Attorney General: Gender-segregated events okay under certain circumstances

Mandelblit issues guidelines for local authorities, saying separation permissible if it is desired by target audience and conditions for men and women are equal

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit attends a conference at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan on March 28, 2019. (Flash90)
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit attends a conference at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan on March 28, 2019. (Flash90)

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on Thursday said that local authorities could organize gender-segregated cultural events under certain circumstances.

Mandelblit published guidelines for authorities saying that gender-segregation could be permissible if the separation were voluntary and desired by the target audience, men and women had equal conditions, and separation did not unduly impact those opposed to it.

“The greater the voluntary component, the less the difficulty in gender segregation, and when it comes to a completely voluntary segregation in which every person chooses his place without being directed, there is no difficulty,” Mandelblit said.

The release of the guidelines followed a special meeting on the subject with legal officials, and after a gender-segregated concert at a public park in Afula earlier this month forced the controversial arrangement into Israel’s headlines.

The High Court barred the August 14 performance, but the ruling came too late to stop the event from going ahead.

The High Court ruling on the Afula concert sparked widespread outcry from right-wing lawmakers, particularly ultra-Orthodox ones, who claimed that the court was preventing ultra-Orthodox Israelis from maintaining religious modesty customs. Those opposing the concert argued that segregating women is a form of discrimination and therefore illegal in public places.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews at a concert featuring Haredi singer Motti Steinmetz, in a show where men and women in the audience sat separately, in the northern Israeli city of Afula on August 14, 2019. (Meir Vaknin/Flash90)

In his Thursday statement, Mandelblit stressed that his starting point was upholding individual freedom and equality.

His guidelines included the conditions that local authorities should take into consideration when deciding on whether to allow for a gender-segregated event.

Authorities should consider the target audience for the event and whether a significant part of that audience would not attend without planned segregation, and the impact that segregation would have on those who were opposed to it. The target audience for a gender-segregated event should not be children and families, but adults, the statement said.

“This is an intermediate position that will take place until a fundamental and comprehensive legal discussion is held,” Mandelblit noted.

Most Popular
read more: