New guidelines for public ceremonies, a hotline for women hassled on so-called
gender-segregated buses and penalization for religious authorities if women are
excluded from burials are just a few of the measures the government committed to
adopt Tuesday during a special meeting of the Ministerial Committee on the
Status of Women.
“There is no room for exclusion of women in Israel,”
said the committee’s chairwoman Minister of Culture and Sport Limor Livnat, at
the start of the meeting.
“This phenomenon contradicts the principles of
democracy tradition and so I have decided to act to end it,” she said, adding “I
know it will not be easy, it is a long path – a very long path – but we have to
take steps that will bring an end to the shameful cases that are preventing
women from taking part in various public activities and receiving equal
treatment only because they are women.”
Livnat was referring to a series
of public events, both civilian and military, where – after requests or
complaints from some members of the ultra-Orthodox community – women were
sidelined or left out completely because of their gender. In addition to this
there has also been a growing prominence of gender-segregated public transport
and other public spaces, including streets.
In the military, there have
been several cases where religious male soldiers have refused to attend an event
in which women were singing or take commands from female officers. And in
civilian life, a Health Ministry awards ceremony excluded the sole female
recipient last September and several high profile companies have even started to
refrain from posting billboards with female models.
Among the steps
proposed by the committee Tuesday is for the Civil Service Commission to adopt
clearer guidelines to prevent the exclusion of women in from the stage and
audience in state ceremonies or special events. This will also ensure that women
are able to receive awards.
In addition, the Ministry of Religious
Affairs, with guidance from the Justice Ministry, will be forced to amend the
license granted to companies that facilitate burials to ensure that women can
give obituaries and participate in the ceremony of their loved ones at
Regarding gender segregated bus lines, the Ministry of
Transport committed to establishing a special helpline to field complaints from
women who find themselves under attack, or upset during travels, and the
department on the Status of Women in the Prime Minister’s Office will run a
similar hotline to hear complaints about the exclusion of women from other areas
of public life.
Finally, Livnat proposed the establishment of an
inter-ministerial committee that will offer even more ways to deal with
exclusion of women from public space.
Headed by the minister, the team
will include representatives from the ministries of transport, religious
affairs, interior, defense and justice among others.
chairwoman of the Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO), said
following the meeting that the problem of hiding women from the public view “has
to stop immediately.”
“Removing the presence of women from buses,
sidewalks, billboards and jobs – banning women from leadership roles, singing
and all other kinds of prohibitions imposed by certain rabbis – constitute a
flagrant violation of human rights in general and women’s rights in particular,”
“Today we are fighting for the character of Israeli
democracy and call on the government to a take firm action against any party
that discriminates against women.”
Also present at the meeting was
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who said in a statement released from his office:
“We will not allow the exclusion of women from the public sphere in Jerusalem
and we will continue to do all we can to eradicate this phenomenon.”
week after he was caught on tape making light of women singing in the army, IDF
Chief of Staff Benny Gantz came out Tuesday in complete support of full female
participation in the army, including in the singing troupes.
important, Gantz said, for the IDF to be “a people’s army,” and not the army of
“only half the people.”
Gantz, speaking at an Israel National Defense
College alumni event in Jerusalem, said that it was important for all segments
of the population to serve – religious and secular, men and women.
IDF does not not exclude women from any place or any position,” he said. “There
is no prohibition to women singing.
The IDF has wonderful female soldiers
and officers who can be proud of their contribution, and – yes – also of their
Meanwhile on Monday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu also
condemned steps taken by some ultra-Orthodox groups to impose gender segregation
and sideline women from public life.
“The place of women in public spaces
must be ensured and equal,” said the PM speaking at a conference on human
trafficking held at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem.
segregation of women clashes not just with the democratic principles that we
know and cherish – it also clashes with Jewish tradition,” he said.
the same event, President Shimon Peres said that men should be free to avoid the
company of women to whom they are not related, “But no man has the right to
force a woman to sit in a place that he decides on.”JTA contributed to