Ministers to vote on adding ‘women’s seat’ to dayan panel

Activists’ group: We need Rabinical Court judges who understand their responsibilities to the entire population.

February 19, 2010 03:01
2 minute read.


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On Sunday, the government is likely to face another bill that emphasizes the deep divides within the coalition between religious and non-religious parties when a proposal to add a permanent seat for a woman to the Committee for Appointing Rabbinical Court Judges is placed before the Ministerial Committee on Legislation.

The bill, which was prepared by the Mavoi Satum NGO and sponsored by MK Orit Zuaretz (Kadima), would create an 11th seat on the committee that would be reserved for a woman, appointed by the Authority for the Advancement of Women – a department of the Prime Minister’s Office.

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The Committee for Appointing Rabbinical Court Judges (dayanim) currently has 10 members, including the two chief rabbis and two High Rabbinic Court judges. As a result, Mavoi Satum director Batya Kahane Dror said on Thursday, four positions are automatically reserved for men.

Kahane Dror said that in the “current political constellation, a situation could well occur in which there will be no woman among the 10 representatives on the committee.

“The current composition of the committee is a constant obstacle, which for many years has prevented the appointment of suitable dayanim who understand their responsibility toward the entire public,” continued Kahane Dror.

“The struggle over each appointment in the committee is complex, and crosses perspectives and schools of thoughts, but also involves interests in handing out positions, money and respect. Female representation and a truly heterogeneous composition of the committee will ensure the committee’s impartiality and independence from external forces.”

The 11th position, argued Kahane Dror, would also eliminate the possibility of a stalemated, evenly divided committee.

Mavoi Satum argued that reserving a position for a woman has strong basis in Israeli law, which mandates preference in appointment of women to such committees until women reach at least one-third representation. But more importantly, argued the organization in a position paper, women are the “main victims in the [rabbinical] courts, and thus we must ensure that the MKs who are appointed to the committee first and foremost be concerned with the interest of the general public and not just their electorate.

“The committee must appoint dayanim who believe that women have rights that are no less than those of a man’s regardless of their sex,” said Kahane Dror.

“Unfortunately, in the case of many dayanim, this issue cannot be taken for granted.”

The bill is expected to meet with staunch opposition from religious parties, particularly Shas, which holds key votes in the ministerial committee. Labor Party ministers’ votes, say the bill’s supporters, are guaranteed.

In the balance are votes of the Likud and Israel Beiteinu, which will decide the legislation’s fate one way or the other. Since submitting the bill, Zuaretz has been making the rounds in recent days, gaining oral assurances of support from ministers on the committee.

“There is frequently a gap between the statements by the ministers and the actions eventually taken,” she said. “The real faces of the ministers will be revealed following the vote, but their committee votes tend not to reflect their personal beliefs, and ultimately they fall to coalition pressures even if those who support it are the majority.”

Without the approval of the ministerial committee, the bill cannot be considered a government-sponsored bill, and as such, coalition support for it would be highly unlikely.

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