Westminster Council offers option to AVOID handshakes with women at citizenship ceremony

Westminster Council offers option to AVOID handshakes with women at citizenship ceremony
Charlie Peters

By Charlie Peters

Published: 15/04/2024

- 21:20

Updated: 16/04/2024

- 17:37

Home Office orders amendment after senior Tory says council move is either a ‘crass error’ or ‘sinister’

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.”

Senior Tory MP Sir John Hayes said the option was “bizarre” and said the move to “eschew people of the opposite sex” was the wrong way to start British citizenship.

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

Westminster Council/People shaking hands

Westminster Council has been slammed


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.

GB News understands that 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.”


Man and woman shaking hand

New British citizens can avoid shaking hands with the opposite sex if they choose so


Sir John Hayes MP said: “It is bizarre that Westminster City Council has adopted this stance. I can only assume that this is either a crass error or part of some sinister ideological drive.

“I go about my job shaking hands with all kinds of people as a constituency MP, and I’m proud to do so.”

He added: “The idea that we should eschew people of the opposite sex is hardly the beginning of the fellowship which is at the heart of citizenship.

“Shaking hands is part of the greeting which is deeply ingrained in our culture, it is a harmless way of making a connection between human beings and has been so since man began.”

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

The then-Immigration and Integration Minister Inger Støjberg said the update was made to prevent Islamist organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir from receiving Danish citizenship.

Many of the group’s members refused handshakes.

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.

Sir John pushed against calls to make it an “obligation,” but added that “it should be a normal expectation of a civil greeting. It helps to civilise us all.”

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.”

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