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Equality Bill

Part of the debate – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:39 am on 9th June 2009.

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Maleiha Malik: I do not think that there is any evidence that there is a narrowing, but, like the British Humanist Association, we would very much welcome and strongly support any narrowing of the exemptions, for the following reason. The way the exemptions strike the balance between the rights of organised religion to discriminate and the rights of individuals to be free from discrimination is deeply unfair. It gives too much power to organised religions to police their internal members.

Our submission proposed the following amendment —a narrowing of the exemptions to subject them to requirements of reasonableness and proportionality, as in many Scandinavian countries. So, for example, an individual who had worked for a long time and then went through certain private law changes could not be summarily dismissed from employment.

Finally, we strongly recommended in our submission that the current position of having no supervision of how those exemptions are being used is unsatisfactory. We suggested that there should be an annual reporting provision. Those who exercise exemptions should report annually to the Joint Committee on Human Rights.