The LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society welcomes the news that Universities UK have withdrawn their dangerous guidance condoning gender segregation. We note with concern, however, that they continue to defend this ill-conceived document and appear to have withdrawn it only because of the public outcry and a concerted campaign led by the LSESU ASH.
After the Equality and Human Rights Commission declared Universities UK's guidelines "not permissible", UUK announced that they will work with the Commission to "clarify" the guidelines and "make them more consistent". We assert, however, that the guidance on gender segregation must be rescinded in full - there is no acceptable form of segregation, and no attempt to "clarify" these guidelines can eliminate the danger they pose. The only acceptable guidance would be to state emphatically that segregation, regardless of the justification for it, has no place at universities.
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."
Chris Moos, Secretary of the LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society, points out: "It is disingenuous of Anneessa Mahmood to claim there has never been forced segregation. She cannot deny, as a former officer of the LSESU Islamic Society, that that Society regularly conducts "brothers circle" and "sisters circle" events on campus. This is in direct contravention of the LSESU’s policy on inclusivity, which requires that all society events be accessible to all students, no matter what their belief, race or gender is."
Abhishek Phadnis, President of the LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society, added: "I am saddened, though not entirely surprised, by Mr. Stoll’s reckless and unfounded accusations. His irresponsible statement is emblematic of the flippant manner in which university officials have deliberately ignored the misbehaviour of religious organisations on campus, and have allowed this sordid practice to balloon into a serious menace to gender equality. Mr. Stoll’s allegation of ‘Islamophobia’ is a crude attempt to smear principled opposition to the imposition of religious mores on universities as bigotry, so as to enable him and his fellow officials to continue to abdicate their duty to address the legitimate concerns of students”.
The LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society looks forward to seeing the LSESU clarify its inclusivity policy to the LSESU Islamic Society, and ensure that their events are, henceforth, unconditionally open to students of all genders, at all times. We also hope they will examine attempts to enforce gender segregation by advertising events as "brothers’ circle" or "sisters’ circle", thereby implying the exclusion of the omitted gender.
The LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society will continue to strive to ensure that Universities UK's guidelines will be reviewed adequately, and that forced gender segregation will not occur, whether on the LSE campus or at other London universities.
LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
Here is an overview of the media coverage:
Segregation by gender has no place in our public realm - The appeasers have much to learn from those Muslim women vehemently opposed to discrimination, Guardian, 15 December 2013
Segregation: our secular values need to be protected, The Observer, 15 December 2013
Women barred from speaking at university seminar, The Sunday Times, 15 December 2013
Maryam Namazie, BBC World Service, 14 December 2013
Sajid Javid MP, Chuka Umunna MP, Shami Chakrabarti, Amjad Bashir, BBC Radio 4, 14 December 2013
Campus segregation: 'religious freedom’ cannot be allowed to trump equality, Telegraph, 14 December 2013
University segregation row: Ministers call for clarity, BBC News, 14 December 2013
Inside the British university where Muslims were segregated by sex: Shocking picture shows how men were reserved front-row seats while women had to sit at the back, Daily Mail, 14 December 2013
Universities back down on sexual segregation, The Times, 13 December 2013
Gender segregation: radical speakers cannot demand an audience that fits their prejudices, Spectator, 14 December 2013
Universities UK withdraws advice on gender segregation in lectures, Guardian, 13 December 2013
Gender segregation guidelines u-turn following PM warning, Channel 4 News, 13 December 2013
Chris Moos on gender segregation, BBC 5 live, 13 December 2013
Cameron Urges Universities Not to Allow Segregation by Sex, Bloomberg, 13 December 2013
Universities UK withdraws rules on gender segregation, Independent, 13 December 2013
Segregated audiences not acceptable at UK universities, PM says, Reuters, 13 December 2013
Cameron: No To University Segregation, Sky News, 13 December 2013
Gender segregation guidelines to be reviewed as David Cameron steps into row for the first time, Telegraph, 13 December 2013
Downing Street joins university segregation row, BBC News, 13 December 2013
Michael Gove: university gender segregation is 'pandering to extremism', Guardian, 13 December 2013
Official watchdog says university sex segregation plans 'not permissible', Telegraph, 13 December 2013
University segregation will be banned under Labour by "horrified" Chuka Umunna, Mirror, 13 December 2013
Outcry at 'gender apartheid' in new guidance for UK universities, Independent, 11 December 2013
'We'll fight them like the Suffragettes': Protesters target Universities UK over sex segregation policy, Politics, 11 December 2013
The segregation of women and the appeasement of bigotry at Britain’s universities (part two), Spectator, 11 December 2013
'Gender apartheid' is real in UK universities. So why aren't more people fighting it?, Telegraph, 11 December 2013
University gender segregation 'violation of women's freedom', BBC Radio 4 Today, 11 December 2013
Gender segregation: protests against university guidelines, Channel 4 News, 10 December 2013
It’s shameful that our universities have accepted gender segregation under pressure from the most oppressive religious fanatics, Independent, 8 December 2013
Let’s expose these apologists for injustice, The Times, 5 December 2013
British universities shouldn't condone this kind of gender segregation, Guardian, 26 November 2013
Segregating men and women at university events won't lead to equality, Independent, 25 November 2013
The segregation of women and the appeasement of bigotry, Spectator, 3 December 2013
'You are a woman, you can't sit here' - Universities UK condones gender segregation, Harry's Blog, 23 November 2013