London, Mar 18 : A prominent British novelist Tim Lott has branded the Orange Prize for Fiction, Britain's leading literary award for women, 'sexist and discriminatory' and wants it to be scrapped.
Lott, who won the rival Whitbread First Novel Award in 2000 for 'White City Blues', said a lot of writers he had spoken to find the prize ridiculous and unfair.
"I know that I face derision and ridicule but a lot of writers I have spoken to find it [the prize] ridiculous and unfair," he added.
He said it was no longer possible to say that women were a mistreated minority in the literary world and the 30,000 pounds Orange Prize was 'discriminatory, sexist and perverse'.
''Women are predominant, in terms of numbers and power, in most of the major publishing houses and agencies,'' The Telegraph quoted Lott as saying.
"They sell most of the books, into a market that largely comprises women readers.
"Girls in schools are more literate than boys, and pupils are taught reading mainly by female teachers promoting mainly female writers.
"Could the establishment of a men-only prize, with men-only judges, be justified given their level of relative exclusion in schools and the marketplace? Can you imagine the derision with which it would rightly be met?" he added.
However, Kirsty Lang, the broadcaster and the chairman of this year's judging panel, which also included the pop star Lily Allen, defended the prize.
"I agree that it is no longer about positive discrimination. Most readers of fiction in this country are women but I think the prize is about celebrating women's literature and it is a very successful marketing exercise," she said.
The Orange Prize, which declared list of its 20 entries for this year's award on Mar 17, has rarely been free of controversy.
The list includes 'The Gathering' by Anne Enright, which recently won the Man Booker Prize; 'The Road Home,' by Rose Tremain and seven debut novels, including 'Lottery' by Patricia Wood, which was inspired by her father winning the Washington State Lottery.