Livnat: We cannot forfeit rights of women in Israel
Minister demands A-G give long-delayed report on discrimination; Yesh Atid, Bayit Yehudi team up on feminist legislation.
Limor Livnat (center) presides over a Ministerial Committee for the Status of Women meeting Sunday. Photo: Yoav Dudkevich
The Justice Ministry unreasonably delayed the release of a report on
discrimination against women, Culture and Sport Minister and chairwoman of the
Ministerial Committee for the Status of Women Limor Livnat (Likud Beytenu) said
Meanwhile, MKs Aliza Lavie (Yesh Atid) and Shuli Muallem
(Bayit Yehudi) proposed legislation requiring at least four women to be on the
panel that selects religious judges, or dayanim, which currently has no female
“This delay is disproportionate, to say the least, and allows
the exclusion of women to increase and spread,” Livnat said at a special meeting
of the ministerial committee.
According to Livnat, she and the Authority
to Promote the Status of Women in the Prime Minister’s Office constantly receive
complaints of discrimination.
“This situation must end immediately,” she
said. “We can no longer forfeit the rights of women in
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein formed a committee to prevent
discrimination against women in December 2011, which was meant to present
recommendations in March 2012, but has yet to submit a report.
Attorney-General Sarit Dana, who led the committee, promised Livnat she would
present her with the report by the end of this week.
Some of the issues
mentioned in the document include forbidding haredi radio stations affiliated
with the Second Authority for Television and Radio to discriminate against
female broadcasters, and allowing women to give eulogies at funerals, with the
Religious Services Ministry sanctioning hevra kadishas (burial societies) that
Noa Kantman, a woman who was recently harassed when she
refused to sit in the back of a bus with predominantly haredi passengers,
described her experience to the committee.
director-general Uzi Yitzhaki ordered an investigation of the incident. In
addition, he said the ministry would increase supervision by female inspectors
and reestablish a hotline for complaints about women being sent to the back of
Lavie and Muallem proposed their legislation to install women in
the dayanim selection committee on Sunday, ahead of International Women’s Day,
which is on Friday, saying female participation in the panel is the only way
they can take part in determining the character of religious courts.
legislation would have half of the representatives of the government, Knesset
and Bar Association be female, and a female rabbinical pleader be the 11th
member of the committee.
“Religious courts are responsible for women’s
status as Jews in the State of Israel,” the bill explains. “In the current
rabbinical courts, according to Jewish law, there are only male dayanim. The
courts deal with women’s issues and men and women appear before the
A similar bill was proposed by MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud Beytenu)
in the last Knesset, but was vetoed in January by haredi parties, which,
according to the previous coalition agreement, were allowed to reject any
legislation changing the religious status quo. Hotovely’s bill called for two
women to be on the dayanim selection panel.
The fate of Lavie and
Muallem’s proposal depends on the makeup of the next coalition. If their parties
are in the government without haredi parties, it could have a chance of passing,
but if Shas and United Torah Judaism are in the coalition, it would be less
likely to become law.
“We all protest when we see examples of women being
excluded from public spaces, but avert our eyes when it happens in the most
obvious way, in a place with great influence,” Lavie said.
“The panel to
appoint dayanim directly affects women, and the fact that it does not include
even one woman proves we must pass a law to make sure women are fairly
Muallem pointed out that half of the people appearing
before rabbinical courts are women, adding that the legislation would strengthen
Israeli society’s connection to Judaism while acting within halachic frameworks.