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Sexist segregation on the bus

Latest update : 2009-04-29

A group of ultra-orthodox Israelis are demanding bus companies increase the number of segregated buses which keep women separated from men. But civil rights activists fear the model could spread across different sectors of Israeli society.

There is anger on the streets of Jerusalem, but this time it's not Jew against Arab but Jew against Jew. These ultra-Orthodox men are protesting against Israeli bus companies for failing to provide more segregated buses where men and women sit separately, as dictated by strict modesty laws that limit contact between the sexes.

Ten years ago, there were no such buses in Israel. Nowadays, an estimated 90 bus lines serve the ultra-Orthodox community across the country and many of them are believed to be segregated. Many Israeli bus companies offer such lines arguing they're simply meeting the needs of their customers - for example, a poor community that relies heavily on public transport.

On these lines, women sit in the back, are expected to wear modest clothing and usually enter through the rear doors. But since there are no signs on these buses indicating they're segregated, there have been a number of cases of women being either physically or verbally abused for sitting at the wrong end of the bus. Civil rights activists have taken the matter to the Israeli Supreme Court, disputing the legality of such bus lines.

A court decision is pending following the release of a government report on the issue in June. And with reports of demands for segregated facilities in hospitals, post offices and even flights, it's a battle set to continue.

Date created : 2009-04-28

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