Segregating men and women at university events won't lead to equality

It enables the unequal distribution of power resulting in gender based discrimination

Share

Malcolm X once said; “America preaches integration and practices segregation.” I believe Universities UK preaches equality but promotes segregation. 

As a university student I once recall walking down the street when I noticed the president of my Islamic society (Isoc) walking towards me.  When he saw me, a look of panic glazed over his eyes and he hurriedly crossed the road and continued walking.  That was 13 years ago, yet little has changed.  This week, a student told me how wanting to pray Friday prayers, she approached one of the “brothers” at her Isoc to ask which room prayers were being held in.  His response?  He turned his back to her and faced the wall.  These experiences of misogyny stem from the belief that women are immoral and the ‘solution’ to this is gender segregation as proponents advocate.

There has been much controversy about the legal status of university events allowing gender segregated events.  Universities UK’s new published guidelines suggest side to side segregated seating is acceptable as “both men and women are being treated equally” and therefore women would not experience “less favourable treatment.”

Universities UK clearly cannot see the wood for the trees. The idea that both men and women are equally segregated and therefore treated equally is highly erroneous.  Perhaps one could argue such a point if so many Isocs weren’t such patriarchal constructions; shaped, structured and led by men. 

So let me spell it out for Universities UK, segregation results in ‘less favourable treatment.’  It enables the unequal distribution of power between men and women, resulting in gender based discrimination and inequality.  It manifests itself in few female speakers being invited to speak to a mixed audience, limited decision making powers by female members, and how there have only been a handful of Isoc female presidents. 

Segregation perpetuates discriminatory social norms and practices, shaping male attitudes about women and restricting the decisions and choices of women.  By allowing gender segregation, Universities UK are complicit in the gender inequality being perpetuated by Isocs whose advice will only make it easier for Isocs to treat socially unequal groups, in this case women, even more unequally. 

But also rather astonishingly, Universities UK delves into trying to tell us what constitutes Muslim religious belief implying that those opposed to segregation must be people from outside of the Islamic faith, not recognising that often it is Muslims themselves who oppose gender segregation.

Theological differences on the validity of segregation within Muslim societies, the nature and location of such segregation and who it applies to exists.  I am sure however, Universities UK would tell us they don’t wade into theology or take a theological position on such issues but why then, with the advice it has given, recognise and promote the religious belief of those who do advocate gender segregation as opposed to those Muslims whose religious belief is the opposite? 

Universities UK then advise that the gender segregated views of the speakers must be respected in order to protect freedom of speech despite that those who do believe in gender segregation view women as inferior.  Preacher Haitham al Haddad, who has spoken in approximately twenty Isocs in the last two years, argues that women should withdraw from public life, hoping to disempower them by denying them their economic self-determination and to silence them through their invisibility.  In the interests of freedom of speech how often do those Isocs who host such preachers invite speakers with opposing views? 

Universities UK are not only giving speakers like him a green light to say these things but are also preparing the gender segregated seating for him to say it.  For years I have witnessed institutions and statutory agencies, while breaking their backs to respect ‘cultural sensitivities,’ will happily do so while making martyrs out of ethnic and religious minority women.

Perhaps Universities UK should heed the wise words of Paul Harris, founder of Rotary, “segregation never brought anyone anything except trouble.”

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Why it won’t be the i wot won it – our promise to you

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
A relative of dead Bangladeshi blogger Washiqur Rahman reacts after seeing his body at Dhaka Medical College in Dhaka on March 30,  

Atheists are being hacked to death in Bangladesh, and soon there will be none left

Rory Fenton
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor