If I am in a public setting where there is no mechitzah, and there are women around, how far away need I be from them in order to daven?
I guess I'm wondering about the exact nature of the mechitzah -- is it to prevent seeing or to create separation? If there is a mechitzah, I can, effectively, be very close to a woman on the other side of the divider. If there is none, how far do I have to be?
I know that there is some discussion which mentions facing away from someone else while saying Sh'ma but I don't know if that is applicable to davening in public or in a shul. If the solution is simply to face away (and distance is not important then) then what about a situation where there are women all around so turning doesn't solve the problem of "seeng"? Does distance mitigate things? What if I put a bag over my head (not being facetious) -- I can resolve the "seeing" part that way and ignore the distance question.