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UK Court of Appeal to rule on school’s gender apartheid

UK Court of Appeal to rule on school’s gender apartheid

Southall Black Sisters is rallying support for a demonstration to take place this week outside the the Court of Appeal in London where a Muslim school’s practice of gender segregation will be heard.

The hearing is scheduled for tomorrow and on Wednesday – July 11 and 12. In calling for support, SBS say here:

This is a significant and potentially precedent-setting case about sex discrimination and equality. Ultra-conservative and fundamentalist gender norms are seeping into the everyday life of minority communities. Education has become a gendered ideological terrain upon which the potential of women and girls together with their hopes, aspirations and dreams are extinguished.

Gender segregation in school X is part of a wider political project that is ideologically linked to the creation of a regime of ‘gendered modesty’: one that promotes an infantilised and dehumanised notion of womanhood and, ultimately, amounts to sexual apartheid.

School X – a co-educational, Muslim voluntary aided school in the UK – segregates its pupils based on their gender. From the age of 9 to 16, boys and girls from Muslim parents are segregated for everything – during lessons and all breaks, activities and school trips.

In June of last year the school was inspected by the regulatory body, Ofsted, which raised concerns about a number of leadership failings including those involving gender segregation, the absence of effective safeguarding procedures, and an unchallenged culture of gender stereotyping and homophobia.

Offensive books promoting rape, violence against women and misogyny were discovered in the school library. Some girls also complained anonymously that gender segregation did not prepare them for social interaction and integration into the wider society. As a result of what it found during the inspection, Ofsted judged the school to be inadequate and placed it in special measures.

The school took legal action to stop Ofsted from publishing its report. They argued that, among other things, the report was biased and that gender segregation does not amount to sex discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.

On November 8, 2016, following a High Court hearing, the presiding judge, Mr Justice Jay, found that there was no sex discrimination because of his reading of the law and the lack of evidence before him.

He found that gender segregation did not amount to sex discrimination since both boys and girls were “separated equally”. He noted that although women hold minority power in society generally, there was no evidence before him that girls suffered specifically as a result of the segregation in this school.

Mr Justice Jay noted the differences between segregation on the grounds of race in the USA and South Africa in previous decades and gender segregation in the UK today, concluding that he had not heard evidence that gender segregation made girls feel disadvantaged or inferior.

Ofsted appealed against the ruling of the High Court, and Southall Black Sisters and Inspire are intervening in the case:

Because of its great public importance – especially for minority women and girls. Although, gender segregation and its implications are not specific to School X, but apply equally to a number of other faith schools, the point of our intervention is two-fold:

First, to show how the growing practice of gender segregation in education is not a benign development: Gender segregation within Black and Minority Ethnic communities in the UK has a social, and political history that can be traced back to the Rushdie Affair when religious fundamentalists sensed an opportunity to seize education as a battleground and a site on which to expand their influence.

Since then, we have seen emboldened fundamentalists in South Asian communities attempting to impose gender segregation in schools and universities. Mr Justice Jay did not look into the wider social and political context in which gender segregation is practiced in minority communities. Had he done so, he would have seen its broad-ranging and long-lasting effect on all areas of women’s lives: that gender segregation is a political choice and that the struggle against it mirrors the struggle against racial segregation.

Second, we want to ensure that gender equality is placed at the heart of Ofsted inspections in all schools, irrespective of their status and composition. We recognise that gender segregation can sometimes be educationally beneficial. But in the hands of ultra-conservatives and fundamentalists, it has an entirely different intent and consequence which is to mount a wholesale assault on women’s rights: socially, culturally and politically.

SBS add:

School X’s approach is consistent with Muslim fundamentalist ideologies that strive to create a fundamentalist vision of education in the UK: one that discourages mixed-gender activities as ‘Un-Islamic’ and ultimately legitimises patriarchal power structures. Their aim is to reinforce the different spaces – private and public – that men and women must occupy, and their respective stereotyped roles, which accord them differential and unequal status.

This approach constitutes direct discrimination under the UK’s Equality Act 2010. It also violates International human rights laws, standards and principles on equality and non-discrimination. Women’s rights must take priority over intolerant beliefs that are used to justify sex discrimination.

