Thursday, January 06, 2011

Achilles heel of the gender-separate buses

Over the past few weeks, there have been complaints by the bus companies running gender-separate lines in a couple of Charedi neighbourhoods and cities that too many of the women, who get on the bus through the back door, are not paying for their journey. Now there has been a halachic ruling that avoiding paying on the bus is theft. Well, duh!

The most basic point - which has been made by many commentators - is that there seems to be a shameful distortion of values when women riding a bus designed to increase "modesty" have to be reminded not to steal.

But I wonder something else. Over the past couple of years, there have been legal challenges to the 'Mehadrin' separate bus lines, as well as protests and other actions. All to no avail, as seen today when the Supreme Court agreed that these bus lines could legally continue. But could this be the issue that will eventually defeat these bus lines? After all, the bus companies - mostly private - cannot run routes where up to 30% of passengers are getting on for free forever. If the halachic ruling does not have the desired effect, and a high proportion of women continue to steal, at some point the Mehadrin lines will become economically unviable. (Which is possibly one reason that the practise is being cracked down on.)

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