photos of child

    Some 20 former security guards at the US Embassy in Phnom Penh protested on Tuesday against their dismissal. They accused their employers of falsely claiming they had viewed and shared child pornography from their mobile phones as grounds for their termination. In total, 32 personnel were dismissed

  • We’re going to Wisney World!

    More than 6,000 mostly Chinese attendees witnessed the inauguration ceremony of a $1 billion Sihanoukville resort project called Wisney World in the capital on Wednesday. The event on Koh Pich, attended by several senior Cambodian government officials, is a joint venture between China’s AMC International and

  • Funcinpec urges probe into deadly Preah Sihanouk accident

    THE Funcinpec party has urged the government, especially the Ministry of Interior, to investigate the traffic accident in Preah Sihanouk province which left Prince Norodom Ranariddh badly injured and his wife Ouk Phalla dead. Funcinpec Vice President You Hokry told reporters at Botum Votey pagoda,