Women silenced at Israeli ultra-orthodox gynaecology talk

3 News, New Zealand/January 12, 2012

An Israeli gynaecology conference is permitting only males to address the audience and will segregate men and women in the audience.

The controversial measure is another example of Ultra-Orthodox Jewish leaders' influence leading to discrimination against women.

The conference at the ironically named Puah Institute will include topics such as "ovary implants", "how to choose a suitable contraceptive pill" and "intimacy during rocket attacks". There are many well-qualified women who could speak on these subjects.

The exclusion of women has been protested by several Israeli human rights groups and so far two doctors have withdrawn in protest.

However, as the Puah Institute event is considered to be private, not public, it is not subject to Israel's anti-discrimination legislation.

Critics have pointed out that the institute receives considerable funding from the health ministry, but according to the Globe and Mail this is unlikely to have much bearing due to the health ministry's leadership.

The newspaper says the Israeli Health Ministry is effectively run by deputy health minister Ya'akov Litzman, from the ultra-orthodox United Torah Judaism Party.

The country's health minister is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who represents health at the cabinet table, because the United Torah Judaism Party refused to formally join the coalition as they cannot support a Zionist state.

In a recent development, ynetnews.com reports the Puah Institute plans to hold a women only gynaecology conference in the next six months.

"The decision on the annual conference's summer session was made following Puah Institute's desire to create unity among the Jewish people and prove that the institute's intention is to glorify women, and not to exclude them in any way," the institute said in a statement.

"As opposed to public discussions causing a rift among the Jewish people, it is well known that the Puah Institute helps all parts of the population regardless of their religion, race or gender, and lets each one of them express themselves."

The institute says this will be a yearly event from now on.

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