Israel's AG Impels Ministers to Crack Down on Exclusion of Women

Yehuda Weinstein boldly calls for end to discrimination in every area of public policy; Justice Ministry calls for sweeping changes to end all forms of discrimination.

Hila Raz
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Hila Raz

Israel's Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein dropped a bomb in the realm of Haredi-secular relations on Wednesday, when he instructed government ministers in a sharply-worded statement to immediately stop the exclusion of women in the areas under their authority.

At the end of several meetings in his office, Weinstein adopted the recommendations of a report by the team led by Sarit Dana, outgoing deputy attorney general in charge of civil affairs, that boldly calls for an end to discrimination in every area of public policy.

Weinstein explicitly ordered Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat, Communications Minister Gilad Erdan, Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar, Religious Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett, Health Minister Yael German and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz to eliminate the exclusion of women from the public sphere.

Additionally, a report by the Justice Ministry determined that segregation in cemeteries and the prohibition against women delivering eulogies at funerals constitute illegal discrimination and the Religious Affairs Ministry must put an end to them immediately.

Furthermore, no state-sponsored event, such as those organized by any of the ministries, or public authority may segregate men and women. Same goes for buses, which last year became a battleground for the issue.

Weinstein instructed the Transportation Ministry to ensure that no form of segregation would be practiced, directly or indirectly, by any of the franchisees who operated licensed public transportation. The Transportation Ministry must issue clear instructions and increase supervision of the companies, he wrote, adding, “Boarding buses will be permitted only through the front door, and payment must be made directly to the driver.”

Segregation between men and women is also prohibited in the offices of the state's health maintenance organizations as well.

“The Health Ministry must put a quick end to all the various manifestations of segregation at HMO branch offices,” Weinstein wrote.

Weinstein next addressed pashkevilim — public posters popular in Haredi neighborhoods that sometimes call for action. His report states that local authorities must prevent signs urging women to use segregated sidewalks or dress modestly from being mounted on the streets under their jurisdiction, particularly those in the public space.

In the realm of radio, Weinstein's report called for an end to the policy of not allowing women to speak on air at the Kol Berama radio station and not hiring women as announcers. The Second Television and Radio Authority has six months to end Kol Berama's policy of discrimination.

“According to the rules and regulations of the Second Television and Radio Authority, Kol Berama puts women on the air every day,” said officials at Kol Berama.

Weinstein also called on the Knesset to promote legislation "making it a criminal offense to harass anyone by treating them in a contemptuous or humiliating manner on the basis of race, religion, religious affiliation, nationality, country of origin, sex, sexual preference, world view, party affiliation, or marital or parental status for the purpose of denying them access to or use of public services or reducing the level of their service.”

The attorney general wrote that each of the public authorities involved must work quickly, efficiently and firmly to stop all manifestations of segregation in their areas of responsibility and influence.

The Justice Ministry is also applying the law against the exclusion of women to private agencies with a license or franchise from the state or a public authority.

“The public authority must use all legal means available to it as a supervisory and regulatory agency to put an end to every form of segregation and differentiation which, as stated, constitute discrimination,” the report said.

Women protesting in Jerusalem against the exclusion of women from the public arena, December 23, 2011. Credit: Michal Fattal
A secular activist riding a special bus line for ultra-Orthodox passengers in Jerusalem Sunday Jan. 1, 2011.Credit: Emil Salman

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