A social activist submitted a petition on Wednesday to the High Court of Justice, demanding that state funding be denied to political parties that exclude female candidates. The petition was filed just two weeks ahead of statewide local elections, scheduled for October 22.
In her petition, Ruth Kolian, an ultra-Orthodox law student from Petah Tikva, named as parties running in local elections that exclude women the ultra-Orthodox parties Shas; Degel Hatorah and Agudat Yisrael (which for national elections are united as United Torah Judaism) and Tov (which is competing in the municipal elections in Jerusalem, Elad and Modi'in Illit).
By barring women from running on their slates, Kolian writes in her petition, these parties violate the principle of equality and women’s rights, including the right of free expression.
Kolian herself announced several months ago that she intended to run for the Petah Tikva city council, but she never declared her candidacy and today is not a candidate for public office.
Granting state funds to parties that exclude women creates an "intolerable situation in which the excluded group finances the excluding one," she says, pointing out that female as well as male taxpayers help to fund the parties. This preserves "the well-oiled intimidation machine that is based on discrimination and exclusion."
By allowing parties that ban women from running while receiving funds from the state tacitly encourages and gives its approval to this practice, Kolian argues. “Banning women from joining these parties removes them from decision-making processes,” she writes.
Jerusalem city council member Laura Verton (Meretz) petitioned the Central Election Committee before the Knesset election earlier this year, demanding that Shas and UTJ be disqualified for refusing to include women on their slates.
In March Kolian walked from her Petah Tikva home to Jerusalem to protest the suspension of the public housing law. She is also a leading animal rights activist, whose actions have included demanding that the Eda Haredit slaughter board withhold kosher certification from meat whose preparation involved animal abuse.