Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein canceled on Monday a change to the election rules at Ono Academic College’s Haredi Campus student union that he said would have prevented women from being elected as union chairman.

In 2010, the student union at the ultra-Orthodox campus asked that the Corporations Authority, part of the Justice Ministry, permit them to insert a new clause into the code governing elections for senior posts in the organization.

The proposed clause stipulated that the student union’s chairman would be selected according to the “gender of the majority of students.”

Weinstein pointed out that because there is currently a male majority in the college, the new rule would have prevented female students from being elected.

The clause also stipulated that the “minority gender” – in other words, women – would have to vote for a candidate from the same gender for the vice chairman position.

Weinstein said in a statement that the clause “violated the equality between men and women and their right to vote and be elected freely and equally,” and that it was without any legal justification.

More than 2,000 religious men and women study at Ono Academic College’s Haredi Campus, where they are offered strictly gender-segregated courses in law and business subjects.

Though men and women study in separate classes, the attorney-general said gender separation should not be introduced into voting.

In a letter to the Haredi Campus’s student union on Monday, Weinstein’s office wrote that the proposed change would have “caused discrimination on the basis of gender and would have infringed on equality between members of the organization, men and women.”

“The student union represents all the students, men and women together, and there is no place for electing a chairman or a vice chairman on the basis of gender,” the letter continued.

Student union head Israel Elyovich expressed surprised over the ruling, which came without warning in the midst of the union’s election campaign, which is to end with a vote in a few days. He stressed, however, that “we will abide with whatever Weinstein ruled.”

Elyovich, who was not union chairman when the regulations were changed, said that the division in voting had nothing to do with religion, and was rather a result of the bad relations between the erstwhile male head of the union and his female deputy, which were nothing like the excellent work relationship he has with his current deputy, Shiffy Kaplan.

In addition, within a few years there will probably be a female majority in the college, which would have resulted in a female union chairman under the proposed rule, Elyovich said.

Weinstein’s decision could bring “extremists from the haredi camp to create two separate unions, one for men and one for women. And to that I am totally opposed,” he said.

The former student union chairman, who asked to remain unnamed, slammed Weinstein’s “populist” ruling, which he said would change an arrangement that was installed to serve the women.

Since women and men study on different days, and have different needs, appointing a female deputy chairman – with the right to draw money from the joint treasury – would have ensured that the women get what they needed.

“The considerations and interests behind the [2010] decision were to enable the women, despite their being a numerical minority, to run their matters independently, and take care of their needs as they saw fit, without the men deciding for them,” he said.

The attorney-general had reviewed the Haredi Campus’s request to be allowed to change the voting rules after a complaint was issued by the Kolech religious women’s feminist organization.

Attorney Riki Shapira-Rosenberg, Kolech’s legal adviser, told The Jerusalem Post that the women’s organization welcomed the attorney-general’s decision to cancel the clause.

“Really, why should a man be allowed to be elected as student union chairman but not a woman? Even if men and women study separately, that’s still discrimination,” Shapira- Rosenberg said. “Even if you can justify the separate study of men and women at the Haredi Campus, discrimination on the basis of gender is unacceptable when it comes to voting for public office.”

Many of the men and women at the Haredi Campus are studying law and plan to join the workforce as attorneys, Shapira-Rosenberg added.

“Anyone who studies law learns that the value of equality in general and between men and women in particular is the lifeblood of democracy and the basis of an equitable society,” she said.

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