And the EHRC can bugger off ‘n’ all

Official guidelines which endorse sex segregation at British universities have been declared potentially unlawful by Britain’s equality watchdog, The Telegraph can disclose.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) announced it will help re-write guidance, published by Universities UK (UUK) last month, which said Muslim societies and other groups were entitled to practice gender segregation at public meetings on campus.

Mark Hammond, the EHRC’s chief executive, said gender segregation was “not permissible” under equalities laws, adding that UUK’s guidance required clarification.

By agreeing to go back to the drawing board with the EHRC’s help, the vice-chancellors’ organisation appeared to have headed off the prospect of a legal challenge from the official watchdog.

Its controversial guidance to universities across Britain said segregation could be acceptable as long as men and women were seated side by side rather than with women at the back.

It also said that any event where some segregation took place for religious reasons should also provide a separate, non-segregated area.

Mr Hammond said: “Equality law permits gender segregation in premises that are permanently or temporarily being used for the purposes of an organised religion where its doctrines require it.

“However, in an academic meeting or in a lecture open to the public it is not, in the commission’s view, permissible to segregate by gender.”

They really don’t seem to get this freedom and liberty thing, do they?

Which is that it’s none of your (or my to that matter) damn fucking business how people voluntarily decide to organise themselves in public.

It is the business of government not to enforce such organisation or segregation. And also not to either insist upon or allow it in things that they are providing such as classes or lectures. But a public meeting is just that, a public meeting. And those going to it are entirely at liberty to accept or not whatever constraints the organisers of the meeting wish to put upon them.

We do, for example, insist upon the freedom of speech in this country. But no one at all would insist that the organisers of a meeting cannot ask a persistent heckler to leave. Nor “aid him” in leaving if he refuses.

So there’s some nutter who insists that he will only give his speech if the women are separate from the men. It’s entirely up to those who wish or do not wish to attend under said circimstances to make their own decision about that.

And not to a bureaucracy.

43 comments on “And the EHRC can bugger off ‘n’ all

  1. No. This is about the use of public facilities. They can do what they like in their temples, synagogues, mosques and churches. They cannot segregate in public places.

    The first principle of liberalism is to treat everyone as an equal individual.

    But the real danger here is that we will liberal ourselves into a medieval theocracy. This also applies to the veil. Permit bearded asshats to impose segregation in meetings and it’ll move to lectures and become compulsory for all, not just those who ‘want’ it – scare quotes because violence to the point of murder is already being used in some communities to impose bronze age values on people.

    For once they lost. Good. Fuck them. And this post was misplaced liberalism.

  2. Mr Risdon has it.
    But also.
    Think tactically.
    Are you in favour of the ECHR?
    Are you in favour of mediaevilists?
    Do you want to see a fight?
    What’s not to like?

  3. What PR said above. And no-one else would be allowed to behave in this manner. Do you think that a evangelical Christian speaker would be allowed to demand gender segregation? Or how about a speaker from the Deep South? All blacks in the corner please, don’t want them defiling the white folks?

    Its just the typical thin end of the wedge. Gender segregation at universities first. Get that, then demand it somewhere else and so on and so forth. Eventually you get what you want – a completely separate Islam State running parallel to the rest of us.

    To quote Mrs T – No, No, No!!!

  4. “Which is that it’s none of your (or my to that matter) damn fucking business how people voluntarily decide to organise themselves in public.”

    The issue wasn’t how the audience organise themselves – no-one is saying that if people choose to sit where they want then the EHRC will wade in with truncheons moving people around.

    It is about the Islamonutjobs insisting that men and women be seggregated whatever their wishes.

    Anyway, it is probably one of the biggest hands of ‘Victimhood Poker’ seen in public. The fucking universities, no less, hardly a bastion of the patriarchy, found instead a far more toxic grievance and suddenly it was sorry girls, you are under the bus.

  5. No gender segregation or racial segregation or anything other segregation at universities and other public buildings. Its not like the speakers are denied their right to speak in front of a segregated audience as they can do that in private buildings or in religious buildings.

    Whilst I agree that the state shouldn’t be controlling what people do in private, when they do it in public buildings or for the public then they need to be a bit more liberal in accepting a lack of restrictions. The only restrictions should be for health and safety, not because of opinions.

  6. Dear Mr Worstall

    The main purpose of the ECHR is to allow one government department to stop another government department from breaching the ‘human rights’ of an individual according to whatever arcane rules apply this week.

    Get rid of both: problem solved.

    Anyone who holds a meeting, public or private, can stipulate how the meeting is conducted – clowns to the left, jokers to the right – it’s up to them. Up to the punters to decide whether to go or not, like the invitees to a Muslim wedding who chose not to go.

    @ Peter Risdon

    “The first principle of liberalism is to treat everyone as an equal individual.”

    It is for each individual liberal to do that, if he chooses, not for some superior body to enforce its own idea of what is ‘liberal’ onto those who don’t conform. That isn’t liberalism. If an individual doesn’t treat everyone as an equal, he might be right …

    DP

  7. Are Universities “public buildings”?

    What about Feminists and their “safe” (i.e. male excluded) spaces? What about separate toilet and ablutional facilities? Changing rooms?

    I am inclined to say, if you don’t like it, don’t attend the meeting. Or, disrupt it with a shouty demonstration, clanging pots and pans, that kind of thing, which is the usual means adopted by student types, isn’t it?

  8. University buildings are not public buildings, being the property of the university unlike, say, a town hall.

    The best argument for universities allowing coerced segregation is that then everyone else can lambast academics as disgusting hypocrites whenever they try to lecture the rest of us on … oh, anything really.

  9. “The first principle of liberalism is to treat everyone as an equal individual.”

    No, it’s actually to let other people get on with their lives as they prefer, even if you don’t approve.

  10. These student societies get funding from the student’s union, which is ultimately paid for by the tax payer (I used to be treasurer for a student society, not one that practised sex segregation of course).

    They don’t only get direct money out of the SU they also get heavily-discounted use of facilities. Idem.

    That is what this is ultimately about. Public money can’t be used to promote sexism.

    If the society wants to have segregated meetings it can do so with privately-raised funds and on private property (or perhaps, arguably, on public property if they are paying commercial rents rather than discounted SU rents).

    All hail the EHCR from stopping my rights being breached by my money being used to – as Peter Risdon so eloquently puts it – liberalising ourselves into a mediaeval theocracy.

  11. I am quite happy for some pedophile worshipper to say that he wants only men and women to be seggrated.
    However what should he be able to enforce this in a place my taxes pay for? What about my rights to sit beside my wife?

    Also will he stand up for my rights to call Mo the pedophile prophet?

  12. ‘No, it’s actually to let other people get on with their lives as they prefer, even if you don’t approve.’

    That emerges from what I said, if you think about it, but so do other important points. Your version is incomplete and reflects a personal preference or emphasis that’s common because a lot of small-government conservatives call themselves liberals or libertarians.

    ‘If an individual doesn’t treat everyone as an equal, he might be right …’ but he wouldn’t be liberal, which is a synonym for individualist.

    It is not liberal to ignore the subjugation of some people by others because you’re not personally affected. That’s isolationist conservatism, at a stretch it’s libertarianism..

    Remove all public funding from universities, even student loans, and I’ll agree they’re private. Places of religious worship should be defunded anyway.

    If one side in a conflict fights it like a war while the other makes vague declarations of principle and takes no counter-actions, guess which will win. Moral responsibility for the consequences of action *and* inaction applies here.

    The bonus from this is it’s been a set back, a rare, valuable set back, for the culturally relativistic humanities loons who seem to run academic institutions now.

  13. The SU rulez (at least when and where I was) was that societies only got money on the terms of the SU, which was of course all the usual lesbian gender-neutral free Nelson Mandela stuff. We couldn’t even bank with whichever bank they thought was evil that week. And if we wanted to do stuff that went against those principles we were welcome to stop taking their money and stop calling ourselves a union society.

    In fact the Christian Union at my alma did just that.

  14. IanB: “I am inclined to say, if you don’t like it, don’t attend the meeting. “

    What?!? Leave it up to people to make their own choices?!?!!

