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A-G moves to halt and criminalize gender segregation

Justice minister calls exclusion of women an ‘intolerable crime’

A sign in Beit Shemesh calling for segregation between men and women on public streets. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
A sign in Beit Shemesh calling for segregation between men and women on public streets. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein on Wednesday adopted a Justice Ministry proposal to fight the exclusion of women from participating in public ceremonies, being featured on billboards and delivering eulogies at public cemeteries.

Weinstein contacted cabinet ministers with instructions to act quickly to implement the report’s recommendations and to eliminate the marginalization of women in the public sphere.

The separation between men and women is to be prohibited at the country’s HMOs, at all state ceremonies and state-sponsored events, and on public transportation. Moreover, the report demands that local authorities take steps to prevent signs being hung in religious neighborhoods that instruct women to walk in a certain part of the street or to dress modestly.

Gender segregation will also be prohibited in broadcasts of the ultra-Orthodox radio station Kol Berama. The report recommended that the station be shut down if it does not change a policy within six months prohibiting from women appearing on air.

Finally, the attorney general called on the Knesset to pass legislation that would criminalize discrimination against people based on “race, religion, or religious group, nationality, country of origin, gender, sexual orientation, outlook, political affiliation, marital status or parentage.

The team responsible for the report consisted of several senior Justice Ministry officials and was headed by the outgoing deputy attorney general for civil matters, Danit Sara.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni called gender segregation an “intolerable crime.” “The exclusion of women from the public sphere is not only an injury to women’s dignity, but harms our interests as a society and has no religious or moral justification. It is a phenomenon that must end,” said Livni.

Shahar Ilan, the vice president of the religious freedom group Hiddush, welcomed the attorney general’s recommendations, calling them wonderful news for Israeli society and for the Jewish people.

“Legislation is the only way to stop the continuing decline of the equal rights of women in the public sphere and the increase in violence against women that aims to exclude them from buses, streets and public events,” Ilan said.

While expressing his hope that Wednesday’s move by the attorney general would bring “significant results,” Ilan noted that the actual implementation of the recommendations is still a long way off, and that once the legislation does pass, the need for enforcement kicks in.

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