Israel: Government’s Reforms Increase Sexual Inequality
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has included right-wing extremists and ultra-Orthodox parties in his government last year. What is happening and why women are concerned.
The latest reforms have resulted in a severe threat for the female population in the country, that is concerned for the loss of rank and freedom and is protesting in various ways. The decision to expand the power of the rabbinical court is, in fact, solely the last of the numerous worrying changes that are being implemented in the country.
Women’s conditions in Israel before the reforms
Israel’s Declaration of Independence (1948) was one of the earliest to include sexual equality as a clause in social and political rights. This was due to the country’s experiences with discrimination and persecution, which led decision-makers to not tolerate a repetition of such a tragedy towards any social group. Despite this, however, sexual equality has never been implemented in the country and, it is still far from being achieved.
The main obstacle is the power held by religious institutions in the political life of the state. These groups base their beliefs on the Torah Law, which, as it is implemented today, is dangerously discriminatory towards women.
Following the introduction of extremist parties in Netanyahu’s government, Israel has advanced an increasingly discriminatory agenda, which has resulted in the diminishment of the freedom and the security of women. The main changes that have been implemented are three.
Sex Segregation in public areas. In some public spaces, women are not allowed to seat in the same sections as men. For instance, in publicly funded shows, women are forced to sit at the back of the room while men are allowed to be in the front. A similar situation can be witnessed on public means of transportation. Other places in which sex segregation is taking place are schools. In small public colleges which welcome ultra-Orthodox students, in fact, classes are divided by sex and women are taught separately.
Strengthening of rabbinical court. This is the latest reform implemented by the Israeli government which is threatening to reduce equality between men and women. The rabbinical court is an organ, comprised of solely men, which bases its principles on religious teachings. It is already known, in fact, for being unfavourable to women and for negating them access to any position of power within it. The reform aimed at expanding its influence in the civil law sphere, therefore, promotes a gender gap in such matters as family, marriage and social life, further increasing the inequality in the country.
Erasing female language from the civil service. The use of female form language has recently been barred for civil service jobs. The publicly stated reason is the simplification of the terminology, aimed at making official documents easier to read. The leader of the Labor Party Merav Michaeli, however, has pointed out the dangers of this change and argued that the real reason behind the decision is the desire to exclude women from the civil service and create an environment hugely dominated by men.
Current condition of women in Israel
As a result of the reforms implemented in the recent year, Israel has fallen in the global gender gap report issued by the World Economic forum, from the 60th place to the 83rd. Moreover, although the country is the first in terms of women education, it has fallen 15 places with regards to social and political empowerment. This clearly shows that women are increasingly being discriminated towards.
Finally, a further area of concern is the security of the female population in the country. Due to the widening gender gap and the expansion of power of misogynistic coalitions, women are increasingly less protected by the government. This is clearly shown by the rates of feminicide in Israel, which have raised by 50% in the last year.
These numbers depict a severely concerning scenario in which women are losing freedom and rights in a country that has chosen to reverse trends to achieve sexual equality, in contrast with numerous governments around the world.