  15. PR-

    Your version is incomplete and reflects a personal preference or emphasis that’s common because a lot of small-government conservatives call themselves liberals or libertarians.

    I really don’t know what you’re implying here? Are you saying I’m a small government conservative calling myself a libertarian?

    The point is that liberty is not about equality of outcome, or behaviour or anything else. It’s about equality as individuals, and allowing those individuals to behave as they wish, however foolish one may think they are, so long as they do not infringe the same right for others.

    If a bunch of nutters start a new religion that says gingers can’t join, that’s a matter for them alone, even if I think it’s stupid. I don’t have a right to force them to include gingers, or close their religion down, or anything else. If they want a “no gingers” sign on the door, that’s liberty in action.

  16. Ian, I don’t know who you’re arguing with there but it certainly isn’t me. I quite agree. But if they do set up an anti-ginger religion they’re not going to exclude gingers from any public facilities, with that definition drawn as broadly as possible as a matter of deliberate policy. Which is the point here.

    This was a deliberate power grab by Islamists, an attempt to impose their rules on the public space, and it’s a very good thing it failed.

  17. For comparison – on a (publicly funded!) train in London, at school leaving time. The students from a high-performing school for girls (state funded segregation! incidentally not a religiously affiliated school either) board the train. About half were black and half were white (seems I am an evil racial categorizer).

    Neither the white nor black kids formed “one big gang” – they were too numerous (filling several carriages), too heterogeneous in age. Yet the black girls sat with and talked to only other black girls. The white girls only with other white girls. Being kids, they would occasionally get up and bustle down into adjacent carriages, exchanging greetings only with their same-race friends. They had racially segregated themselves, apparently voluntarily and individually, and I couldn’t help wondering what Rosa Parks would have thought. I also pondered, if I had been a liberal interventionist by inclination (say the headmistress of the school, or the operator of the train service, or an officer of the British Transport Police), would there be anything effective I could do if I did want to “fix” the situation? I’d suggest not a lot.

    I likewise wonder what would be the appropriate response to a meeting of likeminded individuals, whose worldviews happen to concur that women should sit on the left and men on the right, say. I’m not convinced the answer to this question is the same as how to respond to a meeting open “for all”, but only on the condition that certain seating arrangements are observed. It can be argued that attendance subject to such agreement is “free and voluntary”, but there is an element of external compulsion that can be distinguished from the internal volition of the first case.

    If I happened to be the owner of the premises, that distinction might tip the balance for me. And if the premises are funded by the taxpayer, and I am a taxpayer, then it doesn’t seem unreasonable for my elected representatives to take a stand on it. But odds are that stand will be populist bleating anyway. The whole situation is certainly far removed from one of segregation in public services (eg if the lecture was for credit as part of a degree course) in which the case for getting the law involved is clear.

  18. Tangential thought experiment. Imagine a typical British comprehensive school (not religiously affiliated) where the headmaster has decided that boys and girls behave better if boys sit on the right side of the classroom and girls sit on the left.

    The thought of a school in which every assembly and lesson is segregated in this way seems extreme and horrifying. Perhaps because we aren’t used to it – I can imagine had we grown up in a culture where that’s quite normal at school, we wouldn’t view it with such revulsion even if we didn’t look at it with wistful nostalgia.

    However such “half and half” segregation is arguably less extreme than splitting boys and girls into entirely separate schools, which is still quite widespread in British schools.

    I suspect our culturally influenced attitudes to gender segregation in education affect the strength of feeling stirred up by this case.

  19. What this speaker wanted was a seating area for women who may feel comfortable about not being sat next to a man.

    Councils and universities across the country have had women’s only swimming for a few years, and not a peep. The government provides training to businesswomen. There are women’s centres run by councils.

    So, why the fuss over this?

  20. What this speaker wanted was a seating area for women who may feel comfortable about not being sat next to a man.

    This speaker? Have we come to a specific example?

