Dame Valerie Adams has labelled a Tongan government edict that bans girls from playing rugby in public schools as "sexist".

The letter from Tongan Education Minister Penisimani Fifita to Tonga High School bans girls in all public schools from taking part in sports such as rugby or boxing because it goes against Tongan culture and traditions.

Fifita claims these sports damage the sacredness of femininity and Tongan cultural values.

Adams, whose mother is Tongan, called the decision "sexist" and says it isn't a cultural issue.


"I grew up in the Tongan community and I've lived in Tonga and this is just a whole lot of crap in my opinion," Adams told Chris Lynch on Newstalk ZB.

"If it was a culture issue, why did they even have the sevens team. Last year I was in Tonga as a sports ambassador talking to the women's Tongan sevens team ... If this was a cultural issue, that should have been stopped a long time ago when they started the team up.

"I just think it's wrong on every level. Why would you wanna kill someone's dreams of doing something good for their country.

"The women should have equal rights as men to do whatever they want [and] how they want especially when it comes to sport. We're not just made for the kitchen, we're not just made for cleaning up after husbands and dads and stuff."

Chair of the Tongan Advisory Council Melino Maka described the decision as "ridiculous" and said it undermined the progress made by women in society.

"It is a backwards step. The way the letter was constructed undermined the intelligence of women," Maka told Kate Hawkesby on Newstalk ZB.

"I couldn't believe it. I thought someone was giving me a practical joke.

"We are in 2018 and some of the movements that promote women and Me Too, I think it undermines all of that progress. I never thought they would bring in this ridiculous policy and direction."

The letter - which was posted on the So Tongan Facebook page - has caused significant backlash, with many echoing Adams and Maka's comments on social media.

Letter from Tongan Education Minister to Tonga High School. Photo / Facebook/So Tongan
Letter from Tongan Education Minister to Tonga High School. Photo / Facebook/So Tongan

Kiwi Ferns head coach Tony Benson says around five of his players are of Tongan descent and sport has been life changing for them.

"I'm no expert on their culture or traditions and I know that there will be a fair amount of thought gone into the decision with that in mind. But what I do know of the girls that are playing here is that they get a lot out of it for their lives and enhancing their lives," Benson told Newstalk ZB.

Benson says the ban will mean players from the Tongan area would be less developed and less likely to get involved in rugby later in life.

"For the game itself, not having a group of people participate will be pretty sad but mainly because of what they're missing out on for no fault of their own.

"I've witnessed what it means for young ladies to play the game and play it at a high level and it really does change their lives and gives them a really good start in life. To see somebody miss that would be pretty sad."