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UK: Rescind endorsement of sex segregation at UK universities! Open letter

24 November 2013

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Universities UK (UUK) has issued guidance on external speakers saying that the segregation of the sexes at universities is not discriminatory as long as “both men and women are being treated equally, as they are both being segregated in the same way.” The guidance has been supported by the National Union of Students.

UUK add that universities should bear in mind that “concerns to accommodate the wishes or beliefs of those opposed to segregation should not result in a religious group being prevented from having a debate in accordance with its belief system” and that if “imposing an unsegregated seating area in addition to the segregated areas contravenes the genuinely-held religious beliefs of the group hosting the event, or those of the speaker, the institution should be mindful to ensure that the freedom of speech of the religious group or speaker is not curtailed unlawfully.”

We the undersigned condemn the endorsement of gender apartheid by Universities UK and others. Any form of segregation, whether by race, sex or otherwise is discriminatory. Separate is never equal and segregation is never applied to those who are considered equal. By justifying segregation, Universities UK sides with Islamist values at the expense of the many Muslims and others who oppose sex apartheid and demand equality between women and men.

The guidance must be rescinded and sex segregation at universities must come to an end.

Join initial list of signatories below by signing the petition here.

Initial List of Signatories:

  • A C Grayling, Philosopher
  • Abhishek N. Phadnis, President, London School of Economics Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
  • Anissa Helie, Academic
  • Charlie Klendjian, Secretary of Lawyers’ Secular Society
  • Chris Moos, Secretary, London School of Economics Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
  • Deeyah Khan, Film Director and Music Producer
  • Dilip Simeon, Chairperson of the Aman Trust
  • Faisal Gazi, Writer and Blogger
  • Fatou Sow, International Director, Women Living Under Muslim Laws
  • Gita Sahgal, Director, Centre for Secular Space
  • Harsh Kapoor, South Asia Citizen’s Web
  • Helen Palmer, Chair of London Humanists
  • Kate Smurthwaite, Comedian and Activist
  • Marieme Helie Lucas, Coordinator, Secularism is a Women’s Issue
  • Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson for One Law for All and Fitnah
  • Mina Ahadi, International Committee against Stoning
  • Nadia El Fani, Tunisian Filmmaker
  • Nahla Mahmoud, Spokesperson of Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
  • Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs of the British Humanist Association
  • Peter Tatchell, Director of Peter Tatchell Foundation
  • Polly Toynbee, Journalist
  • Pragna Patel, Director of Southall Black Sisters
  • Richard Dawkins, Scientist
  • Rohini Hensman, Writer, Social Activist, Bombay
  • Rory Fenton, President of The National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies of the UK and ROI
  • Rupert Sutton, Lead Researcher of Student Rights
  • Terry Sanderson, President of National Secular Society
  • Yasmin Rehman, Women’s Rights Campaigner
  • Women Living Under Muslim Laws, international solidarity network


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