    What is generally demanded is complete sex segregation. The “mixed area and an additional woman-only area” is a feeble compromise proposed by politically-correct not-really-liberals to try and appease their nagging consciences and the misogynist demands of the beardy-weirdys. Which the beardy-weirdys will nearly always refuse because it offends their 7th century prejudices.

    Or nominally accept and then enforce full segregation when the event occurs.

  21. On a similar note to the Stigler, many universities provide women-only dormitories, for similar reasons (including to help recruit students of conservative ethnic minority backgrounds, who tend to have low participation rates in higher education), without great fuss arising.

  22. What if a girl and her boyfriend want to attend this speech to hear what this medieval fuckwit has to say, so as they can find out how far away the stoning is (unmarried sex being a bit of a no no, except on man love Friday)?

    Should the fuckwit have the right to tell them they can’t sit together?

    (No.)

    The weird thing is (I’ve lived in a Muslim country), most Muslims of my acquaintance are lovely people.

    Just such a shame they’re mad, all of them to a degree, and that the real nutters are prepared to kill and be killed to enforce the madness.

  23. I don’t really see the “state funded facilities” argument. It shouldn’t be the case that state agents introduce segregation. But if some private individual hires a hall that happens to be owned by the council, I don’t see the problem.

    I say again; feminists routinely seek and gain segregation on their terms. They’re just complaining when they feel excluded. Sauce for the geese, not for the ganders, and all that.

  24. Why should anybody care how a group that books a hall for a meeting works out the seat arrangements??!!

    The Good-old-fashioned Society books it on a Monday and insists everybody stands up for the national anthem.
    The Hippy Collective books it on a Tuesday and makes everybody sit in one big circle and only speak when you’re holding the beanbag.
    The Mohammadens book it on a Wednesday and insist men and women sit separately.

    Who gives a crap about any of this. It’s as significant as Lilliputians arguing over the big or little end of the egg.

    The fascists are the ones trying to dictate how other people organise their seating arrangements.

  25. I’m with the “what’s it got to do with anyone else” school of thought here.

    Mainly because of this dubious notion of public space and the fact that much the same people who make the biggest fuss about it, are also more than happy to use the same argument to exclude anyone they don’t like from these supposed collectively owned areas. Lib Con, when it was alive, was in this camp, always getting agitated about the appalling fact that EDL or BNP were actually allowed to hold gatherings in public and arguing for the exclusion of non proggy speakers from universities.

  26. Oxford College, founded by charitable gift, not govt owned, but govt subsidised.
    LSE mix gift and govt property.
    “Uni” of Luton, wholly govt.
    Buckingham, wholly private.
    I may have missed a few trusts and foundations but you can already see that the definition of public space is getting a bit blurred and attempts to set what can happen in public space are likely to get a bit confused.
    So basically so long as the medieval paedos don’t get a subsidy, I’m with Tim on this one.

  27. Tim’s idea of freedom and liberty is that two people should be forbidden to sit next to each other at a public meeting if they happen to have different genitalia.

    Is there any reason why a similar argument shouldn’t apply to compulsory segregation by skin colour on buses, if the bus operator chooses to enforce it?

  28. “Imagine a typical British comprehensive school (not religiously affiliated) where the headmaster has decided that boys and girls behave better if boys sit on the right side of the classroom and girls sit on the left.” What a good idea. But what would the headmistress say?

  29. SE,

    This isn’t about being a politically-correct-not-really-liberal. It is about the hypocrisy of equality in this country, and a general problem about how our politicians, organisations and commentators talk about rights, but typically skew them towards their favoured groups.

    If a feminist speaker insisted on a women’s only audience, or gave priority to women’s groups, no-one would complain about it. These people will use terms like “freedom of speech” when it suits them, but are silent when Edinburgh University bans Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines from being played or when someone on Facebook is arrested for telling a joke about Nelson Mandela.

  30. PaulB-

    I can’t speak for Tim, but the general libertarian idea is that people should be entitled to attend a meeting that requires women to sit separately, and my own personal view is that anyone who supports such a thing is a fuckwit. But that, they are entitled to be.

