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Letter Regarding Exclusion of Women from Reproductive Health Conference

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21 Israeli organizations and 26 leading Israeli feminists sent the following letter to the Minister of Health and to the head of the Israel Medical Association. They called on them to use their influence to ensure that women speakers will be allowed at a conference on gynecology and reproductive health.

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10th December 2013
7 Tevet 5774

Minister of Health
Yael German

Executive Director
Ministry of Health
Professor Roni Gamzo

Israeli Medical Association Chair
Dr. Leonid Idelman

Women’s Exclusion at the Puah Institute’s Conference on Innovations in Gynaecology and Halacha, Contrary to the Decision of the Israeli Medical Association’s Ethics Committee

We appeal to you with a request to act against the blatant women’s exclusion which is destined to repeat itself at the Puah Institute’s national conference, at which doctors and researchers are scheduled to appear.

The Puah Institute provides advice and assistance in the area of fertility and gynaecology according to the Halacha. Its 13th national conference is scheduled to take place on 18.12.13, with the theme of “Innovations in Gynaecology and Halachah: Judgements, Dilemmas and Challenges.” In previous years, female experts did not speak at the annual conference, leading to many doctors cancelling their participation in protest. This year, the Puah Institute is refusing to reveal the list of lecturers until the day of the conference itself. We can only assume that the only speakers on religion, medicine, women’s fertility, and sexual health will be men, without a single female expert present. Therefore, unacceptably, at a conference which mainly deals with women’s problems and dilemmas, and on women’s sexuality and intimacy, only male experts are being given the authority to discuss the issues, while women, whose competencies and contributions to research and medical treatment in the realm of fertility is recognized in Israel and around the world, will be completely absent from discussion and research on the topic. We fear that the Puah Institute are hiding the names of the expert lecturers with the intention of blocking criticism of the issue and to foil the decision of the ethics committee and the increasing public pressure aimed at preventing women’s exclusion in the name of religion.

This year, in light of the piercing criticism from previous years, the Puah Institute will hold a separate conference for women on 17.2.14. This step does not hide the fact that the Puah Institute is holding an annual conference about women and the secrets of their bodies and health in which they are not permitted to speak. The excuse of the Puah Center is its desire to serve the Haredi public, but the Haredi world has its own organization which deals with advancing women’s health, “Torat HaMishpachah”, which encourages cooperation between rabbis and male and female gynaecologists.

We find it strange that, despite the clear and unequivocal position of the ethics committee of the Israeli Medical Association against women’s exclusion in the health system, steps haven’t been taken to prevent a recurrence of this disgusting and unacceptable phenomenon. Also unacceptable in our eyes is the possibility that public activities will take place which exclude women in such a damaging and blatant way, while at the same time placing them as mere objects of research regarding a sensitive issue which touches on their sexuality and fertility and the unique dilemmas and difficulties facing the female public. This exclusion constitutes blatant harm to the honour of women and their right to equality, and ratifies and normalizes primordial concepts which see women as only sexual objects which need to be researched and analysed, without a voice, position or wisdom of their own.

As a government ministry which deals with the issue of health in Israel, the Health Ministry has to ensure that the damage to the honour and choice of women won’t happen, and that women will be placed on the stage of this conference as experts and lecturers. Similarly, we expect that the IMI will clarify that participation of doctors in conferences which exclude women is unacceptable and illegal, and constitutes an ethical transgression.

Therefore, in light of all of the above, and in light of the urgent public necessity to work aggressively against women’s exclusion from the public sphere, we request that you immediately appeal to the Puah Institute and demand that these conferences will also include female experts and lecturers. Moreover, we request that you will continue to act on this issue in the future and to check that the damaging and discriminatory conduct of the Puah Institute won’t repeat itself.

The following is a quotation from a position paper of the ethics committee of the Israeli Medical Association which was published one year ago: “Women’s exclusion is an unacceptable phenomenon which stands against the values of equality and democracy and harms human honour. Women’s exclusion in the health system can be expressed in receiving medical services, in giving medical services, and in medical publications, in conferences, in receiving prizes for professional achievement, and in receiving jobs in the medical system etc...The doctor won’t lend a hand to the phenomenon of women’s exclusion in the health system or to any act which causes discrimination or humiliation to women whether as patient or doctor.” The position paper also stated: “The doctor, including the medical director, will do the best in his/her ability in order to set an example, and will take steps which contribute to equality between the genders and will not lend recognition or agreement, whether actively or silently, to steps which stand in opposition to this principle. The doctor won’t participate in any medical or scientific event from which women are excluded, whether as patients or doctors.”

Sincerely,

  • Kolech
  • Hiddush – Freedom and Equality of Religion
  • The Reform Center for Religion and State
  • Mavoi Satum
  • SHATIL
  • Physicians for Human Rights
  • Be Free Israel
  • Yerushalmit
  • Women of the Wall
  • Secular Judaism
  • The Israeli Council of Secular Rabbis
  • Tekes – Israeli Ceremony
  • The Women’s Parliament
  • The Movement for Equality in the Representation of Women
  • Parity – The Center for Advancing Women in the Public Sphere at the Van Leer Institute
  • The Masorti Movement
  • Ken – Power to Women
  • Mitafkedot – The Lobby for Equality Between the Sexes
  • Women Talk Mothers
  • This is Where We Want to Be
  • WIZO Israel

Eilat Vider-HaCohen, Roni Hazon-Weiss, Dr. Leah Shekdiel, Dr. Ruti Feutenberg, Dr. Sara Bekerman, Dr. Dalila Amir, Dr. Laura Warton (member of Jerusalem Municipality), Dr. Aliza Burger Kuper, Professor Rachel Elior, Anat Livnat (adviser to Bat Yam mayor), Adv. Yona Markovitz, Adv. Miriam Zalkind, Shlomit Naim-Naor, Orana Tnami, Lili Ben Ami, Amitai and Yaara Har Tuv, Limor Levi Osmi, Tamar Mor Sela, Ofra Or, Sharon Orshlimi, Hadva Eyal, Maya Karbateri, Dorit Avramovitz, Esther Eilam, Sivan Ravah, Adi Stein

For more information: Merav Livne Dil, coordinator of the Jewish pluralism program at SHATIL, 0526888541,

 




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