Gender segregation reflects existing social structures and beliefs in various societies and available options of observing such segregation. This issue came to publicity in North America when the Dean of York University granted a male student’s request to avoid female classmates because of religious reasons despite Professor Paul Greyson’s refusal to grant the request. However, the Dean noted that he did not have any other choice but to grant the request (Hopper, 2014).
While the Dean regrets his decision, he maintains that the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) or the Code bound him. The Code recognizes the “inherent dignity and worth of every person and to provide for equal rights and opportunities without discrimination” (Ontario Human Rights Commission, n.d).
The request considers religious reasons, but fails to account for its impacts on female learners. This segregation in a western society that pride itself on equality sets a dangerous precedent and undermines several achievements toward an integrated society. Accommodating such a segregation request violates liberty because strict segregation limits individuals’ freedom, especially for women. At the same time, segregation and accommodation promote gender inequality. While the West has emphasized the importance of offering equal opportunities to women, segregation puts women in the negative light and shows them that they are unable to compete effectively in the modern world. Accommodating a segregation request limits abilities and opportunities for women to interact, coexist and practice fairness in any environment.
Such practices are responsible for the widespread gender stereotyping about the role of women and men in the contemporary society. Accommodating the exclusion request goes against the progress toward enhancing acceptance, tolerance and inclusion of all persons in society.
Vulnerable people, especially women may lose their rights through requests related to accommodation and exemptions. Segregation propagates sex subordination for women and enhances status of women as inferior.
It is imperative to treat women and men equally to promote gender equity, which is a long-term commitment of North America. I would like to emphasize that such requests undermine gender mix and collaboration among learners of opposite sex, as well as attempts to promote diversity, tolerance and equity.
Therefore, institutions should review their approaches to individuals’ belief systems against the rights of others. In other words, religious concerns and people’s belief system should not compromise the rights of others. Religious concerns should not reverse women’s right one hundred years.
Canada especially is becoming extremely accommodating to new beliefs and cultural behaviors. This approach to accommodation makes me think that Canada is sailing in dangerous waters in the name of political correctness. The high waves of the political correctness in the ocean of special accommodation could tear the sails into pieces and prevent its ship from going forward but rather draw it back or even drown it.
Yes, the fundamental source of concern is that if the West starts to accommodate every person’s religious request, then it may be forced to grant other requests supported by firm beliefs in religion, such as stoning which is applied in different countries when a woman is accused of certain wrongdoing. The main point is that exemption and accommodation could set dangerous precedents and offend developments in people’s rights and freedom. Therefore, such requests do not enhance or enforce equality for men and women, but rather undermine the progress achieved in North America after several decades of struggle, particularly for women who just recently reached the level of CEO in the fortune 500 corporation. The Professor established that such accommodation requests do not have empirical evidence and inclusions do not have any negative repercussions on others. The Professor asserted that he refused to grant accommodation because it “infringed upon women’s right to be treated with respect and as equals” (Grayson, 2014).
We may account for religious and cultural practices but only after the primary, recognized human rights are met. Therefore, decision-makers must exercise care to ensure that private beliefs meet the required threshold of fairness and protection of other individuals’ rights.
The Dean noted that neither he nor his advisers had any other choice. The Professor rejected the request and the student joined others. Perhaps, it is time to review the Code so that it can yield favorable outcomes to all by preventing religious beliefs from undermining gender rights. This would restore the Code’s credibility and Canadians’ values recognized in both secular and religious beliefs.
Grayson, P. (2014). Why I Said No To Gender Segregation at York. The Huffington Post. Web.
Hopper, T. (2014). York University dean who granted student’s request to keep from female classmates says he wishes he ‘had another choice’.National Post. Web.
Ontario Human Rights Commission. (n.d). Policy on discrimination and harassment because of gender identity. Web.