The Ministerial Committee for the Advancement of Women in Israel is expected to convene Tuesday in order to set up an inter-ministerial team to fight against the exclusion of women in public domains, Ynet learned on Monday.
The team, which will include representatives from the Justice, Interior, Transportation, and Religious Services ministries, as well as Civil Service personnel, will examine several options to fight the phenomenon, including issuing sanctions and fines against local councils and private companies that permit the segregation of women.
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On Monday President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed fierce criticism over the recently debated issue of exclusion of women from the public sphere.
"There is no room for the exclusion of any person in the State of Israel – especially not of half of the population. The place of women in our society must be ensured," Netanyahu said during a State ceremony marking the struggle against human trafficking.
Unacceptable. A segregated bus (Archives: Atta Awisat)
"The exclusion of women is a marginal phenomenon that does not reflect the practice of the majority of the population, or the majority of the haredi population – but it does exist," he noted.
"I say this unequivocally: I staunchly object to the exclusion of women," Netanyahu asserted.
Peres also spoke adamantly against the phenomenon, saying: "Any type of discrimination is a grave mistake that must be amended as soon as possible. The issue of shunning women or prohibiting them from singing in public has gained attention recently. We must not turn our public domains into places that conflict with our core values," he said.
The president added that "no man has the right to force a woman to sit where he wants. As a Jew and as the president of the State of Israel I cannot disregard such a phenomenon."
Justice Minister Yaacov Neeman opted to refer to the controversial matter by praising a renowned Israeli singer. "I want to thank Yardena Arazi for showing us the significance of women signing, and how much it contributes to a positive atmosphere," he said after watching her in concert.
Last week, hundreds of people gathered in Jerusalem in protest of religious elements' demands to limit women's role in the public life in Israel.
Various female performers who took part in the rally said they were there "to cry out for the Israeli women, who are pushed to society's sidelines by radical elements."
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also voiced her deep concern last week, criticizing the growing exclusion of women from Israel's public life.
In a closed session at the Saban Forum attended both by Israeli and American decision-makers Clinton addressed the issue of discrimination against Israeli women and expressed concern for Israel's social climate in the wake of limitations on female public singing and gender segregation on public transport.
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