|Image for illustrative purposes (TOI)|
Yedidiya Z. Stern notes that Israel’s Supreme Court answers those questions in a Times of Israel featured post by doing something I am a big fan of. They compromised by finding a middle ground both sides can live with.
The court was asked to rule about whether the demands by Charedi world for male - female segregated classrooms in academia violated principles of equality between sexes. Based on a vareity of factors that mostly have to do with what will benefit society - a compromise was reached that under certain conditions separate classrooms for each sex are acceptable even in a society that places a high value on equality of the sexes.
The court’s decision reflects the larger societal debate on the issue. Do religious rights trump civil rights? Or do civil rights trump religious rights? This seems to be what the current cultural debate is about.
I do not see a contradiction. Unless small minds insist on making it one. The motives of the liberal secular humanist mind is that any gender segregation at all is discriminatory. Just as it was with racial segregation that existed during the 'Separate but Equal' rights era. The US Supreme Court at the time ruled that as long as facilities were equal, civil right were not violated. But they were never equal. Far from it. That is why the US Supreme Court later rejected it - replacing it with full integration. Racial bias always seemed to surface under conditions that separated the races.
When applied to gender segregation, I’m not sure it affects the either sex adversely. An all female class in accounting will, for example, be identical to an all male class in accounting. Why wouldn’t it be? The same thing is probably true for any other field of study. Does does segregation mean equality under these conditions? I don’t think so.
On the other hand, why segregate at all if the material is the same? That’s where religion comes in. I personally do not have an issue with co-ed classrooms for adults in Academia. They are all there for utilitarian reasons having mostly to do with making a decent living.
But the Charedi world is not used to a coeducational environment and will very likely find it uncomfortable and distracting. They also believe that modesty will be better observed under separate classroom environments. So why not provide it for them, as long as it isn’t forced upon everyone? Should there not be a choice for those who request it?
This is what Israel’s Supreme Court decided to do. It is a win for everybody. Charedim can choose classrooms that are sex segregated while the rest of the world can choose co-ed classrooms The advantage of this ruling is its positive impact on society. If the Charedi world wants to get an education and contribute to society in material ways, why not provide the opportunity for them to do so? The idea that equality of the sexes can only be achieved if all classrooms are coed defies all logic. And smacks of an agenda whose goal is to deny the validity of religious values.
While we are on the subject, there are other areas where I feel that gender separation would be worthwhile. Like the military for example. I do not believe that men and women are equal in that area. The differences are more than about genitalia. Differences that should be taken into consideration. Even though some women may equal men in every other respect, I do not believe that is the norm. Just because some women can measure up does not mean it should become policy. If for no other reason than the increased cases or rape and sexual harassment that have occurred ever since women have been fully integrated.
That the military is now cracking down on it will not prevent it from continuing in my view. Nor will it help to say that men just have to learn to self control. Most men already have self control. But there will always be those that do not. No matter how much they are told to have it. And no matter how severe the consequences might be by a military crack down. The best and most sensible way to prevent that is to not have them serving together in the first place.
The bottom line here is common sense. Providing separate classrooms for Charedi men and women is a good idea. Throwing men and women together in military units is not. Equality is not served by doing that. The only thing that is served is an increased incidence of sexually based crimes.