This story of sexism in golf in Kenya will make you think differently about the UK
UK golf clubs have a very bad reputation both in Britain and around the world for sexism – even though more than 99 percent of clubs now have equal policies for men and women. However, if you thought the situation was bad in the UK, where three men-only clubs are on the small list of clubs that host the Open Championship, you might not believe just how bad it could be, as proven by this tale from Kenya.
The 88-year-old Limuru Country Club, located about a 30-minute drive from Nairobi, is one of Kenya’s premier golf clubs, and has both male and female members.
However, in December 2012 the club decided to amend its rules so that women could not participate in general meetings or be allowed to vote in electing people to its committee.
Three women at the club vocally objected to this and what they said was a male ‘ego-driven culture’ that had been practiced at the club.
Within a few days, the club removed one of the women, the CEO of a large Kenyan company, Ms Mambo, from her position as chair of the club’s disciplinary committee, and eight days later suspended the two other female members, a businesswoman and a molecular epidemiologist, for one and six months, for alleged misconduct. The Kenya Ladies Golf Union (KLGU) also suspended them, and the ladies in turn sued the club and officials of the KLGU.
When the case went to court the lawyer representing the women argued that the club’s articles of association granted every member the right to vote and that the rule preventing women the right to vote was only communicated to some members, was only made three days before the vote on it and was in contravention with Kenya’s constitution.
The club defended itself by stating that it should be allowed to discriminate against women.
According to Kenyan paper Standard Media, its lawyer argued: ‘Discrimination is permitted in the game of golf, it is not fully outlawed in private clubs and the court should not interfere with age-old practices in the game of golf … private members’ clubs in other countries have discriminatory provisions in their by-laws.’
Kenya’s attorney general ruled that the club’s decision to bar women the right to vote was in violation of the constitution and that private members’ clubs should not be exempted from provisions of the constitution. Justice Mumbi Ngugi ordered the golf club’s directors to individually pay the legal costs of the case and the club was ordered to reinstate the suspended members and give them back their voting rights.
Remember this story the next time there’s a dispute over tee times on ladies’ day!