Sexual segregation at a UCL event is a scandal

I posted earlier about the sex segregation scandal at UCL.

Here’s a statement by concerned students on the matter (updated with a quote from a woman student):

A policy of sexual segregation was enforced at an event at University College London on Saturday, with the organisers’ security trying to physically remove members of the audience who would not comply.

Seating at the event was segregated between men and women, with a small ‘mixed’ space allocated for couples.

Separate entrances were in place for women and men, although ‘couples’ were allowed to enter via the men’s door. Male attendees were refused entry via the women’s door.

The event “Islam vs Atheism” on Saturday 9th was organised by the Islamic Education and Research Academy (IERA), and pitted writer Hamza Tzortzis against Professor Laurence Krauss in a debate.

A policy of segregation was suggested by IERA in a statement before the event, which said: “As for seating, it is according to when the ticket was booked and gender.” This was raised by students with UCL, who gave assurances that no segregation would be allowed.

Fiona McClement, UCL equalities and diversities adviser, said on 8th March: “We have been in contact with the event organisers and made it clear that UCL will not permit enforced gender segregated seating. All attendees are free to sit wherever they feel comfortable.”

Sarah Guise, head of equalities and diversity, deans of students Mike Ewing (academic) and Ruth Siddall (welfare), as well as UCL gender champions Professor Mary Collins and Baroness Diana Warwick of Undercliffe, were also informed of the plans of the organisers to breach UCL’s Equality and Diversity policy.

Ms McClement and Rob de Bruin, co-chair of the 50:50 Gender Equality Group, said: “The UCL security team will be in attendance to ensure compliance with this. If the event organisers do not comply, the event will not be permitted to go ahead.”

Despite these assurances, segregation was enforced on the night.

At the entrance to the UCL building audience members were separated into male and female only queues by the organisers’ security staff.

The policy of segregation was strictly enforced inside the building. Male attendees were refused entry via the women’s door to the lecture theatre. When asked if the event was segregated, one of the security staff said: “It’s slightly segregated.” Dr Aisha Rahman said she was an organiser and that the room had been booked on behalf of UCL Chemistry. She said the segregation had been agreed with the University and suggested more than once that the men should be refused entry.

Several attendees approached UCL’s security personnel to alert them to the situation, but found that the staff were unwilling to intervene, and were instructed to comply with the organisers’ policy of segregation.

After more discussion, three male attendees were told they would be permitted to sit in the women’s section, but were directed to an isolated space on the side of the lecture theatre, away from everyone else.

One of the students, Christopher Roche, said: “It was clear that the segregation was still in effect as when I sat in the same aisle as female attendees I was immediately instructed by security to exit the theatre. I was taken to a small room with IERA security staff and an organiser named Mohammad who told me that the policy was actually given to IERA by UCL.

“Shocked, I said that I would like to return to my seat but was told that security would now remove me from the premises for refusing to comply with the gender segregation.”

The organisers’ security staff then tried to physically remove Mr Roche and Adam Barnett, a journalism student and friend of Mr Roche, from the theatre.

Professor Krauss intervened and threatened to leave to stop the removal of the two audience members. The organisers then prepared a row near the women’s section at the back of the room where the two men sat quietly for the event. Professor Kraus said he had been told in advance that there would be no segregation, and that people could sit wherever they wanted.

Adam Barnett said: “What happened on Saturday is a scandal. UCL and the organisers owe an apology to me, my friend, the audience and the general public. For a London University to allow forced segregation by sex in 2013 is disgraceful.

“The organisers should also apologise for their appalling behaviour if they want to hold any more events on campuses in the future.”

He added: “It’s insulting to be told that because I’m a man I can’t sit near women in the audience. I’m not in the habit of forcing my presence where it’s unwanted, but the event’s organisers have no business policing social matters of this kind. Furthermore, the women in question were never asked whether they cared where we sat.”

“In this case the segregation was non-voluntary. But voluntary or not, segregation is wrong, as well as a violation of UCL policy.”

Another student attendee, Halima, said “What happened at UCL was utterly disgraceful. I found the atmosphere intimidating and divisive, and I regret not joining my male friends in openly opposing this violation of gender equality in public premises. However, I was genuinely fearful of the repercussions.

