In many countries around the world - among them, Nepal, Uganda and Bangladesh - political parties are not allowed to participate in parliamentary elections if they do not have any female representation. Some countries even offer monetary incentives to parties with more female candidates than the minimum required by law.

In Israel, there are at least two parties - Shas and United Torah Judaism - which unreservedly exclude women from their lists of candidates. From their point of view, women are not intended to be leaders.

In the State of Israel - whose Declaration of Independence commits itself to upholding equality for all citizens regardless of religious beliefs, race or sex - there is nothing to keep a political party from excluding more than half the population from its ranks. It's absurd - imagine a U.S. party that refuses to include black people, or a party in Germany in which Jews are not allowed to participate. But here, a draft law aimed at rewarding factions in which at least 35 percent of members are women, through the law for funding parties, was torpedoed by Shas in 2010.

In general, female representation in the Knesset is unimpressive, to put it mildly. There are currently 23 female Knesset members, a mere 19 percent of total MKs. The percentage of women in the general population is 51.4.

In a survey this year that examined the number of women in various parliaments throughout the world, Israel ranked 68th out of 144 countries. Among the 33 members of the OECD, Israel came in 24th place.

Among some Arab parties too women are not represented at all. And among some of the other parties, including purely secular ones, female representation is very low. This is a sorry state of affairs, even if two women - Shelly Yacimovich and Zahava Gal-On - do now head parties.

Recently, there have been increasing demands not to put up with the sub-representation of women in Israeli politics. The women's empowerment organization Ken-Koach Nashim is considering a move to petition the High Court of Justice if parties do not take immediate action to represent women equally on their lists, while a feminist partnership of women's organizations is taking action to promote gender voting.

The fact that organizations need to petition the High Court of Justice over this issue is a disgrace. The Knesset must follow in the footsteps of advanced countries and pass legislation that will not permit parties without appropriate female representation to participate in elections.