Tonga PM backs away from ban on girls' rugby
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Tonga have officially back-tracked on a ban on rugby for girls following widespread international and domestic outrage at the move.
Tongan Prime Minister, Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva, stated that the letter from the Ministry of Education and Training to Tonga High School purporting to ban girls from participating in rugby and boxing is not Tongan Government policy.
The Prime Minister said, "Sport is good for the health and the well-being of the people and this Government, like previous governments, actively encourages the participation of every Tongan student in all sports without discrimination,"
The Prime Minister also said, "It is the Government’s responsibility to provide opportunities for all the students to participate in all sports.
"It is however for the individual students and their parents to decide whether or not they should participate in a particular sport like rugby and boxing,"
Olympic gold medalist Valerie Adams, whose mother is Tongan was one of the strongest critics of the purported ban.
"When progress and tradition are in conflict, we must ask ourselves – what will bring our people the most benefit, and how do move forward together.
"According to this way of thinking, a proud Tongan like myself, could not attain the standing I have in this world. Tongan women must be free to choose their destiny, and not be held back by misguided and stubborn misinterpretation. Honouring tradition and following passion need not come into conflict.
"Rugby, like any sport, ought to be embraced by our Tongan women – we’re good at it – don’t take it away!"