A future Labour government ‘will not tolerate’ gender segregation in our universities


Labour shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna MP has spoken out strongly over the decision by Universities UK to permit gender segregation on British university campuses.

Chuka Umunna JPGOn November 22, Universities UK issued new guidelines on external speakers in higher education institutions which granted permission for visiting university speakers to impose separate seating for male and female audience members during debates.

Speaking to Left Foot Forward, Mr Umunna said that the guidance by Universities UK was “deeply troubling” and that it “offends the basic norms of society”.

“It is deeply troubling that Universities UK has issued guidance suggesting that segregation would be tolerated at higher education institutions. It was mistaken to do so,” he said.

“A future Labour government will not tolerate segregation in our universities – it offends the basic norms of our society. People should, of course, be free to practice their religion privately, at places of worship and religious events, but universities are publicly-funded institutions of teaching, learning and research and state-sponsored segregation would be utterly wrong,” he added.

He also said that the guidance would not appear to be “in keeping with the letter or the spirit of the statutory duties of public sector bodies on equality and non-discrimination”.

Around 100 people gathered outside the offices of Universities UK on Tuesday evening to protest against the decision by Universities UK, with speakers including Independent columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Peter Tatchell, director of Southall Black Sisters Pragna Patel, myself, Marieme Helie Lucas, founder of Women Living Under Muslim Laws and Secularism is a Women’s Issue, and Maryam Namazie of One Law for All.

The Campaign against Gender Segregation at UK Universities will continue to oppose gender segregation at British universities via a petition, which has gathered over 8,500 signatories, as well as teams of sex apartheid busters to break up gender apartheid at universities. There are also plans for a march against sex apartheid on 8 March 2014, International Women’s Day.

Elsewhere on Left Foot Forward: Why we’re protesting against gender segregation

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  • emilia

    I agree completely with the campaign but please can we stop using the word ‘apartheid’? It’s not helpful.

  • Pascal

    Chuka Umunna once again being as palatable to popular opinion as ever. Not necessary a bad thing, certainly with this article. But one questions the sincerity of a man who’s views consistently appear to be playing to the mass vote.

  • Cole

    Give the man a break. He’s saying the right thing,

  • TM

    Some much need common sense, for a change.

  • June Hall

    This needs to be stopped. Bravo Chuka Umunna!

  • http://www.facebook.com/matthew.blott Matthew Blott

    I’ve not warmed to Chuka Umunna, mainly because he gives the impression of being in love with himself. I know a lot of them are like that but he doesn’t do a very good job of hiding it. Anyway, full praise when it’s due and after listening to the Today programme this morning I now have a lot more time for him.

  • swatnan

    Its about time we spelt it out that this is the way we do things in Britain.
    Take it leave it. Well done Chuka!

  • cedders

    Forced gender separation is surely illegal under Harriet Harman’s Equality Act 2010? Probably the only time I’ll ever give her credit for something she did.

  • Sarah_Jane_Lambert

    He also said (at least in his tv statement) that such gender segregation was a highly unlikely event but of course it has happened many times in our Universities (as documented by Chris Moos of StudentRIghts), and notably at UCL where Professor Lawrence Krauss walked out on discovering the debate he was about to participate in was segregated.

  • TM

    Good for him. Would we accept segregation if it was about black and white, or between the rich and the poor, or between different social classes, or different regional accents or between Muslims and Christians or indeed any other difference? And if so, why? If it’s OK to segregate in one instance, then why not every other prejudice, sorry ‘deeply held beliefs’ then? Why not some KKK speaker giving a lecture demanding different ethnic groups being segregated on his deeply held beliefs? And if not, why not? Anyone can have deeply held beliefs about anything, but they can still be deeply wrong. We should stop appeasing Islam or any religion or group religious or not whose beliefs set others against each other, no matter how innocuous that may first appear to be. ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’