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Non-religious segregation 'unlawful' at universities.

MEN and women should not be banned from sitting next to each other

at non-religious university and student events, according to new legal advice.

Fresh guidance published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) warns that universities and colleges have a responsibility to prevent discrimination against students, staff and the public, and gender segregation should not be allowed, unless it is specifically for an act of worship.

The advice follows a number of cases raised last year in which students had been separated during events and debates by religious speakers.

The EHRC said yesterday that gender segregation at universities and colleges is a controversial issue and a "complex" area of the law.

Segregation, such as seating men and women separately, is not permitted at events which are not acts of religious worship, including academic meetings, speaking events and lectures, the commission says.

It is permitted during faith practices, but once an event goes beyond this it is covered by equality law and any separation of the sexes is likely to be seen as "unlawful".

The Commission said that while "genuinely voluntary" segregation was allowed under the law, it believed that it would be hard for event organisers to ensure that this was the case. The safest approach is to make sure that gender segregation is not encouraged, other than in religious worship, it said.

EHRC chief executive Mark Hammond, said: "Gender segregation in our universities and higher educational establishments is a controversial issue."

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 19, 2014
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