'Gender segregation practices are ‘apartheid‘'

Knesset c'tee to initiate legislation designed to deny public funds to agencies which participate in exclusion of women.

November 16, 2011 21:51
3 minute read.
Gender separation at Kotel.

gender separation 311. (photo credit: Jeremy Sharon)


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MK Tzipi Hotovely, chairwoman of the Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women, described on Wednesday the growing number of incidents in which women are excluded from the public space as “apartheid” which contradicts basic Israeli values.

In recent months, a spate of incidents have come to public attention in which proponents of equal rights say women have been marginalized in a variety of ways.

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In September, during Succot, separation barriers were erected in Jerusalem’s Mea She’arim neighborhood to prevent men and women mixing during the crowded and busy period of the holiday.

Religious IDF soldiers also refused to listen to women singing at an army event because of a prohibition within Jewish law of listening to women sing in person.

A complaint was submitted to the broadcasting authority about the exclusion of women on the haredi radio station Kol Berama, and the issue of gender-segregated buses in haredi neighborhoods has also not been resolved.

Hotovely made her comments during the first-ever hearing of the Knesset Committee for the Advancement of the Status of Women into the issue, initiated by MK Einat Wilf (Independence).

“The committee... sees the exclusion of women as apartheid which contradicts the values of the state of Israel and Jewish law,” Hotovely said. “We have to fight this phenomenon of radicalization that is being expressed through the exclusion of women [in public life], because it seriously injures [the rights] of women and society as a whole.”

The committee will initiate legislation designed to deny public funds to any agencies that participate in the exclusion of women and will also closely watch further incidents of segregation and marginalization.

“This phenomenon is a blatant infraction of equal rights carried out through the exploitation of public money which is provided by the state,” Hotovely added.

The committee said that it would be asking that Egged and the Transportation Ministry provide within three months a document detailing any occurrences in which the ruling of the Supreme Court outlawing gender segregation on buses is infringed.

MK Orit Zuaretz (Kadima) was also present at the hearing and further proposed that Egged demand that its drivers complete a form whenever any incident of segregation occurs.

“The Supreme Court ruling was in January, how long does it take to draw up correct procedures,” she asked.

The committee will consider the issue in a number of sittings throughout the Knesset winter session, and will discuss in particular the marginalization of women in the army, and in cities with large haredi populations such as Jerusalem and Beit Shemesh.

The hearing was also attended by Rachel Azaria, a member of the Jerusalem City Council who was fired from the council coalition and stripped of her portfolios after petitioning the High Court against the Jerusalem Municipality to enforce the removal of segregation barriers during Succot.

“It’s amazing that an alliance has been formed between extremists and the establishment,” Azaria said. “The haredi public realizes that it needs to be part of society, so we see military enlistment and participation in the workforce increasing in this community.

But this threatens the extremists, who are burdening their communities with fabricated [laws] which are not halachic.

“Their goal is not to isolate women from the public sphere but to isolate the haredi community from the general community.”

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