Court of Appeal finds that gender segregation can amount to unlawful sex discrimination

In a landmark judgment on 13th October, the UK Court of Appeal has found that ‘separate but equal’ treatment based on gender at a school can amount to unlawful sex discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. SRT grantee Southall Black Sisters (SBS) intervened in the case along with Inspire.

The Court had been asked to consider gender segregation at the Al-Hijrah school, a voluntary aided Muslim co-ed school in Birmingham in which boys and girls are completely segregated from the age of nine. The Court found that the school’s policy of strict segregation was discriminatory since it had an adverse impact on the quality and effectiveness of the education given by the school to both the girls and boy pupils respectively, and could not be justified under one of the exceptions set out in the Equality Act.

The dissenting judgment of Lady Gloster went further: she concluded that the school’s policy was particularly detrimental for girls in that it reinforced the different spaces – private and public – that men and women must occupy, and their respective stereotyped roles which accord them different and unequal status.

Pragna Patel of SBS said, ‘We very much welcome the judgment and its recognition that gender segregation can be unlawful and discriminatory, especially in contexts where the practice is tied to the rise of religious fundamentalist and conservative norms.’

Full story from Southall Black Sisters’ website:

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