PM adviser: Gov’t won’t tolerate gender segregation

"This isn’t something that needs to be discussed or debated," D-G of Nat'l Authority for Advancement of Women tells the 'Post.'

December 22, 2011 03:15
3 minute read.
Vered Swid

Vered Swid 311. (photo credit: YouTube)


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The government has a policy of zero-tolerance against gender segregation and all attempts to exclude women from public sphere and it will do all it can to eradicate this trend, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.

Vered Swid, director-general of the National Authority for the Advancement of Women, said Netanyahu was very clear in his policy towards elements among the haredi (ultra- Orthodox) community to sideline women, including forcing them to sit at the back of public buses.

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“On this issue he is very clear. This isn’t something that needs to be discussed or debated. No one should force a woman to sit at the back of the bus,” said Swid, who plans to work in the coming weeks with local authorities, bus companies and woman’s organizations to rid society of this phenomenon.

“I cannot assure that it will completely disappear from our society but we take this issue very seriously,” she said, adding that raising public awareness to the issue will help to deter it from happening.

Swid’s comments came in response to a recent spate of incidents where women were attacked physically and verbally for not moving to the back of public buses or were forced to walk on a particular side of the street simply because of their gender.

Gender segregation issues have also become visible in both civilian and military public ceremonies where women’s roles were either diminished or completely removed after requests or complaints from some members of the ultra-Orthodox community.

One incident involved religious male soldiers who refused to attend an event in which women were singing, and in another case, a Health Ministry awards ceremony, the sole female recipient was excluded because her presence offended religious individuals. In addition, some cities with a large ultra-Orthodox population have even started to refrain from posting billboards with images of females.

Swid pointed out that the elimination of women from the public sphere is not a new problem but that it has been happening gradually over the past 10 years.

“We need to focus our energy and efforts onto giving women more opportunities to progress in education and in professional life,” she said. “Already, we see women breaking the glass ceiling in many areas and we have to encourage this further.”

In terms of directly tackling the attempts to sideline women, Swid said the government has already established a committee to investigate ways end the trend. She said in the coming days government officials will be meeting with the heads of the public bus company Egged to discuss the issue.

“I also want to go myself to see what is happening on the buses and on the streets, to meet with those women who are actively challenging this problem,” she said.

Swid maintained these efforts were not an attack on the beliefs of the ultra-Orthodox community but rather a way to ensure the rights of all Israeli citizens are protected.

“What someone does in their home does not affect the rest of the community but what they do outside has an impact on everyone,” she said, adding that haredi communities living outside of Israel do not call for gender segregation, so there is no justification for what is happening here.

“Obviously in a synagogue it is clear there needs to be separation between men and women but in this state we have to promote equal rights for all human beings and no one should be telling anyone else where to sit or what to do.”

She also highlighted that it was Netanyahu who created the National Authority for the Advancement of Women, which sits inside the Prime Minister’s Office, during his first term as prime minister.

“The prime minister is very dedicated to these issues and especially to advancing equality for women in society.”

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