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Complaint over women-only exhibit

Published: 5:11AM Monday August 27, 2012 Source: Fairfax

  • Paul Young objecting outside the Dowse Art Museum against a female-only video display (Source: Fairfax)
    Paul Young objecting outside the Dowse Art Museum against a female-only video display - Source: Fairfax

A Lower Hutt resident has complained to the Human Rights Commission over an art exhibition that bans men from seeing it, saying it is "absolutely abhorrent".

Paul Young, 60, criticised the Dowse Art Museum in Lower Hutt after it was confirmed only women would be allowed to view a video display from Qatari writer and film-maker Sophia Al-Maria.

The video, Cinderazahd: For Your Eyes Only, showed female friends and relatives preparing for a family wedding without their hijabs or veils.

Al-Maria asked for the video to be viewed only by women, as it was filmed in a female-only area of the home.

But Young said the Dowse was "out of line" in allowing the viewings to be restricted, as it was "open discrimination" against 50% of the population.

"The principle at stake here is absolutely abhorrent and this is made even more so in that it is sponsored by a state organisation."

The Dowse, along with Petone Settlers Museum, is operated by Hutt City Council, which was alerted to the potential human rights concerns around the work.

In his complaint, Young said it was deeply offensive that the exhibit could be allowed to blatantly discriminate against men.

"We live in a secular society which supports tolerance of all beliefs, religious and otherwise. However, this is not to be at the expense of the potential exclusion of the male component of our population."

While Young acknowledged that the traditions of the Muslim culture should be respected, they could not be allowed to impinge on human rights, he said.

"I have a very open mind, but not so open that I would sit here and let my brains fall out."

Human rights legislation did not allow for exceptions on the basis of art or religious belief, Young said.

"The thing that really makes me see red is that this exhibition excludes 50% of the population. There is a fundamental principle here which is being ignored and that can't be tolerated."

Dowse director Cam McCracken knew nothing of the complaint when he was contacted by The Dominion Post yesterday. He would not comment till he had heard from the Human Rights Commission.

Public opposition and support

"If the Dowse receives public support, this is an outrage (obviously no taxpayer should be blocked from viewing an exhibit he has helped to pay for). If, however, it is a fully private museum, it strikes me as less objectionable," said Geoff.

While Jen wrote, "We fought (and are still fighting in some cases) long and hard for equality between men and women. This sort of medieval rubbish is not needed in NZ in 21st Century. Send it back to Qatar."

''I will be going to Dowse on exhibition opening day and I will be shown this," said Simon.

However, John writes that, "I support the Dowse. This country has all cultures, all religions and all races in it. People need to learn to respect others' ways of living."