London School of Economics under fire for gender-segregation at Islamic society event
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In March last year the LSE’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Division was asked to take measures in a complaint letter from the students. The issue in question arose from a gala dinner event organized by the Islamic Society, in which the guests were required to buy tickets according to their “brother” or “sister” status, and were subsequently separated physically by a large screen in the middle of the room. The male and the female guests could not even look at each other, let along interact freely. The active segregation of the students was perceived as “discriminatory” in the complaint letter, to which Carola Frenge (a representative of EDI) responded exclusively for The Independent. In her reply, Frenge recognized the students’ concern and the university’s lack of in-depth consideration of this problem, as well as promising to investigate the issue further. However, according to the students, the university failed to take relevant actions in order to make sure that gender-based discrimination will not occur in the future. Due to LSE’s delayed response to the complaint, the students turned to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Students in Higher Education. The watchdog stated that the university’s delayed response and lack of evidence to support their position of having safeguards prior to the dinner event are unconvincing. The students received an apology letter from LSE this September for delaying their response, and later on commented for The Independent on the gender-segregation concerns that: “(the gender discrimination) did not comply with LSE’s own guidelines on equity, diversity, and inclusion, and may have been unlawful”. Stephen Evans, a representative of The National Secular Society (NSS), who supported the LSE students through their struggle, further commented: “As a society, we are much slower to condemn discrimination when it comes cloaked in religion, and particularly Islam. But gender apartheid is an assault on women’s rights and dignity, and should have no place on campuses.” Lead image courtesy of Umezo KAMATA.
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