Pregnant and menstruating women will be allowed on a behind-the-scenes tour after Te Papa museum said the rule forbidding them could be taken as an advisory.

Te Papa told the Herald last night that the rule was imposed to respect Maori beliefs related to the Taonga Maori collection, but women could choose to ignore it.

On Monday, Te Papa said the policy was one of the terms agreed to when it took the collection.

But yesterday the museum said women would be allowed on the tour.

Te Papa spokeswoman Jane Keig, said the original invitation for a behind-the-scenes tour could have been better written.

"In hindsight with that particular behind-the-scenes tour ... it was to museum staff as opposed to someone ringing up and requesting one who would have been talked through the process.

"It would have been best to have put context around that condition."

The invitation to the November 5 tour said in the "conditions of the tour" that "wahine who are hapu [pregnant] or mate wahine [menstruating] are welcome to visit at another time that is convenient for them".

The backdown comes after complaints at the policy.

The Human Rights Commission yesterday received "some" calls complaining about the policy, but after talking to Te Papa, has not ruled it unlawful.

Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres said Te Papa clarified with him that it was only an advisory.

"If someone was prevented from taking part in the tour - if a woman was discriminated against because she was pregnant - then that would definitely constitute discrimination.

"Te Papa clarified that pregnant women are not prevented from attending the tour, it's up to them to choose not to and we are happy with that."

Te Papa's kaihautu [leader], Michelle Hippolite, said that in Maori culture a pregnant woman has a responsibility to her unborn child and the museum wanted to protect women from the tapu of some of the objects on the tour.

"It was reminding them that they may have an encounter which may influence them and so their baby."

Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Chris Finlayson downplayed concerns, saying he did not get involved in the day-to-day running of Te Papa, but he understood the message was not an instruction.

"It's an advisory requested by the iwi, but it's for people to make up their own minds."