Bill seeks to define attacks on transgender people as hate crimes

32 MKs attend Knesset Gay Pride Caucus’ inaugural meeting; Labor Court rules employers cannot discriminate based on gender identity.

June 11, 2015 17:07
3 minute read.
tel aviv gay pride

Israeli drag queens and go-go dancers dance on a truck during the annual gay pride parade in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv on June 13, 2014. . (photo credit: JACK GUEZ / AFP)


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Attacks based on gender identity could incur more severe punishment if legislation MK Anat Berko (Likud) proposed on Thursday becomes law.

Under the current law, crimes motivated by racism or the victim’s sexual preferences can be prosecuted as hate crimes and carry double the sentence of the same offense with a different motive.

Because gender identity is not mentioned in the law, attacks on transgender people are not prosecuted as hate crimes. Berko’s bill would add gender identity as a possible motivation for a hate crime.

“The transgender community is currently discriminated against, in light of the lack of a clear definition in the criminal code on hate crimes,” Berko said.

The Likud lawmaker’s initiative came during Tel Aviv’s Gay Pride Week. This year’s theme is “Tel Aviv Loves All Genders.”

On Wednesday, the Knesset Gay Pride Caucus, led by MKs Michal Rozin (Meretz), Yoav Kisch (Likud), Merav Michaeli (Zionist Union) and Yael German (Yesh Atid), held its first meeting of the 20th Knesset, with 32 legislators in attendance.

No Arab MKs came, nor did any from Shas, United Torah Judaism, Bayit Yehudi or Yisrael Beytenu.

The lawmakers discussed transgender people and education, focusing on support for transgender students, education for tolerance and acceptance, transgender workers in schools and other issues. They heard testimony from teenagers who define themselves as transgender and from a teacher who underwent gender reassignment surgery.

The Equal Opportunities Commission presented a report that showed only 68 percent of transgender people are employed, a lower rate than for LGBT people in general. In addition, 86% of transgender people earn a below-average salary, as opposed to cisgender gays and lesbians (defined as those whose “experiences of their own gender agree with the sex they were assigned at birth”), of whom only 43% and 48%, respectively, earn less than the average.

“Every person has the right to live his or her life however they want, as long as they’re not hurting anyone,” Kisch said. “Transgender people are part of the gay community, an especially deprived part, which suffers more and until recently did not get enough attention, even within that community.”

Kisch called for the caucus to work to propose bills that will make life better for LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) people, and said there are plenty of people on the Right and in the Likud who would support such legislation.

Rozin said the presence of 32 MKs in the caucus is not enough, and the burden of proof is on them to pass laws on the issue.

Last week, in what has been hailed as a landmark decision, the National Labor Court ruled that the Employment (Equal Opportunities) Law forbids discrimination against male or female employees on the grounds of their gender identity.

The June 2 ruling, which was based on the rationale of the existing prohibition against discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation, was issued during the appeal agreement process for Marina Meshel, a transgender woman who claimed she had been fired due to her gender identity, against the Center for Educational Technology. The parties came to a compromise, each keeping to its own claim.

The appeal was submitted against the majority decision of the Tel Aviv Labor Court, which determined that Meshel had not been fired from her work because she was transgender, but because she had crossed the “boundaries” of what she had been permitted to say during the conversations she had held with female school students at the center, regarding sexuality and gender identity.

On his Facebook page, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu briefly addressed the issue on Wednesday, stating, “The struggle for every person to be recognized as equal before the law is a long struggle, and there is still a long way to go.”

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