Protest against Universities UK’s endorsement of gender segregation

Gender SegregationThe LSS is very concerned about the decision of Universities UK to endorse gender segregation.

Universities UK has produced guidance “aimed at supporting universities in managing controversial external speakers on campus”.

In a decision supposedly driven by a commitment to free speech, Universities UK has made it clear that segregation is permitted if driven by the “genuinely-held religious beliefs of the group hosting the event” (page 28 of the guidance).

Universities UK has adopted the following reasoning (page 27 of the guidance) in arriving at the decision to produce this guidance:

“On the face of the case study, 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. Both men and women are being treated equally, as they are both being segregated in the same way.”

The LSS is pleased to see that there is a protest planned on Tuesday 10th December 2013 at Universities UK, Woburn House, 20 Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9HQ from 5.00pm to 6.30pm (nearest tubes Euston or Russell Square). The LSS is very grateful to Maryam Namazie and Chris Moos for raising the profile of this issue and for organising this protest (more details here). LSS Secretary Charlie Klendjian will be speaking at the protest.

Commenting, Charlie Klendjian said:

“This is disgraceful ‘guidance’ by Universities UK.

“It is unclear how anyone is to determine whether religious beliefs are ‘genuinely-held’ or not ‘genuinely-held’ and in any case, even with the aid of a mind-reading machine it’s irrelevant. Segregation is unacceptable whether the motivation is religious or non-religious. No matter how much Universities UK dresses this decision up in flattering human rights language, segregation is still segregation.

“The LSS urges all decent people, religious or non-religious, Muslim or non-Muslim, who don’t want to turn the clock back to attend the protest or make their feelings known as loudly as possible.

“Gender equality is an ongoing battle, and most particularly in the context of religious pressure. Gender equality is always a struggle to obtain and so it shouldn’t be given up without an equally strong struggle.

“Legal commentators often talk about a ‘glass ceiling’ in the legal profession making it difficult for women to reach the most senior positions. Well maybe those commentators could focus their attention for the time being on the trap-door that awaits female university students if absurd, cowardly ‘guidance’ such as this from Universities UK goes unchecked.”

You can sign a petition against Universities UK’s guidance here.

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