In coalition talks, UTJ demanded law to allow gender separation in public

The demand, first published by the KAN public broadcaster, was roundly condemned by opposition politicians and civil society groups.

By
June 4, 2019 23:39
1 minute read.
In coalition talks, UTJ demanded law to allow gender separation in public

Israel's Deputy Health Minister, Yaakov Litzman (C) from United Torah Judaism party attends a meeting at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem September 13, 2017.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The haredi (ultra-Orthodox) United Torah Judaism Party included in its list of demands during coalition talks with the Likud a clause that would require the government to pass a law allowing for gender separation in public.

The demand, first published by the KAN public broadcaster, was roundly condemned by opposition politicians and civil society groups.

There have been several instances recently where attempts have been made to stage gender-separate public events, including a Chabad-run event in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square last year, which was ultimately approved by the Tel Aviv District Court.

Deputy Attorney-General Dina Zilber, however, determined on several occasions that gender separation in public is illegal and threatened to cancel public funding for such events.

The legal obstacles in staging such events, as well as providing gender-separate public services, led the UTJ to request that the law be amended to more easily obtain permission for gender separation in public.

The clause in the document submitted by UTJ to the Likud stated that the government, within 90 days of the formation of the coalition, must “amend the law so as to allow the provision of public services, studies, events and similar [things] in which men and women are separated and will not be considered discriminatory according to the law.”

It also stipulated that the law be amended to ban civil lawsuits or class action suits for gender separation on a religious basis without proof of damages.

The Likud Party said in response that it never agreed to UTJ’s demand on this issue.

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman said that the report was “further proof that the Likud under the leadership of Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu capitulated to all the demands of the haredim in the coalition negotiations.”

He said that overturning the ban on public gender separation would be “another step in turning the State of Israel into a halachic state.”

Director of the Israel Women's Network, attorney Michal Gera Margaliot, said that gender separation in public would lead to the erasure of women from the public domain altogether, while the secularist Israel Be Free organization said that such a law would lead to a slippery slope “from gender-separate public events to amusement parks, sports stadiums, theater halls, [and gender-separate] entry times for museums and for health clinics.”


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