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Perverts in Aircraft

News Reports 2 : Dec 1-3 2005

The Timaru Herald
December 1 2005

Airlines' policy sparks human rights inquiry

A ban by airlines on men sitting next to unaccompanied children will be the subject of a dispute resolution process by the Human Rights Commission, after it received four separate complaints in the past 24 hours.

The policy -- common to both Qantas and Air New Zealand -- came to national attention this week when Auckland father-of- two Mark Worsley complained that he was asked to move on a Qantas flight when an unaccompanied child was seated next to him.

The incident, which happened a year ago, irked Mr Worsley so much that he recently contacted National Party's spokesman on political correctness Wayne Mapp.

Dr Mapp said the airlines' policy was an example of political correctness that had got out of hand.

Acting Human Rights Commissioner Joris de Bres said the airlines could be in breach of the Human Rights Act for unlawful discrimination.

Human Rights Commission spokesman Kallon Basham said complaints had been received from four men in the past 24 hours -- one on Tuesday and three yesterday.

"While I am unable to reveal the details of those complaints, I can confirm that we will be entering into a dispute resolution process," he said.

The commission would be contacting the airlines concerned and the complainants shortly, he said.

A specialist on boys' education said the ban sent a signal to children and the wider community that men "could not be trusted".

Michael Irwin, a former school principal and now senior lecturer at Massey University's College of Education, says the policy adopted by Air New Zealand and Qantas sent a "misleading message" that men were uncaring when it came to young children.

"It's saying to society that it's not men's role to be involved with their children or any children and that's ridiculous," he said.

"If a child falls down and hurts themselves. . . is a man supposed to stand around until a woman can be found to help?

"I believe it sends a signal to children: `don't trust a man'."

The director of the Centre for Public Policy at Massey University, Stuart Birks, said the ban was "a clear case of discrimination with no obvious rational basis".

However, Air New Zealand spokesman David Jamieson defended the airline's stance yesterday, saying the airline had no intention of reviewing its policy, which had been in place for many years and was in line with international best practice.