Saturday 18 November 2017

Protection of free speech should not trump equality

A shocking decision by Universities UK on segregation smacks of fear and cowardice, writes Carol Hunt

Civil rights campaigner Rosa Parks
Civil rights campaigner Rosa Parks
Carol Hunt

Carol Hunt

'Coloured people cannot sit here." In a week when the world mourns the passing of Nelson Mandela, we know that such a phrase would now not be tolerated in any democratic society.

Because of people like Mandela and Rosa Parks, we understand that forced segregation can never mean "equal but different" but instead implies "superior and inferior". So we no longer see signs such as "Coloured people cannot sit here" or "No Blacks, no dogs, no Irish" in civilised society. But amazingly, we still seem to tolerate, even fail to comprehend, discrimination on the basis of gender.

What if you went to a meeting or a debate, wandered into the hall, plonked yourself on to a free seat and was then made aware of a sign telling you that, because of the colour of your skin, you weren't allowed to sit there but instead had to move to a segregated place? You'd be rightfully appalled wouldn't you? You'd feel that your civil rights were being challenged. And you'd be right.

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