Is the Orthodox Spell Broken? Is Haredi Gender Segregation Harrassment and Self-defeating?

Is the Orthodox spell broken? Is in fact Haredi gender segregation in Israel both illegal sexual harassment and also totally self-defeating?

Such is the claim of Zvi H. Triger of Israel's College of Management Academic Studies (COMAS) School of Law. He has published a closely argued and well documented 49 page paper with 244 footnotes that you can download and read at SSRN.

He examines numerous sides of the question: the historical, the ideological, the complicity of women in the segregation, and closely parses the legal modes of sexual harassment that the practices entail. His logic and rhetoric seem to us to be impeccable.

"Gender Segregation as Sexual Harassment" appears in the Tel Aviv University Law Review, Vol. 35, 2012. The abstract explains:
The Article argues that gender segregation in Israel is in fact a form of sexual harassment under Israeli Law. Section 3(a)(5) of the Israeli Prevention of Sexual Harassment Law of 1998 defines sexual harassment also as “[a]n intimidating or humiliating reference directed towards a person concerning his sex/gender or his sexuality, including his sexual orientation.” Analyzing the case of gender segregation in public transportation in certain cities in Israel, I argue that forcing women to sit in the back of the buses constitutes “an intimidating or humiliating reference directed towards” their sex/gender or their sexuality, and thus sexual harassment. I also argue that the current rising Jewish religious fundamentalism, with its relatively new demands for gender segregation (bus segregation began in 1997) is paradoxical in the sense that its motivation is to erase female sexuality, but by being so preoccupied with women’s “modesty” it in fact puts their sexuality at the center of attention. Therefore, gender segregation is not only sexual harassment; it is also a self-defeating concept from the religious point of view as well.
Building on this article, we encourage people to discuss and analyze this Orthodox practice of the segregation of women outside the synagogue.

Talmudic analysis: We do not think the article goes far enough in pressing both of its central claims. Orthodox actions in public against women as described are most certainly contrary to the "law of the land" in Israel (and in America). Furthermore, the claims that underpin gender differentiation in Orthodox practice are entirely arbitrary and contrary to our own average run-of-the-mill common sense life experiences, i.e., not just self-defeating, they are wrong. And more than wrong, they are rude.

Hat tips all around, especially to Menachem Mendel and Legal Theory Blog.

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