“As an Asian woman I found the enforcement of non-voluntary segregated seating incredibly offensive and especially outraged to see females were allocated seats at the back corner of the auditorium to view the debate from a disadvantaged position. Segregation based on gender difference is totally unacceptable under any circumstances and UCL’s failure to protect equal rights is a heavy stain on their reputation.”

Chris Moos, a PhD student who sought assurances from UCL before the debate, said: “Having personally attended this event, I cannot tell you how disappointed I and many other attendees are that UCL did not live up to its promise to make sure that its Equality and Diversity policy was enforced.

“Overall, the atmosphere of the event was intimidating for both male and female students, who were shocked to see that although concerns about the plans to enforce gender segregation had been raised before with UCL, the organisers were able to violate its policy and create a threatening and divisive atmosphere that was not inclusive to all attendees.”


  1. Salahuddin says

    Atheist men forcing themselves upon innocent women. I would not call this decent or nice. Its called oppression!

    I’m not in the habit of forcing my presence where it’s unwanted by Adam Barnett! Clearly the rights of women being violated.

    • Mehran says

      Salahuddin you are damn lier! You know very well! who you are to intervine anybody relationship in any means! who gave you right to judge people like that?! You and your Sharia Law are raping women in our world not any one else! Free World has law which protect women and men right! If any forcing going on it would be reported and you are not one to say how each individual has to react to others! Remember you are living in free world and you can not rape women just like in Sharia law enforces men doing that! women are not commoditie but human and their right is protected and you should obey that!

    • says

      As a woman (and an atheist) who would have been relegated to the back of this supposedly public event, I want you to know that I think your and the IERA’s jerkwater, misogynistic views belong in the dark ages. As a woman, I want you to know that you and your like-minded company are the only ones violating me, my rights, and my sense of justice. The only party forcing anything at this event was the IERA and UCL directed security staff.

      I fail to see how sitting next to someone at a public lecture is “forcing yourself” on anyone. If you feel that threatened by being seated next to the opposite sex, I suggest you avoid the public arena entirely. It sounds like a personal problem for a psychiatrist, and not something that will be fixed by regressive bullying tactics. This sexist separation was neither necessary, nor wanted by any party but your own. The only thing I have to say to you and the UCL is “how dare you?”.

  2. GGS says

    Atheist men forcing themselves upon innocent women.

    I know! Just like that uppity Rosa Parks forcing herself on those innocent white people at the front of the bus!


    • Mehran says

      wrong! You should not let them tell you where you are welcome or are not. Their aim is to separate their world and have their bite of power in all about their closed community and by not participating you it happen!
      I am absolutely not sharing this kind of fussiness about participating in any discussion. They are in bit shit not us! They have to prove their middle time mentality is welcome in 21 century not us! They just need to segregate their own people from all other people around them which we should prevent them doing that!

  3. Comtessa de Metoncula says

    WTF are they paranoid or what? You would lhink you are at a Synagogue! They are all paranoid and how could you possibly have a dialogue with such a closeminded group..As a staunch Atheist, I will not even stoop that low to attend such a farce of a Conference. They would not have the Honour of my royal presence!

    • Mehran says

      Wrong! To discuss is not just to discover but some times to ridicule them too! We need to participate to show the strength of freedom of expression and awakening all those poor victims who were brainwashed from childhood. Our aim should be to share wisdom and trust humanity to be awaken! Believe me it might be the most extreme but it has good result at the end! First of all you showed strength of freedom of speech in free world and let them to back down. Second of all not participating is what their organizer need and the reason for sexual segregation is for further segregation to separate their world from all others! NO! NO! We have to get rid of fussiness and participate and share some wisdom with them!

    • Mehran says

      No No! Wrong!
      That is very naive to think like that! There is not any appeasement but that is their politics for segregation which is well known as multiculturalism! They are controlling our world with such a politics! We have not got that yet! And there are people saying lets not participate in such a discussion we are not welcome! Let them make their
      conference as private and do whatever they like! But as long as it is public they have no such a right to segregate sexes and there should be strong condemnation for such thing to happen any where!

