State to Israel High Court: Women Must Not Be Excluded From Ads

Nine months ago, a Jerusalem NGO petitioned the court after an ad agency and Egged bus company refused to run the NGO's campaign against exclusion of women from the public sphere.

The State announced before the High Court of Justice on Wednesday that it is vehemently opposed to the exclusion of women from advertisements on buses.

About nine months ago, the NGO Yerushalmim, a civic organization dedicated to diversity and pluralism in Jerusalem, petitioned the High Court after the Canaan advertising agency and the Egged Bus Cooperative refused to run the NGOs advertising campaign featuring women, Getting to Know the Women of Jerusalem, in the city.

The campaign's aim was to protest the exclusion of women from the public sphere. The companies demanded that the NGO deposit a large monetary guaranty to ensure that damages are covered in the event of vandalism. In the petition, Yerushalmim demanded that the Transportation Ministry be obligated to force the companies to comply with the ban on discriminating against ads featuring women.

In the response it submitted to the High Court on Wednesday, the Transportation Ministry stated: A position limiting the depictions of women solely because they are women violates public ordinances and fundamental principles and rights, first and foremost equality and freedom of expression. It also promotes and strengthens a negative, illegitimate societal notion instead of fighting to uproot it."

"The impact of such a violation of fundamental principles is great, given that at stake is advertising on billboards throughout the public sphere that serve the entire population. Given the effectiveness of this type of advertising and the public resonance it generates, the damage to any group excluded from it and to advertisers is severe and extensive.

The State Attorneys office and the Transportation Ministry also rejected the claims of the two companies. Despite the claims by Canaan and Egged about serial vandalism of advertisements, including the burning of buses, an inquiry with the Jerusalem Police showed that not a single complaint about vandalism of ads on Egged buses has been lodged in the past year. In fact, the police could not find any such complaints from past years either. Recently, the police, of its own initiative, investigated one incident about the removal of an ad from a bus after receiving a telephone tip, but no proper complaint was filed by the bus owner."

In light of the above, proof of past events is flawed, and we lack foundation and data for Eggeds claim that its chances of incurring economic damages of vast proportions are almost certain. That being the case, there is no need for legal analysis derived from such scenarios.

The States declaration also stated that the Transportation Ministry would make sure there is no discrimination in advertising.

License holders will not discriminate when providing services, including advertising placed inside and on buses, on the basis of race, religion or religious affiliation, nationality, country of origin, sex, sexual preference, worldview, political party affiliation, personal status or parenthood, determined the state attorney.

In response, Director General of Yerushalmim, Uri Ayalon, said: The response by the State restores the public sphere in Jerusalem and the country as a whole to its natural, moral and proper place because equality between the sexes must be shown, not just said. The State of Israel is starting to understand that women cannot be excluded from public spaces under any circumstance, for any reason.

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A protest against the exclusion of women from the public sphere in Jerusalem.
Olivier Fitoussi
An advertisement for Clalit health insurance that only features men.