Israel’s Minister of the Interior Arye Dery, leader of the ultra-orthodox Shas party, wants to let municipalities hold sex-segregated public events, despite a Justice Ministry ruling to the contrary that has also been adopted as a cabinet resolution. In a letter to Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, Dery argued that the ban on gender separation is a “substantive infringement” on the rights of the ultra-Orthodox minority and reflects “an ideological worldview dressed up in the guise of legal values.”
Dery proposes to freeze implementation of the recommendations of a task force on combating women’s exclusion from public spaces. The previous attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein, set up the task force and the cabinet endorsed its recommendations in 2014.
For more than three years now, and despite repeated urging by the Justice Ministry, the Interior Ministry has refrained from issuing orders to municipalities to implement the task force’s recommendations. These include banning gender separation at public events and prohibiting street signs urging women to dress modestly or walk only in certain places.
“We need to work in an egalitarian manner to end this practice in both the Jewish and the Arab community,” said Communist MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Hadash – Joint List), who chairs the Committee on the Status of Women in the Knesset. “There’s a real need for cooperation and mobilization to prevent the exclusion of women from public spaces and intensive activity is needed to end this practice, which is spreading into many walks of life,” MK Touma-Sliman added.