Gender segregation now prohibited at University events and meetings

by The AHS

New guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has laid out new restrictions on the use of gender segregation. The AHS supports the recent changes to the guidance, which mean that gender segregation is no longer allowed to be enforced at events held at UK Universities.

A previous report from Universities UK (UUK) was condemned by the AHS for permitting gender segregation at university events if it was demanded by a potential speaker or audience member on religious grounds. At the time, the AHS objected to UUK’s justification of the guidance, which stated that segregation wasn’t discriminatory as men and women were being “segregated in the same way”, and that a speaker’s right to freedom of expression could be limited if they had no choice but to speak to an unsegregated audience.

However, the EHRC has since revised its guidance significantly since the last report by UUK in November 2013. Their new guidance for July 2014 states that “Universities and students’ unions must not knowingly facilitate discrimination by others at the request of an external speaker or an individual attending or wishing to attend an event” and that “all attendees would need to be at liberty freely to choose where they wished to sit without any direction, whether explicit or merely an implicit expectation.” The EHRC no longer gives any permissible reasons for Universities to allow separation of male and female attendees to be enforced at public events held on their campuses, forcing UUK to withdraw its guidance from November 2013.

The AHS is glad to see the new guidance from EHRC opposing gender segregation on UK campuses. This is a fantastic step forward and the AHS supports the recent changes made to this guidance to be in line with UK equality law.

Chris Malburn, President of the AHS, said: “This news is certainly welcome. Gender segregation at university events is unjustified and I don’t believe that a situation where men and women are ‘separate but equal’ is realistic. Freedom of belief is a fundamental right, however, no-one should have the right use their beliefs to make demands that impact on the personal freedoms of others. For that reason, I support the recent changes made to the EHRC’s guidance.”

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