Legislation opposing the public exclusion of women passes in committee

On Tuesday, May 24th, 2022, the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee passed the Penal Code Bill (Defacing of Property in Order to Exclude Women) in its second and third readings. The bill, proposed by MKs Yulia Malinovsky, Evgeny Sova and Alex Kushnir (Yisrael Beitenu), defines threats, attacks, or transgressions against property with the intention of limiting the free access of women to a public space or in order to prevent the display of images of women in the public sphere as severe violations of the penal code, and as such are subject to a fine of double the amount otherwise given to such offenses.

The bill’s sponsor, MK Yulia Malinovsky (Yisrael Beitenu) said at the hearing:

We have made a breakthrough. This law sets a precedent in Israel jurisprudence, this being the first time that the state recognizes that excluding women from the public sphere is a severe offense.

During the hearing, the committee entertained the reservation submitted by MK Uri Maklev (United Torah Judaism) on behalf of the opposition. The reservation proposed to exempt from the bill areas where separation of men and women is allowed. MK Maklev added:

I am against all forms of violence. No sector of the public is taught to oppose violence more that the sector which I represent. Of course, there are exceptional things that are not aligned with this view. That is not our culture or our values. At its essence, this law reinforces the stigma regarding entire sectors of the public, and uses the acts of extremists to incite, slander, and defame entire sectors of the public for electoral purposes. On the eve of the elections, the chairman of Yisrael Beitenu called for all of the ultra-Orthodox to be taken to the dumpster in a wheelbarrow. To this day, that statement gives me the chills. The ultra-Orthodox public is being persecuted in its home, in its culture, and in its way of life. Entire organizations make their living this way. Can you find me one law that makes the exclusion of women more strict or more expansive? We are not there, yet when a Hasidic singer performs in Afula, they went to the High Court of Justice because there was separation. Is an immodest advertisement something that respects women? It bothers women no less.

MK Simcha Rothman (Religious Zionism):

Ideally this law would have never come into being, because it is crafted so as to precisely bring about conflict instead of bringing peace among the people. There has been a significant concern that has only grown due to words spoken in committee that this law could be used even when separation is legally permitted.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Deputy Committee Chairman MK Simon Davidson (Yesh Atid) summarized:

MK Malinovsky and I come from the same place. I was born in Vilna, my roots are very religious. My grandfather was the rabbi of Kovne. We are a secular family, but I love the religion and the tradition. This past hour in the Knesset has shown me that we can reach points of agreement. Last Wednesday, I had an epiphany. I was invited by the Rebbe to Kiryat Sanz in Netanya for the Lag Ba’Omer lighting, and it was a special and moving experience with over 10,000 people, religious and secular. I danced with the Rebbe and I told myself that we all want to live together, and if we know how to live together with positive goals, it will be better for everyone.