Vered Swid 311.
(photo credit: YouTube)
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.
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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
“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
“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
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.
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.
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
“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
“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
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