Why the one and not the other?

Catching up with Catherine Bennett on gender segregation in the Observer on Saturday.

Naturally, much speculation, not all of it fanciful, has addressed the further privileges that intolerant faiths might soon, with the support of UUK’s useful idiots, be extracting from academe. Some speakers, for example, feel equally incapacitated by the prospect of women’s faces in a university audience, or “congregation” as a Muslim chaplain, Saleem Chagtai, referred to it last week on the Today programme. Can they, too – lawfully, and with the continued backing of Fenella Morris QC – demand that women cover up, be screened from sight, or evicted altogether, supposing, of course, this is consonant with genuinely held religious beliefs?

The answer is probably no, but then the question is why not? The question is why the one and not the other? Why is a comparatively minor form of gender inequality treated as acceptable when more major ones are not? Why is an incremental approach to gender inequality countenanced at all? [Read more...]

Until the West comes along to teach us progress

I said I would continue my disagreement with what Priyamvada Gopal wrote, so here I am continuing.

The fact is that challenging traditions and questioning authority are practices common to all societies; changing in response to circumstances is a human capacity and not one limited to a particular culture.

Again – no kidding, and no one who is criticizing gender segregation said otherwise. [Read more...]

“We would not condone that at all”

The LSE Student Union Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society is not impressed by the way the SU has reacted to the gender segregation controversy. It explains on the SU website.

We are disappointed by the LSESU General Secretary Jay Stoll’s statement that the threat of forced gender segregation is “practically non-existent” (despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary) and his accusation that anti-segregation campaigners are ‘Islamophobic’. We also have good reason to distrust LSESU Community and Welfare Officer Anneessa Mahmood’s defence that only “voluntarily segregated” meetings are taking place on the LSE campus, and that there have been “no meetings at LSE where segregation has been enforced upon people“, even if she states that “as an organisation we would not condone that at all, we would break up the meeting.” [Read more...]

Advice from robots

Since Maryam saved the original UUK guidance, I’m reading pages 27 and 28 again for the nostalgia. It read as if it had been written by a robot.

The segregation request is not yet in the public domain but the students’ union has an active feminist society which is likely to protest against the segregation request. Other societies are likely to express similar concerns. The event is also due to take place a few days after a number of campus-based activities to coincide with International Women’s Day.

See what I mean? A robot or an extra-terrestrial. There – might – be – some – groups – who – would – not – like – the – idea – of – segregations – by – sex – at – a – public – event – at – a – university. Ya think??? [Read more...]

Who sits where

Kate Maltby on the gender segregation dispute.

I spent much of Tuesday afternoon shivering outside the offices of Universities UK. I was there to protest their publication of guidelines which suggest segregated seating of men and women may be legally required where guest speakers demand it. It’s reassuring to learn that protest sometimes works: by Friday, the beleaguered body had shifted their position twice within 24 hours, thanks in part to criticism by Michael Gove and David Cameron. [Read more...]

Shoulder to shoulder to shoulder

There was a new comment yesterday on Nicola Dandridge’s November 25 blog post about the gender segregation bit of Universities UK’s guidance on external speakers. The new comment is by Jane Kelly, who went to the protest.

Seats For Women!
On Tuesday 10th December  I joined  ex Muslims from One Law For All, and various secular groups to attend a demonstration outside 20 Tavistock Square,against sexual segregation at lectures and debates. My mother laughed heartily at the thought of me going on a demo, something I have not done for thirty years, not since I was supporting Polish Solidarnoc. I promised her I would resist knocking off any police helmets.

The demo was for a cause which should get the attention of anyone interested in basic, long held principles of equality. Astonishingly sexual apartheid has just been allowed by UUK, the body which represents university Deans and faculties. [Read more...]

Maltby and Barkatulla on PM

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. [Read more...]

Those who wish to sit in separate areas

The Telegraph has the skinny on what the Equality and Human Rights Commission thinks of the gender segregation issue.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) announced it will help re-write guidance, published by Universities UK (UUK) last month, which said Muslim societies and other groups were entitled to practice gender segregation at public meetings on campus.

Mark Hammond, the EHRC’s chief executive, said gender segregation was “not   permissible” under equalities laws, adding that UUK’s guidance required clarification. [Read more...]

Shohana Khan

On the other hand there’s a post by Shohana Khan, Women’s Media Representative of Hizb ut Tahrir Britain. Her post is not a good post.

Placard reading “we reject gender apartheid” waved at a winter evening protest. Fiery discussions about the imposition of medieval practices in Universities, unleashed in the media, as yet again another Muslim practice is in the firing line. The report issued by Universities UK which has allowed Islamic societies to practice voluntary gender separated seating in their events, has created uproar. Allowing this Islamic practice in UK Universities would be a travesty for women’s rights. Apparently.

That’s a discouraging first paragraph. [Read more...]