    Religions are drenched in absurd rules; indeed, it is often their basic motivation. Jews in particular are not allowed to wear polyester cotton underpants, or eat bacon sandwiches, and required to consider menstruating women unclean. Not to mention mutilate their penises[1]. I take the view that this is fuckwittery of the highest order, but if people want to obey such nonsense, any meaningfully free society must allow them to do so.

    The answer in a free society is to not attend such meetings, and to use one’s freedom of speech to criticise the particular beliefs.

    [1] I will add that I think that doing this to children ought to be illegal though, just like FGM.

  31. PaulB,

    Tim’s idea of freedom and liberty is that two people should be forbidden to sit next to each other at a public meeting if they happen to have different genitalia.

    I think that’s a misinterpretation of his words, but isn’t that also what Newnham College and Murray Edwards College do all the time to no political opposition?

  32. Ian B
    not allowed to wear polyester cotton underpants

    For real? How come?

    Tim adds: because it’s itchy as hell. Bright people 1,000 BCE Jews were. It’s in Leviticus (OK, 500 BCE maybe).

  33. Wow – feels liberating to have chosen the right knickers for the wrong reasons.

    I’ll be back tomorrow as well, D.v.!

  34. Agree with PR but I would qualify this claim of his –

    “They cannot segregate in public places.”

    I would replace “public places” with “state owned or subsidized”. If the state has a controlling interest in a building then I think it would be acceptable for the state to set conditions for entry…

    BUT…

    The above would only apply where setting these conditions would not completely negate the rights of the fundamentalists. For instance the state couldn’t forbid an Islamist demonstration on a road, because there tend not to be that many private roads that could be used for any one particular demonstration.

    I imagine the medieval theocrats here could use their mosques to host these lectures to sex segregated audiences.

    A number of commentators asked if discrimination on the ground of race would be acceptable. I would say yes, if the meeting was to be held in a privately owned building (and the owners were fine with this group holding such a meeting). Its an extension of the right of people to associate with whoever they want to, and to avoid whoever they want to avoid. The idea of freedom of association depends on the ability of individuals to discriminate against individuals or groups.That could be because of race, religion or on some less morally reprehensible ground. This is why proposals of the kind floated by Harriet Harman to criminalize discrimination in private clubs are appalling.

  35. Don’t they segregate football crowds?
    Anyway if you want segregation to not happen – the powers that be will simply enforce non segregation by alloting seats in suitable patterns.
    They wont stop controlling.

  36. This is interesting, because it seems to me a number of commentators have things the complete opposite of how I would characterise things; which is that if something is “publicly owned”, then its use should be entirely without ideological limitation.

    LED125 uses the example of a road; and this should be in fact our guide. You would not say roads cannot be used by muslims, or sexists, or whatnot. If a road is public property, everyone must be able to use it. The same must apply to a public concert hall. Because the public is “everybody”. Obviously this does not mean automatic access to the concert hall, but it must mean that the concert hall should be neutral in who it is hired to.

    The more public ownership there is, the more important this is. In my town, both major venues are council funded. As a libertarian, I am not in favour of that, but it is the way it is. So, it is important that they are available for hire by anyone. In other words, that something is State controlled should be a requirement that it not have a particular value system imposed upon it. Just like the roads. If Muslims want to hire the Derngate Centre for an evening of barmcakery, let them do so. The Feminists can hire it also, or the Anarchists, or the Conservatives, the Christians, the Jews, the Scientologists, the BNP or anyone else.

  37. Well it is proving an interesting discussion, with a diversity of views. I note over & Samisdata they’ve essayed into yet another attempt to define what is right & what is left & of course what is acceptable free thinking libertarianism. Which does tend to be a libertarian thing. Problem being; whilst the discussion goes on…and on… the very much non-libertarians will take over the public spaces & ban you from entering them altogether. Job done.
    Tends to be why I’d still stick with Peter Risdon & also think tactically. It’s what does the most damage to your enemies counts & if you can get two of them tearing strips off each other, all the better.

  38. I thought Peter Risden’s first point was compelling: this practice is unacceptable because it’s an essential component of the Islamic oppression of women, and in acceding to it universities advance that cause. Islamic gender separation is different from schools gender segregating kids or feminists denying men entry to their meetings since neither of the latter are part of a deliberate dehumanisation of half of humanity.

