Skip to main content

0800 917 1000   Open weekdays 9am-5pm

IICSA Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

Child protection in religious organisations and settings Investigation Report


C.6: Gender disparity

35. Within many religious organisations, positions of spiritual and religious leadership are only occupied by men. Within a significant number of the religious organisations examined in this investigation, there was evidence that there was also a preponderance of men occupying senior lay positions of responsibility.

35.1. In the London Central Mosque, approximately 70 percent of the staff, including teachers in the associated school, are women, but most of the senior leadership are men. Of the 24 trustees, only two or three are female. It does not have control over who its trustees are because they are the ambassadors and high commissioners of various Islamic majority countries. At the time of the hearing in May 2020, the designated safeguarding leads were male.[1] Following the hearing, the organisation set up a safeguarding committee comprising four people, including two women, to improve the gender diversity of the safeguarding leads and make it easier for female children to share their concerns and report abuse.[2]

35.2. Mr Adatia confirmed that all of the individuals who appeared in the Shree Hindu Temple and Community Centre’s organisational structure were male. There were no women in positions of leadership, although there had previously been female committee members and one female vice president.[3] He was, however, aware of another Hindu temple in Leicester where some leaders, including the president and the secretary, were female.[4]

35.3. In the East London Mosque, one of the five members of senior management was a woman and 20 percent of the trustees were female. The designated safeguarding lead was male.[5] The Mosque has women-only facilities in the Maryam Centre, which offers counselling services to women.[6]

35.4. Within the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (UOHC), all positions of leadership were filled by men.[7]

36. In the Jesus Fellowship Church, all of the leaders were men, with 10 men at the highest level as “apostolic leaders”, and Mr Noel Stanton at the very top.[8] Women and children were considered “very much bottom of the rung”.[9] Women were seen as a “temptation to men” and there were very strict modesty rules for girls about their appearance and clothing.[10]

37. Where only men have responsibility for receiving disclosures of abuse within an organisation, it is less likely that women will feel able to disclose. Strengthening Faith Institutions (an organisation that receives support from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) is managed by a consortium of faiths and aims to “create stronger, healthier, integrated and accessible places of worship”.[11] It identified the need for women to be in positions of responsibility and influence in safeguarding as:

“key to running a successful and healthy and safe institution, especially if you have young women present on a regular basis, that they should have someone of the same sex that they can go to and seek support from. It’s vital, we felt. If not … it’s difficult for these young women to go, often, to a male figure sometimes, especially if there’s an issue of sensitivity and concern.”[12]

38. According to Ms Patel, addressing this barrier requires much more than simply placing women in positions of responsibility:

“having women representatives in your religious institution doesn’t necessarily translate into gender equality … on the whole, it’s the wider institutional culture, patriarchal culture, and the sheer imbalance of power that needs to be tackled, not a question of whether they just bring a few more women into the fold”.[13]

39. However, more can and should be done to encourage gender diversity among those in positions of responsibility in religious organisations, given the importance for child protection of there being women who have power to take steps to influence and bring about change in practices and policies and to whom other women and girls can turn.

Back to top