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Women's cause must not be lost during Brexit debate, says Shami Chakrabarti

Women must not be cast aside as "middle-aged men with the same surname" lead the EU referendum debate, civil liberties supporter Shami Chakrabarti has said.

The director of human rights campaign group Liberty said it is important to ensure discussions are not "dominated by people who are too much the same".

Speaking at Southbank Centre's Women of the World Festival in London, she said: "The next few months are going to be an interesting time in British politics.

"We've got to make sure that whilst this Brexit debate happens, the cause of women isn't lost at the same time."

Ms Chakrabarti singled out male politicians on opposing sides of the debate - leading advocate of Brexit Boris Johnson and Alan Johnson who is leading Labour's pro-EU campaign.

She said: "Now don't get me wrong, Boris and Alan are very talented and charismatic politicians and writers, but should the pro and anti campaigns be led and dominated by middle-aged men with the same surname?"

Ms Chakrabarti then pointed out something "a bit naughty", telling the crowd that "Johnson" is a euphemism in America for "the male part".

In January, Ms Chakrabarti announced her departure from her role as director of Liberty, after 12 years in which she has repeatedly clashed with governments.

The campaigner was once described by radio presenter and columnist Jon Gaunt as "Britain's most dangerous woman".

She is remaining in her role until her successor is appointed.

Appearing at the Southbank Centre event, Ms Chakrabarti spoke strongly about gender equality.

She said: "The last 12 years in this job, the last 14 years in activism, have taught me this - gender injustice, in my view, is the greatest human rights violation on the planet."

She said it is in both the first world and the developing world, and described gender injustice as being "like an apartheid".

Ms Chakrabarti told the packed crowd: "I am impatient for change."

The Women of the World Festival is a week-long celebration of women and girls which features talks, performances, exhibitions and workshops.

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