Adalah Demands Guarantee of Suitable Representation
On 5 March 2008, Adalah sent letters to the Minister of Communications, the Minister of National Infrastructures, the Minister of Construction and Housing, the Minister of Transport, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Science and Technology, and the Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor. In the letters, Adalah demanded that suitable representation for Arab women be guaranteed within the offices of the various ministries, in accordance with the Civil Service Law (Appointments) (1959). Article 15A of this law obliges government offices to provide suitable representation to citizens of both sexes and for Arab citizens within the civil service, at all ranks and in professions within each ministry and internal unit. In the letters, Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher further demanded that the aforementioned ministries provide data and other facts regarding the implementation of the government’s decisions in this regard, and inform it of the steps they are taking to ensure suitable representation for Arab women.
According to a report issued by the Civil Service Commission in 2006 entitled, “Suitable Representation for the Arab Minority, including the Druze and Circassians in the Civil Service”, there is only one Arab woman among the 131 employees working in the Ministry of Communications, for example, as compared to 65 Jewish women. No Arab women work in the Ministry of National Infrastructures, which has 80 Jewish women on its staff. Similarly, two Arab women are employed by the Ministry of Finance, compared with as many as 485 Jewish women. Thus, the percentage of Arab women employed in the civil service is extremely low relative to the percentage of Jewish women. During the years 2004-2006, the number of Arab women working in the civil service rose by a mere 0.1%, and in 2006 Arab women counted for just 2% of civil service employees. The Arab minority in Israel constitutes approximately 20% of the population of the state.
Significantly, the Israeli Supreme Court has recognized the duty of the various state authorities to guarantee and provide for suitable representation among their employees in order to guarantee gender equality, and has stipulated that it is the duty of these authorities to provide suitable representation for women within the civil service. In addition, several international human rights conventions, in particular the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) of 1976, which Israel ratified in 1991, specifies that suitable representation should be guaranteed for women and national minorities. In its concluding comments on Israel from 2005, the UN CEDAW Committee, which is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the CEDAW convention, voiced its concern about the low level of representation of Arab women in the civil service.
In the letter Adalah stressed that, “Despite the government’s agreement to set quotas for suitable representation of Arab citizens in the civil service, in 2004 the percentage of Arab employees in the civil service remained unchanged. Moreover, its decision of 2006 to allocate new positions for Arab citizens in the civil service between 2006 and 2008 has yet to bear fruit, and the percentage of Arab employees in general, and Arab women in particular, within the civil service remains extremely low and virtually unchanged.”
The Letter (Hebrew)