Radio 4’s afternoon news program PM had the UUK-gender segregation story as its lead item, and then its first in-depth story. The talking heads were Kate Maltby, a Christian and a PhD student at UCL, and Fatima Barkatulla of Seeds of Change which (PM failed to say) is part of iERA.
Barkatulla pushed the UUK line that it’s voluntary, with extra added “live and let live” and “religious Muslim women just want a space.”
But that’s all nonsense. You can’t have separate space in a public auditorium or class room or lecture hall without keeping the “wrong” people out, so it can’t be voluntary. The minute some “wrong” person tries to sit in that space, some sort of action is required to keep that wrong person out. It might be just a very polite request, but that still makes the keeping out not voluntary.
Suppose a bunch of women went together and went very early, so that there was a big bloc of women. Then maybe any men who came later would simply decide not to sit there, to be polite. That’s still not voluntary. It may look voluntary to the willfully naïve onlooker, but it’s not.
And anyway it’s all just fake. it’s at a university. People mix there, all the time. Trying to create segregation at particular debates isn’t really for the sake of people who go all wobbly without it, it’s to make a point. A bad, illiberal, creepy point.