court gavel 88.
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Women accused of rape could soon be tried and punished the same way male rapists are if legislation, which already passed its first reading in the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee this week, is fully approved by lawmakers in the coming month, The Jerusalem Post learned Thursday.
Backed by MKs Ronit Tirosh (Kadima) and Zevulun Orlev (Habayit Hayehudi), the legislation will adjust the existing law, which until now could only be applied to a man who had sexual intercourse with a woman against her will.
"Whether it is a man or a woman committing these terrible crimes, there should be no difference," stated Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, Executive Director of the National Council for the Child (NCC), which has been pushing for the change since the early part of this decade.
He explained that the unequal approach was partially due to the Hebrew language, which is broken down to masculine and feminine, but was also based on a "macho culture where the belief is that a woman can never rape a man because men are usually willing partners."
According to Kadman, however, several high-profile cases published in the media in recent years have led to a growing awareness that women are capable of such heinous crimes in the same way as men, although in most cases the perpetrators were usually authority figures and the victims often children or teens.
He highlighted two specific cases the NCC has been involved in over the past year: one in which a female teacher took advantage of her authority to demand sex from a young yeshiva student and the other involving a mother from Ofakim, who admitted to having sexual relations with her children.
While both cases involved rape by a woman, explained Kadman, prosecutors were forced to base their legal arguments on lesser charges such as sexual misconduct or indecent acts. None of the women were tried for the more serious crime of rape.
Tirosh told the Post that changing the law would make it easier for the courts to try future cases with the appropriate charges and to hand down stiffer sentences to women who commit these acts.
"It will also make it clear to minors, who in some cases cannot decipher normative behavior, what is acceptable and what is not from anyone, even a mother," she said.
Both Tirosh and Kadman said it was not clear whether there has been a rise in female rapists or whether there was simply more awareness of them. However, both agreed that the appearance of such stories in the media was what led to support for the bill, which also has the backing of Justice Minister Ya'akov Neeman.
"This historic change sends a clear message to women that they will not be let off lightly for committing such crimes," said Kadman, who urged the Knesset to complete the legislative process and finalize the law change as soon as possible. "A woman who hurts a child in this way is no better than a man who rapes a woman."