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Cairo: In a step decried as a setback to freedoms in the country, Kuwait plans to enforce gender segregation at the university.

The latest signal for the ban came from Kuwaiti MP Mohammad Hayef who quoted Education Minister Adel Al Manea as having agreed to scrap registration for attending mixed lectures.

In 2015, Kuwait’s Constitutional Court ruled in favour of co-education when it explained that a law prohibiting mixing at educational institutions can be implemented merely by providing seats for females and others for males inside the lecture halls.

Acting Director of the Kuwait University Fayez Al Dhafiri said that the institution conforms to the application of the law banning mixing. “We are working so there is no mixing at studies unless exceptional and actual need arises for this,” he said.

“The university is committed to reviewing academic sections and cancelling the mixed ones among them of which there is no actual need of them,” he added.

Constitutional Court

Some civil society activists have sharply criticised the education minister’s reported promise, calling it “unjustified government bowing to militancy” in an issue previously resolved.

“This is a setback to the course of freedoms for which Kuwait has been famous,” said Kuwaiti journalist Iqbal Al Ahmad.

Meanwhile, professor of philosophy at the Kuwait University Sheikha Al Jassem described the reignition of debate on co-education as a “regrettable matter”.

“The Constitutional Court explained in 2015 what is meant by prohibiting mixing, which is to separate seats inside the lecture hall, and not to allocate sections for female students and others for males,” she said, noting that females outnumber males. “According to what MP Mohammad Hayef said, we have to start anew the registration process and cancel sections,” she added.

The ministerial pledge was made at a meeting between a parliamentary committee and senior education officials.

Al Qabas quoted unidentified sources as saying that the education officials not only pledged to scrap mixed classes, but also made other promises about “decent dresses” on the campus.

“This leaning towards scrapping the mixed classes will delay studies in some university majors,” the sources said.

The controversial plan comes in the run-up to the new academic year due to start on Sunday in Kuwait.