Gender-Segregated Buses OK'd by Israeli Court

Israeli ultra-Orthodox Jewish women board a bus from the back door in Jerusalem on February 3, 2010. A group of Jewish women are trying through the Supreme Court to end the segregation of sexes on a number of bus lines serving Orthodox Jews that relegate women to the back of the vehicle. AFP PHOTO/GALI TIBBON (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)
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JERUSALEM - Israel's Supreme Court has issued a ruling permitting the separation of men and women on some buses serving minority ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities, but only if the passengers agree.

Court spokeswoman Ayelet Filo says the approval is for a trial period of a year.

Ultra-Orthodox practice forbids men from touching women, except for their wives. Men and women are separated in public. Recently on two bus lines serving their communities, women were instructed to sit in the back.

Human rights and women's groups objected, filing a suit with Israel's Supreme Court. The court ruled Thursday that the arrangement is legal as long as it is voluntary.

There have been several cases of women complaining that male passengers verbally abused or assaulted them when they refused to move back.