The UK’s reputation for fairness and integrity is deteriorating fast with our increasing denial of visas to overseas speakers, especially women, writes Margaret Owen; while Roy Grimwood says that our language in covering the Saudi women driving ban story is patriarchal

In far too many international conferences held in the UK in recent years, overseas speakers’ panel chairs are empty (Future conference in doubt as academics say speakers refused visas, 26 September). Women, in particular, whether academics, human rights lawyers, grassroots feminist activists, researchers, if they come from developing and especially conflict-afflicted countries, are likely to have their visa applications refused on the most dubious grounds.

The case of Nigerian lawyer Dr Attah is not unique. Women from overseas invited to speak at meetings addressing important gender and human rights issues such as violence against women, the plight of women and girls as migrants and refugees, the roles of women in peace-building and in law reform, are routinely refused entry to the UK. Their absence diminishes the value of these events. Their voices are crucial to the resolution of global, regional and national problems. This situation is likely to get even worse in the context of Brexit, making the UK the least appropriate location for international conferences.

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