Heather du Plessis-Allan: Women should be allowed to speak on the marae

Author
Heather du Plessis-Allan,
Publish Date
Fri, 5 Feb 2021, 5:21PM

Heather du Plessis-Allan: Women should be allowed to speak on the marae

Author
Heather du Plessis-Allan,
Publish Date
Fri, 5 Feb 2021, 5:21PM

I’m disappointed that in 2021 women are still barred from Whaikōrero on the marae. 

It’s 23 years since Helen Clark was reduced to tears over this and yet again we have another female leader of the opposition barred from speaking. 

Judith Collins has suggested this is sexism.

Greens co leader Marama Davidson has hit back telling her she “does not have the cultural expertise.” 

Also, TVNZ’s excellent political reporter Maiki Sherman has told Judith Collins it’s not sexism, it’s a cultural practice and it’s not the place of Pākehā women to criticise.

Now look, I totally appreciate where this practice might originate in tikanga Māori . 

One of my Māori tutors says it developed as a practice during the days of inter-iwi warfare.

Because the marae was the place where visiting tribes were welcomed.

And women were kept behind the men, and away from the speaking in part to protect them should the Whaikōrero turn violent.

And of course iwi wanted to protect their women because they are important for the procreation of the iwi.

But, it’s 2021, warfare is no longer a threat.

This is a really tricky debate for a lot of people: what’s more important… protecting what individual cultures want to do or protecting women’s claims to equal treatment? 

For me there’s no debate.

Every culture must treat women as equal to men, and afford them the same rights in every aspect as they afford men.

If we start making excuses for one culture’s relegation of women, where do we end?  Do we excuse the Saudis and say it’s OK that they ban women from marriage unless they gave the consent of their male guardians because that’s their culture? Do we excuse Catholicism for demanding that young women aren’t allowed contraceptives or abortions? 

I don’t agree.  Women should be treated as equals to men by everyone, at all times.