The Ministerial Committee for Legislation gave government backing to a bill to guarantee fair representation for women in local religious councils on Sunday.
Local religious councils are entrusted to provide religious services and collect fees for those services within the municipal authority within which it operates.
Such services include upkeep and maintenance of municipal cemeteries, ritual baths and synagogues.
Representation of women on these councils is low, amounting to just 5 percent of council membership, according to the Hiddush religious freedom lobbying group.
One-third of all councils have no women members, and there are no women who serve as the head of a council.
The legislation, proposed by Yesh Atid MK Aliza Lavie and drafted in conjunction with the Rackman Center for the Advancement of Women’s Status, would guarantee by law equal representation of women on the council.
“There are almost no women on local religious councils,” Lavie said of the bill. “When women are not represented among decision- makers, the way matters which are important to women and social issues are addressed is not sufficient.”
Lavie said that “fair representation of women will bring about an improvement in the fields which until now have been neglected for many years, due to a lack of attention.”
The MK cited issues such as kashrut supervision, wedding preparations, maintenance of mikvaot and wages for mikve attendants, among other areas requiring improvement which would be helped by greater representation of women on local religious councils.
Prof. Ruth Halperin-Kedari, head of the Rackman Center, said that religious councils were public bodies operating across the country and that 5 percent female representation was not acceptable.
In recent years, religious councils have been criticized for their approach to women.
Numerous incidents were recorded in which women were refused permission to give eulogies at the funerals of relatives for reasons of “modesty.”
And many complaints have been made against female attendants at ritual baths who have conducted intrusive interrogations of women seeking to immerse.