Exclusion of Women in Higher Education

CC by bartmaguire

In November 2017, ACRI wrote a letter with partner organizations, urging the Members of the Ministerial Committee for Legislative Affairs to oppose a proposed law permitting gender segregation in academic institutions. In their letter, the organizations ask the Committee not to consent to the widening of the gaps between the different sectors in Israeli society and to the deepening of discrimination against women. 


The universities and colleges in Israel are attended today by religious and secular Jews, Mizrahim and Ashkenazim, traditional Jews and Arabs, Druze, Israelis of Ethiopian origin, and immigrants from the Former Soviet Union. This is the most important civil arena in Israeli society, where everyone meets just before they go on to become part of the Israeli job market and economy. The proposed law permitting gender segregation in academic institutions will seriously damage this arena.

It is impossible to overstate the importance of the project to integrate Haredi men and women in the job market. The Israeli economy is in need of hands and brains, industrialists, and entrepreneurs. However, according to any parameter that has been examined to date, gender and sectarian segregation is not the way to encourage the integration of Haredim in education or employment.

In a period when Israeli society is undergoing changes and crises of identity, we must not destroy national institutions that bring together all the tribes and shades of society. Gender segregation inevitably also means sectarian segregation.

Academia has always been an institution that aspires to equality, pluralism, and freedom of thought. As such, it also plays an important role in creating cooperation in Israel in the social, conceptual, and economic spheres. Violating gender equality and equality between the different sectors is inconsistent with the academic ethos and with the true purpose of academia: to train researchers and citizens who work in the full range of fields of knowledge and interest.

The difficulties faced by many Haredim in integrating in Israeli society and in the job market are due to gaps in education, income, and cultural attitudes. Gender segregation in academia will only exacerbate these gaps instead of narrowing them. Studies show that even now, the dropout rate from academic studies among Haredi men is particularly high: 58% of Haredi men who attempt to study for an academic degree drop out – including those who first studied in pre-academic courses and those who were admitted directly to degree courses. The significant gaps prevent them from completing their degree studies. The solution is not segregation, but true access: pre-academic courses at a high standard providing a holistic response to all the needs of the sector, so that they can integrate properly in academia and in the job market. This approach has been implemented at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where the dropout rate is significantly lower.

The fıve-year plan for the integration of Haredim in higher education costs taxpayers billions of shekels. These funds are invested in encouraging a process of segregation and alienation, rather than in one designed to create partnership and bring benefits for the Israeli economy and Israeli society.

Extensive harm to women due to gender segregation:

—     Women teaching assistants and lecturers are excluded from the men’s classes. An academic institution where some students are permitted by law not to hear women is by definition an institution that discriminates against women.

—     Haredi women students are forced to meet standards of modesty that are imposed by the institutions of higher education themselves. Thus the universities and colleges become part of a system imposing a specific level of modesty on women.

  • If the proposed law is passed, we will also begin to see segregated academic conferences. The path for women researchers, which is already difficult, will be blocked: they will be unable to present their studies to all students, to attend all conferences, and so forth.
  • We are already aware that some colleges offer segregated study programs in “women-free zones.” The essence of such a zone is problem constitutionally, and in practice, of course, they violate the rights of all women studying in the institution.
  • Gender segregation in academia today will inevitably lead to gender segregation in the job market tomorrow. Haredi men who did not see a single women during their studies will regard segregated employment as a legitimate demand. The entire job market will become segregated and discriminatory.


To read the full letter in English, click here

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Categories: Anti-Democratic Initiatives, Democracy and Civil Liberties, The Right to Equality, Women's Rights


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