Israel to clampdown on discrimination against women

JERUSALEM — Back-of-the bus seating for women on any public transport in Israel will soon be outlawed, the justice minister said today, pledging sweeping legislation to stop Jewish zealots trying to enforce gender segregation in many spheres of life.

“Discrimination against women in public places, in public services, cannot be allowed,” the minister, Tzipi Livni, told Army Radio.

The issue is at the heart of a long and emotional struggle between a secular majority and an ultra-Orthodox minority over lifestyle in a country where institutions such as marriage, divorce and burial are controlled by religious authorities.

“Today, I instructed the Justice Ministry to draft legislation … that will make any segregation of women and their humiliation in a public space a criminal offence,” Livni said on her Facebook page.

She made the announcement a day after Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein recommended outlawing any behaviour that stops women from receiving “public services with equal conditions”.

The separation of women and men on bus lines through religious neighbourhoods, and incidents in which Jewish zealots have spat at schoolgirls they deemed to be dressed immodestly, have raised public pressure on the government to act.

Now, with the power of ultra-Orthodox politicians diminished by their exclusion from Israel’s governing coalition, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration could find it easier to win support for an anti-segregation law.

“Women in Israel won’t sit at the back of the bus. Women in Israel will participate in state ceremonies and their voices will be heard on radio stations and in the army,” Livni said. (Reuters)

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