Ministry wants images of females on bus ads

Decision follows High Court petition from Yerushalmim movement over ‘Women of Jerusalem, Nice to Meet You’ campaign.

July 12, 2012 01:27
3 minute read.

YERUSHALMIM MOVEMENT 370. (photo credit: Courtesy Yerushalmim Movement)

The Transportation Ministry threw its support behind the Yerushalmim Movement’s efforts to have women featured on bus advertisements in a position paper submitted to the High Court of Justice late on Tuesday night.

The Yerushalmim movement petitioned the court after Cnaan, the company that handles advertising on Egged buses, refused to feature women in their ads out of fear the buses would be damaged by haredi extremists.

“A licensee may not discriminate in the provision of services, including in advertising displayed in or on buses for reasons of race, religion or religious denomination, nationality, country of origin, gender, sexual orientation, outlook, political affiliation, personal status or parenthood,” the Transportation Ministry wrote in its statement.

The saga started in November 2011, when Yerushalmim, a political group whose aim is to promote pluralism and equal rights in Jerusalem, tried to launch an advertising campaign called “Women of Jerusalem, Nice to Meet You.”

The group purchased advertising space on Egged buses and photographed women of various ages and backgrounds wearing modest clothes, with the goal of “reclaiming the public sphere,” Yerushalmim community organizer Marik Shtern said earlier this year.

But Cnaan refused to run the advertising campaign, claiming it would cause financial damage.

Yerushalmim petitioned the courts to prevent the discrimination against women in bus ads and require the Transportation Ministry to withhold licenses from any companies that engage in gender discrimination. The ministry accepted all of their requests and recommended canceling the petition. The ministry also assumed responsibility for enforcing the regulations.

“Four years after my High Court petition against Egged and Canaan, which I won, we are still forced to fight for our right to be seen on buses in Jerusalem,” said Yerushalmim city councilor Rachel Azaria.

In 2008, the city councilor turned to the High Court after Cnaan refused to put her campaign advertisements on buses because they featured a photo of Azaria.

“I am happy that the state has finally decided to wield its authority and require the advertising companies to display pictures of women on buses. This is a further step in the struggle against the exclusion of women. If we don’t stop it today in Jerusalem, it will quickly spread throughout the country,” she added.

Jerusalem and Bnei Brak are the only two places in the country where women are not featured on bus advertising, according to Cnaan, the marketing company that handles Egged advertising across the country. This is due to past experiences where extremists threw rocks and paint at buses, and even lit an empty bus on fire.

Cnaan CEO Ohad Givli said the company was still studying the decision. “I will honor the decision of the Transportation Ministry and I even agree with it a little, but it doesn’t solve our business problem,” he said.

Givli estimated that the Yerushalmim ad campaign could cost tens of thousands of shekels in damages to buses. His lawyers are now going over the 30-page decision to understand who will pay for the possible damage.

Givli questioned the wisdom of choosing this as the banner issue for gender discrimination.

“I can definitely say that this will cause damage to buses, but on the other hand, the discrimination against women in Jerusalem isn’t being caused by us,” he said.

But Yerushalmim director Rabbi Uri Ayalon said that the ministry’s response “restores the public expanse in Jerusalem and in all of Israel to its natural, moral and proper place and that gender equality must be seen and not only heard.”

Also on Wednesday, the Beit Shemesh small claims court awarded NIS 13,000 in damages to a 15-year-old girl after a driver from Superbus asked her to sit in the back of the bus. By law, passengers are allowed to sit wherever they want in the bus, and drivers are required to respect their decision to sit wherever they please.

A bus can only be “mehadrin,” a term that refers to separate seating for men and women, if all of the passengers agree.

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