|Written by Tamara Symonds|
An End to Gender Segregation?
May 8th became a day of celebration for proponents of equality in Israel after Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein instructed the government to immediately stop the exclusion and segregation of women in the public sphere.
The mandate follows a multi-year campaign by the NIF family to put a halt to the regressive and demeaning trend.
The decision has wide ranging implications for norms of behavior on public transportation, at public ceremonies, cemeteries, within health funds, and even on what can be written on signs posted in public. Weinstein went so far as to recommend making discrimination against women in public services a criminal offense.
Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni announced she would take steps to ensure appropriate legislation is enacted. The Israeli daily The Marker called the decision a "bomb in the arena of secular-religious relations." The story made headlines throughout the country as well as in the New York Times, which quoted SHATIL Director Ronit Heyd:
"It's a very important message saying we will not let religious extremism take over. Israel can be both a Jewish and a liberal, democratic state. Once the religious law takes over the democracy, that's where we're in danger."
The Attorney General's directive is a resounding success for the SHATIL-coordinated Coalition against the Exclusion of Women, a group made up of feminist, pluralist and other social change organizations. Proposals included in its report, Equal Space: Practical Proposals for Addressing the Exclusion of Women in Israel (PDF), which the Coalition presented to the government last year, are echoed in Weinstein's recommendations.
While lauding the announcement, the Coalition called for government funding to ensure close monitoring of the of the recommendations' implementation.