It should be a case of when in Wellington do as the Wellingtonian's do, well in a political sense that seems to be the expectation.

So it was with great indignation that an Iranian agricultural delegation was greeted with when they refused to shake the hand of Labour MP Jo Luxton.

In retaliation her male colleagues refused to take the outstretched hands of the Iranians, they felt slighted on her behalf.

But should they have been?


We live in a country that respects many different religions and cultures and are usually tolerant, we're a secular society after all.

In Iran men don't usually shake the hand of a woman, unless the female proffers it and the man is willing to reciprocate.

In this case Luxton was warned off, just as the meeting was about to begin which she says made her feel uncomfortable.

Islam prohibits the non-essential touching and physical contact of a person of the opposite gender, except for their nearest and dearest, although in pubic they're expected to keep pretty much to themselves.

But when they're travelling to a western country, and particularly on what could be seen as a diplomatic mission, surely they could abide by the local culture.

We're certainly expected to do that when we travel to their part of the world.

In Brunei a female colleague was once refused entry to one of the many Sultan's opulent, golden palaces because her sleeves were too short.

And in hardline Saudi Arabia if women are unlucky enough to be allowed in, certainly never on their own, then they have to wear head scarves.


There have been the odd, rare exception to the female covered head rule, when infidels like Michelle Obama accompanied her hubby there she got away with it after a lot of brouhaha.

So the point is, when they come here surely a handshake isn't too much to ask, it's not quite up there with a hongi.

Our official view on it is exactly forthcoming.

The Minister of Diplomacy Winston Peters was unaware of the incident but said when he's met some female ministers offshore, he knew the protocol adding you've got to be as polite as you can which doesn't always require a handshake.

He passed it on up to the Prime Minister for further reaction.

In fact that's where all comment's been referred to but nothing's been forthcoming.