Prosecuting a radio station that does not interview women

Haredi women on a gender-separated bus in Israel, March 2012. Photo by Moti Milrod

Class-action suit alleges that station does not interview women: ‘Women’s voices completely silenced.’

An Orthodox feminist organization is pursuing a NIS 104 million class-action suit against a Haredi radio station, saying it does not interview women.

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Kolech – Religious Women’s Forum seeks the damages from Kol Berama, the country’s most popular haredi station, saying its programs discriminate against women.

The request to file a class action, submitted to the Jerusalem District Court, is based on a 2000 law prohibiting discrimination in products and services. The request added that this is Israel’s first class action attempt ever concerning discrimination against women.

“From the start, the station adhered to a patently illegal policy, and women’s voices were completely silenced,” the request read. “At all hours, only men are heard in the station’s programs. A woman who wishes to be interviewed is refused, and is requested to send a fax to the station, which is read by the presenter.”

According to surveys, Kol Berama, which began broadcasting in 2009, is the most popular radio station among religious and haredi listeners. Last March, The Second Authority for Television & Radio published directives for inclusion of women in the station’s programs, including instructions that women who hold official posts or are experts in their fields be interviewed on the station’s regular programs, and that women would regularly be allowed to speak during four weekly hours, including two hours dedicated to subjects related to women and two hours dealing with topics of interest to the general public.

Tomorrow the Second Authority is due to discuss a report on the station’s adherence to the directives over the past four months, which found that the directives were rarely observed.

In response to Kolech’s court action, Kol Berama said: “The station has interviewed in the last year all publicly active women who requested to be interviewed – as well as female listeners of the station who can state their views in several of the station’s programs. Kol Berama was established to serve the Haredi public in Israel, according to its beliefs and traditions.”

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