  39. @ bif
    Most Oxford Colleges actually subsidise the state not vice versa. The state asks them to educate young people including a substantial %age of those from poor families but only pays, including loans that it intends to claw back post-graduation, half the cost of their education. The college get some money from upper- and middle-class kids but gives more in bursaries to the poor kids than it receives from them, so most colleges now appeal to alumni for donations to top up the income from their ancient endowments so that they can continue to give a wonderful education to youngsters who cannot, at the time, afford to pay for it (some, many years later, can and then subsidise the next generation).
    This may seem OTT as a response to your post but it is necessary to refute the Grauniad’s lies before it becomes assumed that no-one achieved anything by merit so the politics of envy are intellectrually justified.

  40. this practice is unacceptable because it’s an essential component of the Islamic oppression of women,[…] Islamic gender separation is different from schools gender segregating kids or feminists denying men entry to their meetings since neither of the latter are part of a deliberate dehumanisation of half of humanity.

    Well that’s one particular, and polemical, interpretation. But whether it is valid or not, should we have the State impose a particular sociological analysis as Holy writ?

    The Middle Eastern cultures have a particular gender system, based on “tight polygamy” with gender separation. This is also found in olde-fashioned Judaism, and in varying degrees in the other daughter religion, Christianity. The idea of physical separation is fairly straightforward and was a strong if less resolutely expressed theme until recently in our own society; a simple mechanism to prevent hanky panky, or temptation towards it. Whether this is “oppression” or the even more emotive-but-hard-to-define “dehumanisation” is really very subjective.

    The extended family/TP system is predicated on tight control of the sexuality of subordinate family members of both sexes, because of the intense responsibility bonds that are enforced between family members. The boys are just as segregated as the girls, and just as controlled; indeed, there is a good argument that the propensity for outgroup sexual violence is directly consequent to this frustrating (for a young male) system. But nobody seems to care about that half of the population being oppressed or dehumanised. We note the violence against wayward daughters which is sometimes effected; we do not note the corresponding violence against males, perhaps best typified closer to home by the movie Mafiosi-

    “You fucked my sister Luigi?! I fucking kill you you motherfucker!”
    ©Martin Scorsese

    It’s a very different system to the (IMV much preferable) Northern European nuclear model. But it doesn’t fit well to a European analysis. The funny thing is, that the Feminists are themselves predicated on a distorted version of the Middle Eastern model of prudish gender separation (except the burkah goes not around the woman’s body, but the man’s eyes) since it is a creation of Biblically inspired Protestant women and Jewish princesses. Which is one reason they’re so indecisive on the issue.

    Here’s Naomi Wolf for instance in full admiring flow of it.

    Well, me. I’m in favour of a full articulation of the European model, libidinous libertinism in all its glory. But I think the Muslims have a long way to go to get there, and in the meantime, maybe it’s not the end of the world if they have the boys and girls sitting apart like… oh, a Middle American church dance in the good old days.

  41. Having written all that, I think my view is basically, if you’re going to invite millions of Muslims into your country, you have to just accept that they’re going to act like Muslims. It’s like inviting scientologists to a party, then complaining that they’re auditing everyone with their E-meters. That’s what they do. Why did you invite them if you didn’t want scientologist type behaviour?

    It really does seem that many progressives and other open borders types (including depressingly many libertarians) think that the mere act of crossing a border will turn a foreigner into a native in terms of values; they’ll ditch the Quran and read the Guardian (or, Man, Economy and State or something). It just doesn’t work that way.

  42. Ian B – “It really does seem that many progressives and other open borders types (including depressingly many libertarians) think that the mere act of crossing a border will turn a foreigner into a native in terms of values; they’ll ditch the Quran and read the Guardian (or, Man, Economy and State or something). It just doesn’t work that way.”

    I am not sure they did. Or if they did, it didn’t matter. Because what mattered to them was that these immigrants would never vote Tory.

    Population replacement. Not just a poem by Bertold Brecht any more

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