  4. mishra says

    That is the beginning of the end of secularism, western values of equality and starting of the ISLAM’s domination. I believe ESS will be hit at a 30% max ration of ISLAMIC populace in any population, and having read you sir “any deviators once stability is reached is going to be punished bad”

  5. Acleron says

    There was a time when universities were hot beds of radicalism, where all ideas were on the table to be debated and dismissed if thought necessary. Authorities were uncomfortable with this but could see the virtue of such free thinking. So what has happened when a group can enforce its Bronze Age misogynistic views on anybody, let alone a university. No doubt these idiots will soon be demanding men only universities so their small and frightened minds can fester in peace.

  6. Ann says

    Good for Krauss walking out instead of lending them his support tacitly by going through with the debate. That is exactly the right answer.

  7. Didgya says

    I am not sure but on the video of it it looks like he walks out, but I do not know if he came back. Good for him if he left for good.

  8. Mark Steven x says

    He came back. This seems to be getting a bit confused and Krauss looks to be distancing himself fom it. From what I have seen, he only threatened to walk when three males wanted to sit in the female area and were being ejected. The security relented on that, but it seems they didn’t relent on the whole thing, but he still went through with it. Richard dawkins has written about it a lot, and shows some disappointment that it went ahead. As far as he’s concerned, Krauss should have walked and gained the adverse publicity about the issue. For me, that would have been wrong as his debater doesn’t deserve the oxygen of publicity. Overall, I think Krauss was caught out in deciding what to do here. In essense, there was a bit of a walk-out over one issue, but then it went ahead, but still with the main segregation in place. Of course, the muslim element say that if a woman “chooses” to be segregated, that’s her choice, and nobody should poke their noses in. That is not the point. The segregation was there as a policy whether anyone chose to do it or not. It’s the policy that is the issue here, not what people may have ultimately decided to do.

  9. Sakinah says

    I think the hype that has been created about the segregation at the Islam or Atheism debate is just a tactic to take the spotlight off the fact that Professor Krauss came extremely unprepared and didn’t actually know much about Islam apart from a few outdated insults that we can easily copy from any edl website. As an academic, we expected more from him. If he knew that he was going to debate about Islam, you would think that he would have at least read some books about it. The women asked for a couple of rows at the back so they could sit separately from men and feel more comfortable, which the organisers kindly agreed to, with the permission from the University. The attendees then had the other 10+ rows to choose from. For the man to cause such commotion and challenge this in the way that he did in the name of ‘equal opportunities’ is just ridiculous.

    • Mark Steven x says

      Sakinah, with what authority do you speak? Were you there? Were you an organiser? How do you know, “The women asked for a couple of rows at the back…?” Are you ignoring the fact that the event was advertised with tickets being gender specific? That’s what the whole thing is about. It was organised up front to have gender seperation, whether people wanted it or not. Of course, if some people decide they want to sit where they want, that is up to them on the evening, but the rule was in place anyway.

      • reinderdijkhuis says

        Sakinah is apparently a fake name. She has been spamming the exact same comment on Ophelia Benson’s blog. Ophelia naturally made short work of it, pointing out just how much of a lie it was.

  10. Eristae says

    I am seething over this. Seething. This kind of absurdity cannot be allowed. I will not be relegated to the back of the bus (er, auditorium) because some ninny with a God complex thinks I can be ordered about.

    If I’d had my way, Krauss would have said, “No, I won’t come back, you lying bastards. You promises me there wouldn’t be any segregation, and letting three people move while allowing intimidation to keep everyone else in place is unacceptable.”

    But instead, de facto segregation was kept in place.

    Nevertheless, I’m glad he did something rather than nothing.

  11. z says

    Is there nothing better you have to talk about than differences of culture and religion. Thats what you excel at? Comparing Rosa Parks, an incident to do with racism against the “coloured”, with this? Some Muslim cultures have high standards of modesty between MEN and WOMEN. It has NOTHING to do with SEGREGATION. You’ll go in Turkey and see the Blue Mosque has men and women praying SEPARATELY. You’ll go to Makkah for Hajj and men and women are performing Hajj together. PLEASE DUDE! Please! Get some CULTURAL and RELIGIOUS awareness!


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