Victims of domestic violence could soon be able to testify in closed court hearings if the Knesset approves legislation proposed by Kadima MK Nino Abesadze.

The bill, which started making its way through the Knesset on Wednesday after being approved for preliminary reading by 21 MKs, aims to encourage women who have faced domestic abuse to testify in court behind closed doors.

Today, anyone can attend court hearings, including members of the media.

“This is an important step in providing protection for victims of domestic violence,” Abesadze said on Wednesday.

“I hope Knesset approval of the bill will encourage women to break the cycle of violence in which they live, and know that the legal system is taking all the necessary steps to protect them.”

Gila Oshrat, chairwoman of the Women’s International Zionist Organization in Israel, said: “The law will encourage women to report violent crimes and not be deterred by a legal process that forces them to be exposed to many other dangers.”

She added: “It’s another step in our fight to help women choose a life without fear of violence.”

WIZO worked together with Abesadze to draft the legislation, which now needs to pass through three readings before it can go to a final vote in the Knesset plenum.

The law already recognizes the need to protect complainants and defendants in sexual or violent offenses against minors, according to information provided by WIZO. However, there is no similar treatment in domestic violence cases.

The legislation being proposed is an amendment to the existing law. Its text highlights that “under the current state of affairs, complainants are forced to describe the intimate details of their relationship with their partners and reveal the extent of the violence perpetrated against them to a full courtroom. This constitutes a violation of their privacy and might deter [them] from filing a complaint at all.”

“WIZO works with thousands of women who have been victims of violence but who refrain from complaining because they are required to reveal intimate details and relive their humiliating experiences to an open courtroom,” Oshrat said.

“The opportunity to testify behind closed doors will strengthen women and will help them start a new life without fear and violence,” she said. “Unfortunately, in recent years there has been a growing number of cases where victims of domestic violence have no choice but to rebuild their lives and the lives of the children alone.”

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