Gender Discrimination In Press Club HyderabadGender Discrimination In Press Club Hyderabad

Hyderabad: Is the Press Club of Hyderabad (PCH) meant only for men? Is the prestigious journalists’ body becoming a place for rampant gender discrimination? Are the Press Club doors closed for women members?


If the developments in the last 48 hours are anything to go by, it does appear that PCH has been playing gender politics, denying membership to women, though they are qualified, bonafide journalists and welcoming even male non-journalists with open arms.


The issue came to light when a senior Journalist Padma Vangapally posted an open letter, addressed to those at the helm of affairs at the Press Club, revealing how her membership has been rejected just because some male members of the committee remarked that she is not a journalist but a mere voice-over artiste. Padma has listed out her credentials and her vast experience working in channels such as Tv9, Vanitha tv, 10tv. Padma is an award-winning journalist with her programmes for women through the popular Manavi bringing her accolades.


While discrimination by the PCH has caused much heartburn among women journalists, with Padma declaring that she is withdrawing her membership from the ‘Alcoholics’ Adda’, for most male members this seems to be a mere storm in a beer glass. ‘No need to call this a battle, it is a simple, insignificant issue’ declared one of the male journalists in comments on Padma’s post.


“It is not the first time that women’s membership has been rejected. Executive Committees have long since tried to curb the number of women joining the Club and have even passed drastic resolutions that we had to fight to get revoked,” a senior member and a former office-bearer of the EC, alleges. It is caste, gender and alcohol that set criteria for member selection, she alleges.


It seems the Telangana government is now providing 33% reservation to women journalists in getting accreditation cards but what’s a complete surprise is that women journalists do not even represent 10% of total 1,500 regular Press Club membership.


The new reservation rule for women journalists in accreditation came into effect from 2016-17 but the same rule was not implemented in Press Club for unknown reasons. Even in press club committee too, they were barely visible in 52 years of its history.


“When I took over as the first vice-president of the Press Club during 2014-16, one of my priorities was to bring in more women journalists as members as the Press Club is always dominated by men,” said C Vanaja, member of Network of Women in Media.


In fact, Vanaja made her mark in press club history after she not only got elected as its first women vice-president but succeeded in reserving two Executive Committee membership posts to two women but her efforts seem to have gone waste.


Sources told that her efforts helped in adding 60 new members to (pre-existing 60 members) with great difficultly but most of them have either been downgraded as associate member (temporary member) or rejected by the next committee in the name of review.


“Though some of the male members are into real estate and can continue as regular members it is not a problem but when an experienced woman journalist takes up job of a voice-over, her membership is downgraded into a temporary one,” rued Vanaja.


Directing her ire against the gender discrimination prevailing in press club, she told, “There are several non-journalists continuing as regular members in Press Club but why is the committee not reviewing all the  1,500 regular members.”


“Last year, when we had a membership drive, there were thousands of applications from both men and women, working in various media organizations in Hyderabad as well as freelancers. While male members got a cakewalk into the Club, women journalists’ applications have been picked up one by one and rejected. Worse still, the EC members used derogatory and vulgar language while examining the applications, with some of them referring to the applicants as ‘adi, evatti’. It was enraging,” says one of the senior women members of the PCH.


The women members in the EC and the woman vice president say they are trying to fight this discrimination as much as possible but complain that they are outshouted by male members who do not hesitate to lapse into foul language.


While the PCH website claims that the Press Club has come to be known as a centre for intellectual exchange of ideas and professional experience where the media experts and scholars interact on topics of current interests and matters of concern for the fraternity,’ women journalists laugh it off. They allege that the Club is nothing but a watering hole, a glorified bar and whatever events they plan for families of journalists are a mere eye-wash. They also lament at the lack of proper space for women journalists to sit and spend leisure time, which is one of the prime purposes of the Club.


Even though it is two years after Press Club of Hyderabad completed its Golden Jubilee, it is shocking that it failed to get rid of the driftwood that is tarnishing its reputation. Out of about 1500 members, only a miniscule percentage of women, a discrepancy that should be set right immediately, women journalists demand.


The rejection of one membership seems to be snowballing into a major controversy as women journalist groups want to take it up formally, even lodge a protest with the Press Council of India. Unless the Club acts swiftly, the issue will spill over into the mainstream and will leave the Club office bearers embarrassed and red in the face, forever losing their credibility as an organization that should support equal rights and equal opportunities for all mediapersons.