Court fines ultra-Orthodox radio station NIS 1 million for keeping women off air

Precedent-setting ruling against Kol Berama, which only broadcasts male voices, comes six years after class action suit

The broadcasting studio of the ultra-Orthodox radio station Kol Barama, July 1, 2009. (Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)
The broadcasting studio of the ultra-Orthodox radio station Kol Barama, July 1, 2009. (Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)

In a precedent-setting ruling, the Jerusalem District Court fined the ultra-Orthodox Kol Berama radio station NIS 1 million ($280,000) on Thursday for excluding women from the airwaves.

The judge ordered the money be held in a designated fund that will later be distributed to various organizations helping ultra-Orthodox women.

The ruling comes six years after the Reform Movement’s Israel Religious Action Center and the religious women’s rights group Kolech filed a class action lawsuit against the radio station for its refusal to broadcast women on any of its programming.

In the decision handed down Thursday, the judge ruled Kol Berama’s “total and deliberate exclusion damages dignity and self-worth, deepens perceptions of female inferiority and prevents the influence of women in public discourse.”

Kol Berama began broadcasting in 2009 and has a 2.8% share of the national radio audience, making it the second most popular ultra-Orthodox radio station after Radio Kol Hai.

It was not clear if the station would change its practices after the ruling.

The ruling is the latest knock by the courts against exclusion of women from the public sphere in the ultra-Orthodox community, where women rarely hold public roles or are even seen in newspapers and other media.

In August, the ultra-Orthodox political party Agudath Israel was told by the court that it must resolve a discriminatory clause which states that only men may be on the slate for elected public office.

In response, at the beginning of September the party notified the High Court of Justice that it will remove a clause in the party regulations that forbids women from running for office on the party platform.

However, the party — which along with the Degel Hatorah party forms United Torah Judaism in the Knesset, and sits in the governing coalition — also stressed that the move was wholly symbolic, and that women would still effectively be barred.

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