Gender segregation ‘not permissible’ under equality law

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has ruled that segregation as proposed by the vice-chancellors’ body is “not permissible” under existing equality laws.

Universities UK  may be forced into a humiliating climbdown after the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) released a statement saying that segregation as proposed by the vice-chancellors’ body was “not permissible” under existing equality laws.

Chief executive of the EHRC Mark Hammond said: “Equality law permits gender segregation in premises that are permanently or temporarily being used for the purposes of an organised religion where its doctrines require it.

“However, in an academic meeting or in a lecture open to the public it is not, in the commission’s view, permissible to segregate by gender,” he added.

David Cameron has also now come out against gender segregation and said that he wants a ban on it in publicly-funded institutions.

In a statement just released, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Mr Cameron disagreed with rules set out by Universities UK.

“He does not believe that guest speakers should be allowed to address segregated audiences, so he believes that Universities UK should urgently review its guidance,” said the spokesman

This follows a statement by shadow business secretary Chuka Ummuna who told Left Foot Forward yesterday that a Labour government would not permit segregation on campus.

On 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.

A spokesman for UUK said they would now be taking new legal advice on the guidelines.

“We are now working with senior legal counsel and the Equality and Human Rights Commission to review both our case study and the commission’s guidance to ensure that they are consistent and clear for universities,” the spokesman said.

“For the avoidance of any doubt, we are not talking here about enforced segregation,” the spokesperson said.

However the guidelines do in fact state that “assuming the side-by-side segregated seating arrangement is adopted, there does not appear to be any discrimination on gender grounds merely by imposing segregated seating”.

In other words, according to the guidelines visiting speakers are entitled to “impose” segregated seating arrangements on their university audiences.

Left Foot Forward has been at the forefront of the campaign against gender segregation in UK universities, and we have set out our reasons why here. The job of campaigners now is to keep pushing on this issue. There is every chance we may win.

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7 Responses to “Gender segregation ‘not permissible’ under equality law”

  1. uglyfatbloke

    I hate it when I find myself in agreement with Cameron.

  2. Ben Cobley

    An opposing view from me: that the sort of segregation that UUK has envisaged tolerating (within conditions) *is* discrimination but it isn’t necessarily discrimination *against* anyone and is therefore not a matter of inequality:

    If you ban segregation on principle, you are going to have to ban an awful lot of things: women’s groups, BAME groups, LGBT groups, gender-specific sports teams, single sex state schools etc. The hypocrisy and double standards of protecting these favoured activities while disallowing others will be obvious. If we want to prevent misogyny, we should attack misogynistic activities, not activities that we, in our prejudice, might associate with them. There is a slippery slope of intolerance here which it seems the Right and the mainstream liberal-left is joining hands on.

  3. BetrayedRosse

    The real problem here is peoples blind acceptance of all things under the banner of Islam

  4. Selohesra

    I heard woman on the radio defend this by saying they were not enforcing the seperation it was audience willingly doing so themselves. Would be interesting to see what happens if this voluntary system is challenged by a few students willing to stand up to the bullies and sit with the opposite sex.

  5. TM

    ‘Would be interesting to see what happens if this voluntary system is challenged by a few students willing to stand up to the bullies and sit with the opposite sex.’ wouldn’t it just?!!! What would the PC equality loving brigade do then I wonder???

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