The Clalit health maintenance organization has recently issued stickers for children that completely exclude girls. The stickers, distributed in clinics in the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox ) community, are intended to be given to children as a prize for undergoing a medical treatment or examination.
Each sticker shows a picture of a smiling boy or boys with a short caption. For example, a sticker saying "get well soon" shows a boy wearing glasses talking on the telephone. A sticker saying "sweet boy" shows two boys in their pajamas, brushing their teeth. One sticker quotes the religious blessing "Blessed is He who heals the sick." All the boys are wearing skullcaps.
But none of the stickers feature girls. Even the sticker saying "good girl" shows four smiling boys.
Shahar Ilan, vice president of research and information for Hiddush, an organization that promotes religious pluralism and equality, said that Clalit's exclusion of girls from its stickers ratchets up gender segregation in a dangerous way. The HMO "is selling women's status for more ultra-Orthodox members," he said. "It's hard to understand what the HMO thinks of the ultra-Orthodox men for whom they are censoring pictures of girls."
"The exclusion of women from the Israeli landscape is spreading like a disease," he added. "If the public doesn't rise up against it and put an end to this abomination, it won't be long before we find ourselves in a landscape without women."
A Clalit official insisted that "even in the few ultra-Orthodox clinics to which they were distributed, the stickers haven't been around for a long time already. And it was only one sticker, in which a mistake led to a discrepancy between the picture and the text."
The exclusion of women and girls from public spaces due to ultra-Orthodox pressure is not new. As Haaretz reported yesterday, a large group of women from all over the country is planning a demonstration next month to protest the exclusion of women from billboards in Jerusalem and their segregation from men in the army. The protest will consist of women congregating in selected public locations and singing.
"The time has come for us to stop being quiet," wrote Hila Bunyovich-Hoffman, who called the protest, on her Facebook page. "We're not spreading debauchery and we're not walking pornography advertisements."
"Life as a woman in Israel is becoming more restricted and humiliating," she added. "We mustn't continue to keep quiet."
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