Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke out Monday against the recent attempts at excluding women from the public sphere on the part of the ultra-Orthodox, saying that “equality between men and women is absolute – that is how it has always been, and that is how it will continue.”

Netanyahu, who along with President Shimon Peres spoke at an award ceremony commemorating the fight against human trafficking, added that the exclusion of women is a “minor phenomenon” that contradicts Jewish traditions, yet exists among the ultra-Orthodox community.

During his speech, Peres said that “any kind of discrimination constitutes a fatal error that must be corrected immediately.” Peres referred to the recent controversy over several Jerusalem bus routes which have remained segregated by gender in contravention with Supreme Court rulings added that if a man does not want to get on a bus because women are present, “he does not have to – no one is forcing him.”

The leaders’ speeches come in the wake of other recent attempts to exclude or boycott women in the Israeli public sphere. In October, following orders from IDF rabbis, female soldiers were asked to leave the central event and had to celebrate in a separate area during the traditional dancing that marks the end of the Simhat Torah holiday.

The speech also comes on the heels of an agreement signed earlier this week between dozens of Sderot businesses and a religious organization, in order to guarantee that all employees dress modestly.