Steintiz: Haredim who abuse women must be jailed

Finance minister describes haredi extremists who commit violence against women as "villains"; Livnat: "Live and let live."

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz 311 R (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz 311 R
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
The haredi [ultra-Orthodox] extremists who commit violence against women and girls belong behind bars, said Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz on Sunday morning.
Steinitz branded the latter as "psychopaths and villains," during an interview with Israel Radio. He added that Interior Minister Eli Yishai should order the mayor of Beit Shemesh to immediately remove the signs prohibiting women from walking on certain parts of the sidewalk in haredi neighborhoods.
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Steinitz emphasized that he was referring to small groups of extremists and not the entire haredi sector.
Also commenting on the issue, Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat opined Sunday that we should "live and let live."
In an interview with Army Radio, Livnat, who leads the Interministerial Committee on the Status of Women, opined that in entirely haredi cities, segregation on public transport should be allowed, rather than forced."
She said that when it comes to haredi cities, where all of of its residents are haredim, we must not be "patronizing."
"I don't think we should tell them how to live," Livnat declared. "We should live and let live. "
"When we are speaking about a mixed city, however, or a city where there are haredim or religious people who oppose segregation, we must fight the phenomenon," she added.
The issue of  violence against and exclusion of women has recently been in the center of political and public debate. A Channel 2 report on Friday provoked fresh reactions, after showing an eight-year old modern orthodox girl afraid to walk 300 meters to school because of harassment by some haredim because of her attire.
The report interviewed a haredi man saying it was permissible to spit at even a school-age girl if she was not dressed "properly."
A young haredi man shown in the report spitting at a woman in Beit Shemesh was arrested Saturday night. He was taken for questioning, confessed, and was due to be brought for a remand extension Sunday morning.
Following the Channel 2 report, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu phoned Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, and directed him to get the police to aggressively take action to combat violence by extremist haredim  against women.
In addition to speaking with Aharnovitch, Netanyahu also called Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein to ensure that laws against excluding women from the public space were enforced.
"We will not allow groups of extremists to harm the right of women in the public space, which must remain open and secure for everyone," Netanyahu said.
Vered Swid, director-general of the National Authority for the Advancement of Women and a senior advisor to the prime minister, said Netanyahu was very clear in his policy towards elements among the haredi community to sideline women, including forcing them to sit at the back of public buses.
“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.
Ruth Eglash and Herb Keinon contributed to this report.