The Kolech-Religious Women’s Forum filed a motion with the court secretariat for a class action suit of NIS 104 million ($25.8 million) against 'Kol Barama' haredi radio station over its policy with regards to women.
The radio station does not broadcast women speaking or singing with the exception of a small number of hours defined for that purpose every week. This is an unprecedented claim in connection with this kind of women's exclusion.
The claim was filed on the basis of the Prohibition of Discrimination in Products Law which prohibits discrimination on the part of those who provide products on the grounds of a customer's sex, among other things.
The compensation would be paid out to a group of listeners who, according to a poll presented before the court, are opposed to the stations policy and hurt by it.
The statement of claim argues that since Kol Barama's launch in 2009 the station implements "an illegal policy according to which women's voices are concealed and silenced."
Kolech claims that this insults women and goes against their right to freedom of expression and breaks the law prohibiting discrimination.
The plaintiffs legal representatives described a situation where the station refuses to put women on the air, no matter what the topic, as interviewers or interviewees.
Last year a complaint against the station was filed with the Second Authority for Television and Radio against Kol Barama over the lack of women on its shows – both as presenters and participants. The matter caused quite a stir at a Knesset Committee on the Status of Women meeting.
After extended deliberations at the Second Authority it was decided that Kol Barama would facilitate a women's broadcast for one hour every week, but the show soon became a daily fixture and six additional weekly shows for women, by women were broadcast on the station.
Moreover, it was decided the female public figures such as Knesset Members would be allowed on the air at all times.
The Kolech forum noted that "As religious women we do not see any connection between the Halacha and not broadcasting women's voices on the radio. The fact that women are excluded from the public domain in the name of halacha is contrary to the value of respecting the other and the concept that women, as men, were created in God's image. We cannot accept the distortion of the Torah and halacha in order to silence women."
Kol Barama said in response: "We were moved to discover that reform movements and organizations which filed a petition before the High Court against the establishment of the station (before it began broadcasting), with the purpose of preventing an entire sector (of society) from listening to a media tool in accordance with its beliefs – changed their tune and appointed themselves as spokesmen for the sector's women.
"We have previously offered those organizations – and continue to do so – the option of examining the thousands of faxes sent by the station's female listeners. Faxes which, unlike anonymous polls, include the senders' full details all asking clearly not to put female listeners on the air.
"Yet in spite of this, over the last year the station began to put any female public figure who wished to be interviewed on the air on Kol Barama, side by side with female listeners who can come on the air during some of the shows.
"The station was founded in order to serve the haredi sector in Israel, its traditions and lifestyle. We call on those organizations to respect the beliefs and views of the majority of the sector, women and men as one, in the sense of 'each man to his own beliefs.'"
While Rabbi Ovadia Yosef has clearly stated that there is no halachic problem with hearing a women speak (not sing) on the radio – the station avoided it until the Second Authority's intervention.