A Hyderabad-based woman journalist, has kicked off an online petition against the Hyderabad Press Club, alleging that the club discriminates based on gender in approving membership applications.
The petition on Change.org, titled “End discrimination against women in Press Club, Hyderabad”, was started on Sunday night and has been signed by 103 people.
It alleges, “Out of 1500 members in Press Club, the number of women is less than a dismal 100 though there is huge demand from women for membership. When membership was opened in 2015, a huge number of women applied and at least 150 of them were fully eligible for membership but only 70 were given membership. When the new executive committee took over, they reduced even further from 70 to a mere 21 while approving 420 male memberships, thus allotting less than 5 percent to women.(sic)”
The petition was started by senior journalist Rajeshwari Kalyanam after another journalist Padma Vangapally posted an open letter on Facebook on April 8, highlighting the discrimination.
“They rejected my regular membership stating I am not a journalist but a voice-over artiste. I have more than 14 years of experience in journalism. And they want to put me in the Associate membership category, which is a non-journalist category. It is blatant discrimination against women,” Padma told The News Minute.
She has now withdrawn her membership application, calling the club an “Alcohol adda for men”.
Rajeshwari says that it was only after seeing Padma’s Facebook post that she herself realised the situation.
While Padma withdrew her membership application, Rajeshwari is determined not to do so, but fight the problem instead. “Initially I wanted to withdraw my membership. But then I thought – this is discrimination. As journalists, when we report on gender discrimination, why should we not fight against it in real life. When I realised that there are more members like Padma, I started the petition online,” she explains.
C Vanaja, a member of the Network of Women in Media, Hyderabad, says that the Press Club has always been a male space. “This has been the case there. In 50 years, there are less than 100 women members in the Press Club.”
Vanaja, who was the first woman Vice President of the Press Club between 2014 and 2016, managed to add 70 women members to the institution, and planned to double their number. But after her tenure ended, the new number dropped down to 21.
“The Press Club has always been a male-dominated club. Several eligible women applied for the membership, but were rejected, and only 70 new members were given Regular membership. After the new executive committee formed, they rejected 49 memberships without even informing them. Of these, the membership of 29 women journalists was converted into Associate membership. Only after Padma’s Facebook post have women journalists started realising this,” she says.
She also alleges that several non-journalist male members continue to have Regular passes, even as women journalists with more than 10 years of experience are not given membership.
“The PCH is supposed to a place where a journalist can conduct programmes and have meetings on important issues. However, it is nothing more than a bar,” Vanaja claims.
The online petition points out that, ironically, the same Press Club that is discriminating against women journalists had paid tribute to women journalists who had completed 25 years in the profession on the occasion of International Women’s Day last month.
The petition demands that the Press Club’s Executive Committee review applications immediately, and that 150 eligible women journalists – that is, those who have completed more than five years in the profession – should be given Regular memberships in the club.