Westminster Council offers option to AVOID handshakes with women

Westminster Council offers option to AVOID handshakes with women

England, UK: Westminster City Council has been slammed for asking new citizens if they have an objection to shaking hands at their citizenship ceremony.

The central London council offers an option for new British citizens that says: “I would prefer not to shake hands with the opposite sex.”

The online form asks “Do you want to shake hands with the dignitary at the ceremony?"

Describing the process, the webpage says: “The Superintendent Registrar and the local dignitary will shake hands with each new citizen when they present the certificate.”

It then asks: “Do you have any objection to this?”

The page was briefly shared online by a new British citizen who was booking their ceremony and expressed shock at the form.

The option to opt out of shaking hands with the opposite sex was removed by the council some years ago when it was under Conservative leadership, but was reinstated after Labour took control in May last year.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are in contact with the relevant Local Authority to ensure the dropdown option is amended.”

In 2018, Denmark updated its rules on citizenship to make handshaking a mandatory part of its own ceremony.

In 2020, a court in the southwest German state Baden-Württemberg affirmed the decision by the local authorities to deny a Muslim man German citizenship because he refused to shake hands with a female official.

A council spokesperson said: “As part of our citizenship ceremony service we offer a range of options to ensure we cater to everyone, including faith and cultural groups, and people with health conditions and disabilities.”