Men who refuse to give a religious bill of divorce (get) to their wives could be sentenced to 20 years in prison, according to a proposal by MK Michal Rosin (Meretz) that was approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation Sunday.

The legislation would double the current maximum sentence for a man who refuses to give his wife a get. According to halacha, only the husband can give a bill of divorce.

“Unfortunately, the State of Israel still doesn’t have civil marriage and divorce, so until then, we need to help the thousands of women who are trapped in their marriages and cannot move on with their lives,” Rosin said.

The Meretz MK expressed hope that her proposal will significantly reduce the number of agunot or “chained women,” whose husbands refuse to give them a bill of divorce.

She called this state of affairs “a phenomenon of violent extortion.”

According to Mavoi Satum, an NGO working to help agunot, one of every five divorced women faces extortion by a husband refusing to release her from the marriage. Each year, some 3,000 “chained women” apply for relief from the rabbinical courts.

Rosin’s bill has support from opposition and coalition MKs, including several Orthodox lawmakers from the Bayit Yehudi Party.

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