January 10, 2011
Mobilizing Israeli activists, the Israel Religious Action Center sheds light on the growing phenomenon of gender segregation in Israel and vows to end it
JERUSALEM—The Israeli Supreme Court declared on Thursday that gender segregation on public buses was illegal. The Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) presented hard evidence to the judges collected from 128 “freedom rides,” proving that gender segregation on these bus lines directly causes discrimination and abuse.
IRAC, the public and legal advocacy arm of the Reform Movement in Israel, mobilized a group of volunteers from all across Israel to monitor the gender segregated buses in order to record cases of verbal and physical abuse against women that chose to sit in the front of these buses or even enter through the front door. The organization initially filed a petition against the Ministry of Transportation and Egged in 2007, representing five women who were verbally or physically abused on gender segregated buses.
When IRAC discovered that the Ministry of Transportation did not monitor these lines as per a demand from the Supreme Court in a February 2010 hearing, the organization orchestrated its own system of monitoring the buses by mobilizing female volunteers accompanied by another female or a male to ride on these bus lines and record discrimination from other passengers or the driver. In many cases, women or the men who accompanied them were verbally abused, threatened, or even denied entrance to the bus.
“Once, a group of men chanted in unison, rallying to get me thrown off the bus,” told Anat Hoffman, Executive Director of IRAC. “I know what women face for daring to consider themselves equal to the men.” Hoffman faced harassment and threats on many of the dozens of freedom rides that she personally took.
And the freedom rides aren’t over. Although the court’s final decision on January 6 declared gender segregation illegal, the judges did not insist on ending the practice of voluntary segregation on these bus lines. “IRAC will be representing any and all women and men who suffer while riding these buses,” says Hoffman, pledging that as long as there is segregation, there will be freedom riders.
Last month, IRAC released a detailed (and the first ever) report about the increasing phenomenon of gender segregation in the public sphere in Israel. In addition to discrimination on buses, the report includes detailed information about gender discrimination in health clinics, post offices, police stations, hospitals, even public streets and other public spaces. Click here to read the report online or request to receive your own copy.
IRAC was founded in 1987 and is committed to promoting pluralism, tolerance and equality in Israel through focusing on issues of religion and state.
To read more history of this case, click here.
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