The Knesset Law Committee on Tuesday decided to postpone a vote on second and third reading of a bill to add the crime of rape by a woman to the statute book after women’s organizations warned that it would lead to a situation where women would be afraid to charge men with rape.
According to the proposal, an amendment to the Penal Law, a woman who causes or makes it possible for a person to insert his (or her) bodily organ or an object into her sexual organ will be charged with rape, forbidden intercourse by consent, sodomy or sex offenses within the family, depending on the circumstances of the act.
The law applies to women who perform the above on adult men and women, as well as on minors of either sex.
Until now, the law has only defined rape as an act perpetrated against a woman. Although another paragraph of the Article on sex offenses appears to indicate that the offenses could be applied to women as well as men, it has not been used against women.
Two MKs – Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi) and Ronit Tirosh (Kadima) – filed private members bills to change the law so that women could be indicted on charges of raping a minor. However, at the insistence of the Justice Ministry, Orlev changed his draft to include rape by a woman committed against adults. According to Orlev’s spokeswoman, the Justice Ministry told him it would not support his bill unless he made the change.
The Knesset passed the bill according to the wording demanded by the government in first reading and sent it back to the Knesset Law Committee to prepare it for second and final readings. But at Tuesday’s discussion, the legislation hit a minefield when representatives of women’s organizations unanimously opposed it.
According to attorney Ruth Eldar of the Noga Center of the Ono Academic College, men will take advantage of the legislation to defend themselves against rape charges by accusing the women of raping them.
“The bill will cause women to stop complaining to police when they are raped by providing men with a formal alibi in court,” she warned. “The law treats men and women as being equal when it is obvious that in these matters, the men are the stronger ones.”
Eldar told The Jerusalem Post that women should be charged with rape only in cases where they encourage minors or helpless people to insert a bodily organ or object into their bodies.
Hebrew University law professor Orit Kamir said that the current law against sodomy applies to women as well as men and forbids them from inserting an object into someone else’s body. The proposed amendment changes the law so that if a woman causes an organ or object to be inserted into her body, she will be charged with rape.
“What will happen now is that every time a woman files a criminal complaint against a man for rape, he will countercharge that the woman caused him to penetrate her body, that he did it without wanting to,” she said. “He will then make a counter complaint, so that there will be two files in court, his against hers. This will block women, silence them and prevent them from going to the police.”
According to the Justice Ministry, the amendment is necessary because the current wording applies only to men. Although it is rare, there is a possibility that a woman may rape an adult male or female and therefore the law should stipulate that this, too, is forbidden.
During the law committee debate, spokespersons for the women’s organizations and MKs called for splitting the bill and approving at this time only the part that applies to minors. Orlev and Tirosh supported the move. However, committee chairman David Rotem decided to postpone the vote and hold another debate on the matter.
Meanwhile, the Justice Ministry did not rule out the possibility that it would back down from its position. However, it insists that a final decision be made now instead of splitting the bill and discussing the part that applies to rape by women of adults at some later date.