Gender Segregation in Institutions of Higher Education
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), and the Israel Women's Network have petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ) to join petitions regarding gender segregation in academic studies. There are currently two petitions at hand, one submitted by Dr. Yofi Tirosh and other lecturers who oppose separation; and the second by the Kohelet Policy Forum, which seeks to enable separate studies, not only for the ultra-orthodox, but also for anyone seeking such an academic framework. The organizations' request is in support of the first petition.
The organizations’ position asserts that integrating the ultra-orthodox into society is a worthy goal, but that it cannot be achieved by gender segregation and exclusion of women from the public sphere. In a democratic society that respects the basic rights of all its members, one cannot accept that the religious freedom of ultra-orthodox men requires altering public spaces for themselves in order to create spaces sterile of women.
The organizations noted that gender segregation on religious grounds violates women’s fundamental right to equality in the public sphere in Israel, and contradicts basic democratic axioms. This separation also contradicts HCJ rulings, which have often deemed that the exclusion of women from the public sphere for religious purposes is prohibited as discrimination. It also contravenes the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty; the Women's Equal Rights Law; the Prohibition of Discrimination in Products, Services, and Entry to Entertainment Venues and Public Places Law; the Equal Employment Opportunities Law; and the Basic Law: Freedom of Occupation.
On January 15, 2018, the HCJ issued a decree nisi for the petition, instructing the Council for Higher Education and additional respondents to reply to the petition within 60 days.
On January 15, 2019, the second hearing of the petition was held. On January 20, 2019, the HCJ decided to transfer the petitions to a broader panel and added the organizations (along with others who sought to join) as amici curiae.
On July 12, 2021, the High Court ruled that the Council for Higher Education may hold gender-segregated study programs in order to increase the integration of the ultra-Orthodox public in academia and institutions of higher learning.
However, the court ruled that the policy to prohibit female lecturers from teaching in male-only tracks should be immediately repealed. Additionally, the court ruled against gender segregation in public spaces on campus.
Atty. Dan Yakir stated that this ruling conveys a dangerous message that excluding women from public spaces is legitimate. In a democratic society, it cannot be argued that the religious freedom of Ultra-Orthodox men requires the exclusion of women from public space. The integration of ultra-Orthodox communities in society is a worthy goal, but cannot be achieved through gender segregation and the exclusion of women.
HCJ 6500/17 Dr. Yofi Tirosh v. The Council for Higher Education; HCJ 8683/17 Kohelet Policy Forum v. The Council for Higher Education
Request to join the discussion as an amicus curiae. Attorney: Prof. Gila Stopler