MAN bans are spreading as two more council functions are declared off-limits because it is “not appropriate” for men to mix with Muslim women.
And in a surprise twist, VCAT backed the latest bans, declaring there was no discrimination and councils no longer needed to apply for exemptions.
The Darebin City Council ban will be in force for a music concert to be held in December, while another female-only event to mark the end of Ramadan was cancelled last week.
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The council sought the bans because it was “culturally inappropriate for young women to participate in recreational activity with males present”.
But Ratepayers Victoria president Jack Davis said the bans were “another case of segregation”.
“I think it is totally wrong. I think it’s ridiculous and I do think it is discrimination, and it goes against what the average ratepayer wants,” Mr Davis said.
“We are seeing more and more of this kind of stuff.”
Moreland council recently banned men from a dance event while Monash council put up curtains at a public pool so Muslim women could have privacy during a female-only exercise classes.
Darebin Mayor Diana Asmar said the latest bans involved events promoted to young women who, “due to their cultural and religious backgrounds, cannot attend events where men and women both attend”.
“The December event is a 10-week workshop series that teaches young women DJ-ing skills. The program culminates in a social event that the young women plan and run themselves,” she said.
“Darebin’s approach is to always identify barriers to community participation and address them.”
Darebin council, with the support of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, originally asked VCAT for an exemption under the Equal Opportunities act so it could have women-only events.
VCAT ruled the events would not discriminate against anybody and special exemption was not needed.
An Equal Opportunity spokeswoman said the decision meant “organisations do not have to go through a formal VCAT hearing to put in place practices to assist groups to achieve substantive equality”.
A spokesman for the Islamic Council of Victoria, Nazeem Hussain, said the Darebin decision was not “controversial or surprising in the slightest”.