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No Excuses When it Comes to Women's Voices on Israeli Airwaves

No Excuses When it Comes to Women's Voices on Israeli Airwaves

"When we added women to the broadcasts, the station's ratings fell."

That's one of the most common excuses I hear when the Israeli radio station Kol BaRama tries to justify keeping women off the airwaves. After significant pressure from the Israel Religious Acton Center, the radio station began to allow a small number of women to join in broadcasts for a total of six hours a week. Two months later, station director Avi Mimran claimed that his business was losing money because his listeners hate hearing women speak on the air.

Kol BaRama has exercised discriminatory practices against women’s freedom of expression for years. It is only as a result of IRAC's legal action that Kol BaRama agreed to employ female broadcasters and designate some airtime for women  It looked like a huge victory where women finally would be able to speak on the air, eliminating the need to send their questions by fax for a man to read aloud. However, the actual implementation of the policy changes required by the lawsuit has yet to be seen.

The Attorney General had granted the station six months to end gender discrimination in its programming and lawyers from IRAC were in court this month ensuring that Kol BaRama was upholding its end of the deal. Unfortunately, we found that almost none of the station’s practices have changed. Kol BaRama allows women to speak during a mere two hours of airtime. This is an unacceptable outcome, and we do not think it satisfies the stipulations of the Attorney General. We will continue applying pressure on the station to comply with the law.

Gender segregation in Israel is a phenomenon we can defeat only if we stay vigilant. Our fight is not over once we win a case in court. As soon as we turn our heads away for even a moment, the offenders are often back to their old tricks or they have found some new way to push women out of view. We need you to keep supporting our efforts to end gender segregation in the public sphere no matter what excuses are thrown our way.

Anat Hoffman is the executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center, the public and legal advocacy arm of the Reform Jewish Movement in Israel. She is also the chairwoman of Women of the Wall, a group of Jewish women and men from around the world who strive to achieve the right of women to wear prayer shawls, pray, and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Anat Hoffman
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