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Letter to Netanyahu: Don’t ban women speakers from a gynecology conference


NIF is a convener.  When major issues arise, NIF and its action arm SHATIL mobilize coalitions to make the largest possible impact.  As the clamor over the exclusion of women grows louder, women doctors and experts are excluded from speaking at an upcoming conference focusing on women’s sexual health and fertility issues.  Excluding women from a government-funded conference on women’s issues is unacceptable.  The letter below was sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (who also serves as Israel’s Minister of Health) on Sunday:


8 January 2012

To:
Minister of Health
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Fax No.: 02-5605000

Health Ministry Director-General
Prof. Ronni Gamzu
Fax No.: 02-5655966


Please respond to: Tammy Katsabian, NIF/SHATIL Pluralism Coordinator


Re: The exclusion of women at the Puah Institute's conference on innovations in gynecology and Halacha, funded by the Ministry of Health


We, the feminist and pluralistic organizations signed below, appeal to you to act against the blatant exclusion of women at the Puah Institute‘s national conference, which is sponsored and supervised by your office.

The Puah Institute deals with guidance, advice, and assistance in fertility and gynecology in the spirit of Halacha, and is funded by the Ministries of Health and Religious Affairs. The Puah Institute’s 12th national conference will take place on Wednesday, January 11, under the heading "Advances in Gynecology and Halacha." At this meeting, presentations will be made by 25 male experts on religion and medicine and on woman's fertility and sexual health. The conference will not include a single female expert. Thus, at a conference which deals with women’s issues and dilemmas surrounding sexual health and fertility, women are made to disappear and be struck dumb regarding dialogue and research about them.

As if this were not enough, we’ve learned that similar behavior took place at previous national conferences of the Institute, and that women were even denied a passive participatory role as members of an audience. The women, apparently, were placed behind a partition or in a separate room.

In the face of growing public criticism against the phenomenon of the exclusion of women from public spaces, it is surprising to us that a government ministry would finance activities that exclude women in a hurtful and harmful manner, that places them as objects of research only, and that does so on a matter concerning fertility and sexuality and concerning dilemmas and difficulties unique to women. This exclusionary conduct is taking place under the auspices of your ministry. It presents an injury to women and to their rights to equality. It normalizes the medieval worldview in which a woman is seen only as a sexual object, to be explored and analyzed, and who cannot have a voice, comment, or independent thought. The unacceptable conduct at the conference -- and the public criticism leveled at it -- has prompted four lecturers who were to appear at the conference to declare that they would not attend. The Ministry of Health should follow suit and denounce the conference.

The fact that the Ministry of Health finances the activities of Puah Institute and supervises it makes it directly responsibility for the discriminatory, abusive, and exclusionary conduct of the group. It requires you to act immediately against it. The Ministry of Health has the authority and the capacity to ensure that the attacks on women and women’s freedom do not take place, and that women are allowed on stage, as experts and lecturers on the subject.

Therefore, in light of the above, and given the great public importance to act firmly against the exclusion of women from public life, please immediate turn to the Puah Institute and demand that the conference be integrated to include female experts. Furthermore, we ask you to continue to act to ensure that discriminatory and harmful conduct by the Puah Institute will not continue.

Since it's an urgent issue, we ask that you respond as soon as possible.


Sincerely,

1. Sister for Women in Israel 
2. Association of Crisis Centers of Sexual Assault Victims
3. People - the Movement to Promote Social Equality in Israel
4. Agenda ‐ The Israeli Center for Strategic Communication
5. Isha L'Isha: Haifa Feminist Organization
6. Itach: Women Lawyers for Social Justice
7. BINA Center for Jewish Identity and Hebrew Culture
8. Beit Tefilah Israeli
9. Nigun Nashim Beit Midrash
10. Granit – Association for Aid to Women Before, During and After Divorce Proceedings
11. The Group in Jaffa – Independent Dance School
12. Secular Forum
13. HAMIDRASHA at Oranim: Educational Center for the Renewal of Jewish Life in Israel
14. Center for the Advancement of Women in the public arena at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute
15. New Discourse (The Democratic Mizrahi Rainbow)
16. Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism
17. New Manhood Movement
18. Masorti (Conservative) Movement in Israel
19. Movement for Equality and Peace between the Genders
20. Israel Association for feminist studies and gender studies
21. WIZO - Women’s International Zionist Organization
22. Hiddush - Religious Freedom and Equality
23. Be Free Israel
24. WePower
25. Combat Violence against Women
26. Mavoi Satum
27. Mitpakdot - The Lobby for Gender Equality
28. The Israeli Antidiscrimination Legal Center
29. Counseling Center for Women
30. Center for Women's Justice
31. MAGA - Incest Eradication and Rehabilitation of Pedophilia Victims
32. Women of the Wall
33. Na’amat
34. Women and Their Bodies
35. NAZUZ
36. Women's Parliament
37. Women's Budget Forum
38. Women Change Reality
39. Voice
40. ZACH Group - Students for Social Justice
41. SHIN -- For Equality in the Representation of Women
42. Northern - support and advice services to promote social change
43. SHILO - Jerusalem's Family Planning Educational and Counseling Center
44. Israel Women's Network
45. Yerushalmim: for a Vibrant & Pluralistic Jerusalem
46. Tmurah - Israeli Judaism

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$250 million to Israeli social change groups since 1979.