Maryam Namazie, from One Law for All added:

Islamists have become adept at using rights language to impose rights restrictions. Islamist projects like the niqab or Sharia courts are deceptively promoted as ‘rights’ and ‘choices’ when in fact their aim is to control and restrict women and girls.

Girls in Islamic schools are segregated not in order to enable them to flourish but because they are seen to be the source of fitnah and male arousal from puberty onwards. Which is why they must be veiled, segregated, and prevented from many activities that are essential to child development. The court would do well to remember that when it comes to children in particular, there is a duty of care to ensure that the girl child has access to a level playing field and is able to flourish – sometimes despite the wishes of parents and fundamentalists.

10 responses to “UK Court of Appeal to rule on school’s gender apartheid”

  1. Trevor Blake says:

    Muslim schools in England are exactly as free to operate as they see fit as are Christian schools in Muslim nations.

    The force feeding and cat & mouse torture that British suffragettes endured was never intended to actually allow women to attend schools in a neutral fashion: it was just a lark.

    Washing your hands after elimination can help stop the spread of disease.

    One of the above statements is true.

  2. andym says:

    “Islamists are largely free to impose their beliefs on the children of Muslim parents in the name of freedom of religion.”

    Unfortunately,as with Trevor Blake’s last one , that is a de facto true statement.

  3. andym says:

    Not totally off-topic, there is a very interesting article here.
    https://www.vox.com/conversations/2017/7/7/15886862/islam-trump-isis-terrorism-ali-rizvi-religion-sam-harris

    There’s so much in it, I think I’m going to have to keep going back to it it a few more times to fully understand it. At first reading, he seems to be saying we should be careful about how we should approach discussion about Islam with ordinary Muslims because much of their identity has(forcibly I’d say) been wrapped up in the doctrines of Islam.
    So far this is the quote that jumped out:
    “But I would urge liberals to have this conversation openly, honestly, and responsibly. It’s already happening within the Muslim world. Several white Western liberals have confided to me that they agree with what I say, but won’t say it themselves because they’re afraid they’ll be labeled bigots or Islamophobes. I call that “Islamophobo-phobia,” the fear of being called Islamophobic. It’s a great way to shut down the conversation and silence people with colonial or white guilt.”

  4. L.Long says:

    isLame is highly skilled in the baloney method! Be careful UK that you don’t bend over so far as to allow all BS equal status beyond being BS!! The baloney method, they eat away privileges and laws like very thin slices from baloney (laws & rights) and after some period of time you find yourself as Pakistan…wondering where the baloney (your laws & freedoms) went!!

  5. barriejohn says:

    #At Al-Hijrah education is based on the principal of:

    LA ILAHA ILLALLAHU MUHAMMADUR RASULILLAH

    “There is no God but Allah, Muhammad is Messenger of
    Allah”.

    #MAIN OBJECTIVES OF ISLAMIC ETHOS

    1. To facilitate, nurture and prepare students to become
    good Muslim citizens.
    2. To provide an Islamic environment where pupils receive quality education embedded with values.

    #Al-Hijrah promotes gender equality to ensure that equal
    opportunities exist for both males and females. The
    school will not tolerate any form of gender
    discrimination that contravenes the law of the land.

    Those are just a few selected statements from their “ethos”. Read more here, and someone PLEASE inform them of the distinction between “principle” and “principal”, as they are setting a very bad example to their pupils!

    http://alhijrahschool.co.uk/wp-content/themes/zeenoble/images/Ethos-of-Al-Hijrah-School-Policy.pdf

  6. Paul says:

    Barriejohn
    Interesting.
    See The wording to prepare them to be good MUslim citizens – note Muslim is first, how that religion pervades every facet of their utter being – it’s so unbelievably sad. In 2017 in Britain it’s astonishing.

  7. Vanity Unfair says:

    ‘He found that gender segregation did not amount to sex discrimination since both boys and girls were “separated equally”.’

    He found that mythology segregation did not amount to religious discrimination since both Jews and Moslems were “separated equally”.

    He found that melanin segregation did not amount to racial discrimination since both light- and dark-skinned were “separated equally”.

    He found that athletic segregation did not amount to disability discrimination since both natural and assisted movers were “separated equally”. [I’m not sure of the accepted terms here.]

    He found that temporal segregation did not amount to age discrimination since both youths and oldies [i.e. I] were “separated equally”.

    I think I’m getting the hang of this.