Leading human rights barristers label gender segregation a “disgrace”

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  • One does wonder whether "voluntary segregation" is an oxymoron. Looking at my trusty (ancient) OED, "segregation" is defined as "segregating or being segregated; enforced separation of different racial groups in a community etc..."

    The implication is clearly that "segregation" is an enforced separation of two groups, or of one population within a larger population.

    So if this separation is voluntary, what do you get? In the Old Days, this was in evidence at school discos. The boys would gravitate to one side of the room, and the girls to the other. They would each sit staring at each other across the empty dance floor until someone couldn't take the strain any longer, caved in, and asked someone of the opposite sex to dance. But nobody would have described this as segregation because nobody told anyone where to sit - it just happened.

    And, in purely practical terms, if you wanted to have "voluntary segregation", how would you do it? Put up signs that say "Women's area (but men welcome to sit here if they want to)"? How is this effectively different from a sign saying "Sit where you like"?

    It seems to me that the problem is the element of choice. If people are told (or strongly encouraged) where they can, and cannot, sit according to certain personal characteristics, then you have segregation (e.g. smoking areas). If the personal characteristic by which you are enforcing, or encouraging, the separation is a protected characteristic, then you have a problem.

    If people voluntarily separate themselves then this is not only not segregation at all, but you run into trouble if you try to mix people up because THAT interferes with their freedom.

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