Saturday, January 08, 2011

Israeli Supreme Court encourages gender segregated buses 

Israel's Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that buses for ultra-Orthodox Jews that force women to sit separately from men are illegal, but also added that they could not halt voluntary segregation.

Ultra-Orthodox women and their supporters launched a legal battle three and a half years ago leading up to this point. They challenged the rules on "kosher" bus line that caters to Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

Several years ago, the Israel Religious Action Centre (IRAC) filed a lawsuit against the Ministry of Transportation and two privately owned bus companies, accusing them of discriminating against women by operating these buses. The bus lines in question required that female passengers wore modest clothing and must board and sit at the back of the vehicle. The lawsuit was filed immediately after five women came forward saying they were both verbally and/or physically attacked, and in some instances, denied permission to board the bus because they failed to observe the modesty and boarding regulations.

Anat Hoffman, the centre's executive director, called yesterday's Supreme Court ruling "a tremendous victory".

"We are ecstatic. The fact that the court ruled that segregation on the buses in Israel is not in accordance with democratic values of equality, the equality of women, is fantastic," she told AFP.

Hoffman followed by expressing her disappointment regarding the court’s decision to continue allowing women to "self-segregate" by voluntarily boarding the buses via the back door and sitting in the rear.

"The court unfortunately left one thing undone, they allowed the bus back door to remain open, which means that women who are trained to sit at the back will continue to enter there rather than going in the front," she said.

"I would like them to shut that back door. I want the women to enter with the men through the front door, everyone together."

Hoffman believes that with continued rallying, this may be a possibility within the next year.


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