Women-only scholarships under spotlight
Women-only educational scholarships are facing a legal challenge under human rights laws because they may discriminate against men.
In what may become a global test case, Victoria University Institute of Policy Studies senior researcher Dr Paul Callister has asked the Human Rights Commission to clarify its position, saying women significantly outperform men in education and therefore there may be no inequality for such scholarships to rectify.
Human Rights Commission's chief commissioner, Rosslyn Noonan, said she would carefully examine the issues and questions raised by Callister before responding.
The NZUSA has plumped for defending them, perhaps more for internal politics than on the merits of the case. Simple analogies will show the problem with the argument that they only give positive support and are no threat to others. The argument that the future of women in higher education is uncertain is particularly weak - the idea of NZ readopting any institutional barrier based on gender is bonkers, especially when we're doing so well discriminating on class with financial barriers.
This is a test case appealing to international guidelines, with implications beyond NZ. We're not the only country to show a success for human rights in gender equality in access to higher education.
It will be illuminating to observe the reaction of feminists outside NZ to this issue as it works its way into their national politics. I think there's going to be a distinction drawn between those who advocate feminism as part of liberal principles and those who advocate it as a tribal identity.