Numerous groups and populations in our society are discriminated against, but from all these groups - women are the ones facing the most prejudice.
Our society becomes more and more violent, more and more racist with each day that passes. And women - who make up half of the human race - pay the highest price of all. With their bodies and souls. Discrimination against women, oppression of women and violence against women are the most common forms of repression seen throughout the human race.
We wage heroic struggles for social justice, for democracy, for defending the homeland, and freedom of speech, but at the same time, we live in a society where women are murdered, raped, degraded, harassed and discriminated against. Society infringes on women's rights - and it doesn't make a difference whether they are Jewish, Muslim or Christian, or if we are Israeli or Palestinian, Ashkenazi or Sephardi, educated or ignorant, ardent right-winger or fervent left-winger, enlightened secular or ultra-Orthodox religious - society oppresses women.
The belief that only men are capable of a higher level of thought, while women will forever remain on the physical level is commonplace even in supposedly enlightened circles, including among academics and great thinkers.
Such spiritual coercion, which men and sometimes even oppressed women are a part of, has far reaching consequences on the make-up of our society:
Under the tradition of oppression, a woman's salary is lower than a man's for doing the same job - wage discrepancies in Israel are amongst the largest in the developed world. We cannot tolerate this situation. Women are entitled to the same pay, and not a shekel less.
Under the tradition of oppression, women are allocated limited places among the senior leadership - we will not tolerate this situation. Women are no less capable than men, and are just as talented when it comes to science, education, medicine, politics and business. Women are entitled to equal representation right at the very top.
Under the tradition of oppression, women are considered inferior, sometimes even impure and wanton, punished by excommunication, brutal physical retribution and murder. What type of evil lies in terms such as "murder for romantic reasons" or "honor killing"?
Under the tradition of oppression, a woman's fate is like that of a beast, whose body may be traded. No! Trafficking in women is a crime against humanity.
Under the tradition of oppression, segregation between men and women in the public sphere is becoming more and more common. No! We will not tolerate this!
Under the tradition of oppression, when a woman asks for a Jewish divorce, rabbis and dayanim decide her fate, and mostly side with the man - even if he was violent. No! We must break free of this twisted, disgraceful law.
Under the tradition of oppression, when a woman wants to undergo an abortion, she must beg for approval from a special committee. No! A woman's body belongs to her and the decision should be in her hands alone.
Woman is not created from the rib of man, but is herself a complete and unique being.
A woman's body, her soul and her feelings are not the property of man.
Woman is not merely a helper, but an independent being and a full partner (and sometimes is also the main breadwinner in a family).
A society that trashes women, that harms their status, and excludes them from the public sphere is a backwards society, a sick society that is dark and failing and will never truly flourish - both materially and spiritually.
Billions are invested in national defense, but very little is in invested in defending women who on a daily basis face oppression, harassment, violence and murder.
Discrimination against women means that society loses out on their enormous and blessed contribution.
As a man, I see women as our full partners, the source of life and true friendship. Anyone who harms women or represses them - is my enemy. I hope for a day where women will not have to seek cover in shelters, and where violent men will be the ones having to look for cover from the angry masses and suffer the scorn of a fair society that views gender equality as one of the foundations of its existence.
A just and robust society cannot exist between the occupier and the occupied, the master and the enslaved. Equality for men and women is the greatest hope we have for a decent future for all humanity.
Author Sami Michael serves as the president of the Association for Human Rights in Israel (ACRI). On Friday, December 7 he will address Human Rights Concert in Rabin Square at 12:30, following the 4th annual Human Rights March, which leaves Habima Square at 10:30. For more details, click here